Believe it or not, more than a month still remains in the Orioles’ nightmare season.
With 90 losses already, the club needs to play another 35 games. While I don’t think they’ll finish the year with 125 losses, it isn’t safe to assume anything at this point.
Meanwhile, we’re less than two weeks away from the end of the minor-league regular season. The Orioles’ four full-season affiliates – Triple-A Norfolk, Double-A Bowie, High-A Frederick and Low-A Delmarva – each have 11 more games scheduled before everything wraps up on Labor Day. With one doubleheader, Short-A Aberdeen has 12 games left.
Only Norfolk – and possibly Aberdeen – has a realistic chance at making the postseason.
The Tides (67-62) sit two games behind Indianapolis (69-60), the Pittsburgh Pirates’ affiliate, and the Columbus Clippers (69-60), the Cleveland Indians’ affiliate in the International League wild-card race. And it’s less likely, but the Tides are also alive for the South Division title – 4 1/2 games behind Durham (71-57), the Tampa Bay Rays’ affiliate.
In the New York-Penn League, Aberdeen (31-32) only trails in the wild-card race by three games. But the IronBirds are in last place in the league’s four-team McNamara Division. And they would need to hop over a handful of teams in order to earn a playoff berth. It’s not impossible, but Aberdeen will need a lot of pieces to fall into place to make the postseason.
With that said, loyal BaltimoreBaseball.com readers know that the minor leagues are more about the progress of individual players than wins and losses. And of course, the weekly “Dean Jones Report” is my way to keep you updated on these players’ performances.
First, you’ll get the latest updates on the 12 prospects in my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings. I’ll also discuss several players who are either “surging” or “falling” recently. Finally, you’ll see the upcoming schedule for the Orioles’ affiliates from Norfolk through Aberdeen.
No. 1: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie
(Previous: No. 1)
Statistics: .298, 12 HRs, 54 RBIs, 17 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 56 runs in 92 games
Mountcastle, 21, hit safely in five of his past seven games. But the 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) didn’t have any multi-hit performances in that stretch. And he hasn’t gone deep in two weeks. After hitting four homers in each of the past two months, Mountcastle only has one in August. He’s batting .263 (20-for-76) in 19 games this month after he had a .318 average (63-for-198) in 53 games between June and July. Now, that isn’t enough to make me switch to “bearish” this week. It’d be nice to see him finish strong, though.
No. 2: Yusniel Diaz, OF, Bowie
(Previous: No. 2)
Statistics: .314, 6 HRs, 30 RBIs, 10 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 36 runs in 59 games (Double-A Tulsa); .222, 4 HRs, 13 RBIs, 3 2Bs, 19 runs in 29 games (Bowie)
Sure, the Cuba native is only batting .222 (22-for-99) with 22 strikeouts in 29 games with the Baysox. (Side note: Man, that is a lot of twos and nines.) But Diaz, 21, continues to flash the skills that should lead him to Camden Yards sooner rather than later. He hit three-run homers in back-to-back games Sunday and Monday. Plus, Diaz went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs in Bowie’s 6-4 win at Erie last Friday. Even though Diaz is hitting 92 percentage points lower with the Baysox than he did at Tulsa, it’s not time to panic.
No. 3: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
(Previous: No. 4)
Statistics: .238, 8 HRs, 30 RBIs, 8 2Bs, 28 runs in 56 games (Bowie); .189, 0 HRs, 3 RBIs, 6 runs in 9 games (Aberdeen)
Last Friday, the 2016 third-round selection filled up the box score in Bowie’s 6-4 victory over Erie. Hays, 23, went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer, two doubles, three RBIs and three runs. Hays had nine total bases in the game. That’s the most he has had since June 18 of last season, when he went 5-for-5 in his final game with Frederick before being promoted to the Baysox. That’s great to see, especially since he has struggled for much of the season. However, Hays couldn’t ride the momentum. In five games since then, he is only hitting .150 (3-for-20) with five strikeouts. As a result, I’m back to “bearish” in the short term.
No. 4: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva
(Previous: No. 6)
Statistics: 2-7, 2.21 ERA, 90 Ks, 38 BBs in 85 1/3 innings
The 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) allowed two runs (one earned) and four hits in five innings last Friday as the Shorebirds beat Charleston, 4-2. Hall, 19, stretched his streak of allowing one earned run or fewer to 11 straight appearances. In that span, he has an incredible 0.87 ERA in 51 2/3 innings. Since the South Atlantic League All-Star break, opponents are only hitting .164 against Hall. For the entire year, right-handed batters have a .175 average when facing him. In the meantime, lefties are hitting .248. In other words, as I said last week, Hall has lived up to expectations about as much as you could want.
No. 5: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie
(Previous: No. 9)
Statistics: 14-6, 2.77 ERA, 135 Ks, 56 BBs in 130 innings
While I’ve said for most of the season that I believe High-A Frederick left-hander Zac Lowther should be the organization’s Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year, I’m ready to admit defeat. And that’s nothing against Lowther. As you’ll see below, he continues to pitch well. But Akin, 23, has simply done everything he needed to do to earn the award in 2018. The 2016 second-round pick has three more wins than anyone else in the Eastern League. He leads the league in ERA (2.77) and strikeouts (135), too. On Monday, Akin earned the league’s Pitcher of the Week award for the first time this season. Yesterday, the league named him as a postseason All-Star – along with designated hitter Corban Joseph. Akin should also be the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year. With all those accolades, it’ll be hard for Lowther – or anyone else – to overtake Akin for the Orioles’ award. Akin is scheduled to start for the Baysox tonight in the series opener against Erie.
No. 6: Dillon Tate, RHP, Bowie
(Previous: No. 7)
Statistics: 5-2, 3.38 ERA, 75 Ks, 25 BBs in 82 2/3 innings (Double-A Trenton); 1-3, 6.59 ERA, 15 Ks, 5 BBs in 28 2/3 innings (Bowie)
We’ll start with the good news: Tate, 24, tossed his first quality start Wednesday since joining the Baysox almost a month ago. The Texas Rangers’ 2015 first-round selection (fourth overall) allowed three runs and five hits in six innings as Bowie lost, 3-1, to Richmond. However, Tate still has an unsightly 6.59 ERA and 1.43 WHIP through five starts with Bowie. Opponents have batted .321 against him in that span. In the end, a handful of starts at Double-A might not matter much. But it’s still not fun to see those statistics. We’ll get a better chance to judge Tate’s outlook with a clean slate heading into next season. He’s scheduled to make his next start Monday in the series opener at Akron.
No. 7: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Norfolk
(Previous: Not Ranked)
Statistics: 3-4, 3.71 ERA, 65 Ks, 18 BBs in 68 innings (Double-A Biloxi); 2-1, 3.43 ERA, 13 Ks, 6 BBs in 21 innings (Norfolk)
Initially, I was on the fence about whether to categorize Ortiz, 22, as “bullish” or “bearish” this week. On one hand, the Rangers’ 2014 first-round pick (30th overall) has thrown at least five innings and allowed three runs or fewer in his first four starts in the organization. That’s not great, but it’s also not terrible. Overall, he has only allowed eight runs in 21 innings with the Tides (3.43 ERA). On the other hand, though, he has allowed 31 opponents to reach base (24 hits, six walks, one hit batter) in that span. Opponents are hitting .289 against Ortiz in his time at Norfolk. In his latest start, Ortiz suffered his first loss since July 5 as the Tides fell, 5-2, to Charlotte in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday. He surrendered three runs and eight hits. As a result, I’ve decided to shift to “bearish” for now.
No. 8: Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B, Delmarva
(Previous: Not Ranked)
Statistics: .288, 10 HRs, 57 RBIs, 23 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 45 runs in 97 games (Low-A Rome); .279, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 2 2Bs, 1 3B, 6 runs in 17 games (Delmarva)
Last Friday, the Dominican Republic native hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to put the Shorebirds ahead of Charleston in a game that they eventually won, 4-2. Encarnacion, 20, also had a single in the sixth. In Saturday’s game, he added another two singles in Delmarva’s 4-2 victory over Rome. That’s the team Encarnacion played for before he came to the Orioles from the Atlanta Braves organization in the July 31 trade for right-handers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day. Because of his big hit last weekend, I’m going to stay “bullish” on Encarnacion. I think he’ll be a major contributor down the road.
No. 9: Ryan McKenna, OF, Bowie
(Previous: No. 10)
Statistics: .377, 8 HRs, 18 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 37 RBIs, 60 runs in 67 games (Frederick); .246, 3 HRs, 12 RBIs, 6 2Bs, 32 runs in 52 games (Bowie)
Did you forget that the 2015 fourth-round pick hit .377 (97-for-257) in 67 games with Frederick earlier this year? I almost did. OK, I didn’t, but it still seems like so long ago. McKenna, 21, hasn’t fully adjusted to Double-A pitching yet. Last week, I listed McKenna as “bullish” because he appeared to be turning a corner after going 3-for-4 against Richmond on Aug. 15. However, McKenna is batting .130 (3-for-23) in his past six games. Because of that, you’ll see that I’m back to “bearish.” But I’m still optimistic for 2019 and beyond.
No. 10: Zac Lowther, LHP, Frederick
(Previous: No. 12)
Statistics: 3-1, 1.16 ERA, 51 Ks, 9 BBs in 31 innings (Delmarva); 5-2, 2.68 ERA, 86 Ks, 26 BBs in 80 2/3 innings (Frederick)
This week, the 2017 competitive balance round B selection technically made his first relief appearance of the season. Mother Nature forced the postponement of the Keys’ game at Salem after one inning Tuesday – a familiar sight this year. When the two teams resumed the game Wednesday, Lowther took the mound in the bottom of the second instead of starting that night’s scheduled game. He allowed three runs and five hits in five innings. Although it wasn’t a dominant outing from Lowther, he didn’t do anything to sway my opinion. Overall, Lowther is 8-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) in 2018. He has struck out 137 hitters and only issued 35 walks in 111 2/3 innings. That’s good to see.
No. 11: Dean Kremer, RHP, Bowie
(Previous: Not Ranked)
Statistics: 5-3, 3.30 ERA, 114 Ks, 26 BBs in 79 innings (High-A Rancho Cucamonga); 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 11 Ks, 3 BBs in 7 innings (Double-A Tulsa); 3-2, 2.70 ERA, 35 Ks, 13 BBs in 33 1/3 innings (Bowie)
A week ago, I rated the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2016 14th-round pick as “bearish” after he gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings against Richmond. But it didn’t take long for Kremer, 22, to bounce back. Against the Flying Squirrels on Tuesday, he picked up his third victory since joining Bowie a little more than a month ago. He pitched six scoreless innings, holding Richmond to three hits and one walk as the Baysox won, 5-0. One quirky note about Kremer’s splits through six starts with Bowie: Right-handed hitters are batting .308 (20-for-65) against him, while lefties only have a .169 average (10-for-59). Kremer is scheduled to take the mound Sunday afternoon in the series finale against Erie.
No. 12: Jean Carmona, SS, Aberdeen
(Previous: Not Ranked)
Statistics: .239, 4 HRs, 24 RBIs, 8 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 28 runs in 39 games (Rookie-level Helena); .237, 0 HRs, 6 RBIs, 4 2Bs, 4 runs in 15 games (Aberdeen)
On Wednesday, the Dominican Republic native had a two-run double in the top of the ninth as Aberdeen topped Vermont, 9-4. Carmona, who will turn 19 on Halloween, added an RBI single last night in the IronBirds’ 6-2 win over Staten Island. But it wasn’t all good news for the young prospect since last week’s update. In the three games from Sunday through Tuesday, Carmona went hitless in 13 at-bats. So, as you can see, he isn’t going to have an easy, straight path to the majors. We’ll see ups and downs along the way. That’s why I’m flipping to “bearish” this week. Let’s see if Carmona can build from his late-week RBIs.
2018 DRAFT SPOTLIGHT
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, GCL Orioles: On Tuesday, the first-round pick (11th overall) once again dominated his opponents. Rodriguez, 18, struck out five hitters in three shutout innings as the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League affiliate lost, 6-1, to the GCL Red Sox. Overall, Rodriguez is 0-2 with a 1.40 ERA in nine games. He has 20 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings.
Adam Hall, SS, Aberdeen: With a single in the bottom of the fifth inning last night, the 2017 second-round selection extended his hitting streak to 14 games. Hall, 19, has raised his average from .228 when the streak started to its current level at .276. He also has 17 stolen bases this season, the second-highest total in the New York-Penn League.
Chris Lee, LHP, Bowie: Remember him? Lee, 26, has dealt with injuries and command issues over the past three seasons after he appeared to be on the cusp of the majors in early 2016 with the Baysox. Following more left-shoulder trouble at Norfolk earlier this year, he has found a home in Bowie’s bullpen. Lee has a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings of relief.
Jomar Reyes, 3B, Frederick: In the sixth inning last night, the Dominican Republic native hit his eighth homer of the season – and second in the past three games. Reyes, 21, has surged over the past six weeks. On July 16, he went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .225. Since then, Reyes is batting .376 (35-for-93) to raise his overall average to .261.
Garabez Rosa, UTIL, Norfolk: This isn’t about the numbers for Rosa, who will be 29 in October. The Dominican Republic native is batting .273 with 50 RBIs in 116 games. But allow me to get on a soapbox for a second: In a lost season, the Orioles should reward the 12-year minor leaguer with a September call-up. Find him a spot on the 40-man roster.
Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick: On Tuesday, the 2016 first-round selection (27th overall) returned to the Keys after more than four months on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain. But Sedlock, 23, didn’t pitch long before the rain came. He threw one scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out two. Sedlock will start Sunday against Carolina.
Seamus Curran, 1B-DH, Delmarva: In his past eight games, the 2015 eight-round pick only has three hits – two singles and a double – in 29 at-bats (.103 average). Curran, who will turn 21 on Sept. 6, has struck out 12 times in that span. Despite missing more than a month with an intercostal muscle strain, he’s still second on the Shorebirds with 13 homers.
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie: You can say the Orioles received “good news” when tests showed that the 2013 first-round selection (22nd overall) hasn’t suffered any structural damage in his right elbow. But that doesn’t mask the fact that Harvey, 23, once again had to be shut down because of an injury. As I said last week, time is running out.
Luis Gonzalez, LHP, Norfolk: When the Orioles needed a reliever last weekend, the Dominican Republic native was reportedly in the mix. But the club recalled Prince Frederick native Ryan Meisinger instead of Gonzalez, 26. Since then, Gonzalez has allowed four runs, seven hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings across two appearances. That’s a tough week.
THE WEEK AHEAD
August 24 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
August 25 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
August 26 – vs. Durham, 4:05 p.m.
August 27 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
August 28 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
August 29 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
August 30 – at Gwinnett, 10:35 a.m.
August 24 – vs. Erie, 7:05 p.m.
August 25 – vs. Erie, 6:35 p.m.
August 26 – vs. Erie, 1:35 p.m.
August 27 – at Akron, 7:05 p.m.
August 28 – at Akron, 7:05 p.m.
August 29 – at Akron, 7:05 p.m.
August 30 – at Akron, 7:05 p.m.
August 24 – vs. Carolina, 7 p.m.
August 25 – vs. Carolina, 6 p.m.
August 26 – vs. Carolina, 2 p.m.
August 27 – at Potomac, 7:05 p.m.
August 28 – at Potomac, 7:05 p.m.
August 29 – at Potomac, 7:05 p.m.
August 30 – at Potomac, 7:05 p.m.
August 24 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
August 25 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
August 26 – at Greensboro, 4 p.m.
August 27 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
August 28 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
August 29 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
August 30 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
August 24 – vs. Staten Island, 7:05 p.m.
August 25 – vs. Staten Island, 6:05 p.m.
August 26 – at Tri-City, 5 p.m.
August 27 – at Tri-City, 7 p.m.
August 28 – at Tri-City, 7 p.m.
August 29 – vs. Connecticut (doubleheader), 5:35 p.m.
August 30 – vs. Connecticut, 7:05 p.m.