We’re almost to the finish line.
On Sunday, the Orioles will officially close the book on their worst season ever. With their 112th loss – in a fitting 19-3 defeat in the first game of a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon – they took care of that distinction with room to spare.
Even the dreadful 1939 St. Louis Browns – led by first-year manager Fred Haney, who later won the 1957 World Series with the Milwaukee Braves – only lost 111 games. Of course, because of the shorter schedule back then, the 1939 Browns finished with fewer wins (43).
So, I guess it isn’t technically the worst season – at least in terms of winning percentage – in franchise history. But no matter how you qualify it, you won’t forget this train wreck.
And we still don’t know much about the club’s future, either. We haven’t officially learned the fates of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette or manager Buck Showalter yet. Plus, the roster will surely undergo a massive overhaul heading into 2019.
Maybe we’re not so close to the finish line after all.
Nevertheless, I’m happy to let you know that I’ll be back with BaltimoreBaseball.com next year to guide you through all the happenings in the Orioles’ minor-league system. As the club continues its rebuild, this group of prospects will be critical to its success (or failure).
During the offseason, I plan to update my “Dean’s Dozen” list of the Top 12 players in the organization. And then, every Friday next season, I’ll continue to share the “Dean Jones Report.” I hope you’ll keep reading – and sharing your thoughts in the comments section. We wouldn’t be able to run this site without loyal readers, so we appreciate all the support.
Now, let’s shift our focus to the BaltimoreBaseball.com Orioles’ Minor League All-Star Squad.
As I’ve done in the past, I picked one All-Star for each position. Then, I listed several other players with the “honorable mention” designation. Finally, since it’s the third time I’ve put this together, I also included the positional winners for the past two seasons. (If you’re interested in the 2016 and 2017 All-Star Squads, you can find them here and here.)
CATCHER: Martin Cervenka, Bowie
If you’ve followed along since the dawn of BaltimoreBaseball.com, you’ll notice that I’m honoring a catcher other than Chance Sisco for the first time. Sisco earned a spot on the Orioles’ Opening Day roster with his performance in spring training. The 2013 second-round pick hit .429 (15-for-35) with two homers, five doubles and 10 RBIs in 18 games during the Grapefruit League. But he struggled mightily during the regular season, forcing the Orioles to demote him to Triple-A Norfolk two times. Beyond that, Sisco only batted .242 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 38 games with the Tides. With Sisco out of the discussion this year, Cervenka emerged as the clear-cut leader at the position among the Orioles’ minor leaguers. The club added the Czech Republic native in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft last December. In 97 games for Double-A Bowie, he batted .258 with 15 homers, 22 doubles and 60 RBIs. I should note that Cervenka only hit .173 (24-for-139) in 39 games through May and June. However, he turned things around in 20 games in July. Cervenka finished with a .364 average (24-for-66), seven homers and 25 RBIs in the month. Because of that, the Orioles and the Eastern League both honored him as their Player of the Month. Cervenka will play with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. In addition, Austin Wynns deserves a mention because of how he has adjusted to the majors. Although the 2013 10th-round selection doesn’t have overwhelming numbers, he isn’t overmatched. Moving forward, you will also want to keep an eye on Brett Cumberland. Acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the deal for right-handers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day, the 2016 competitive balance round B pick only hit .190 (8-for-42) in 15 games with the Baysox this season. But Cumberland, 23, could factor into the team’s plans for 2019 and beyond.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Jean Carrillo, Delmarva; Cody Roberts, Aberdeen; Austin Wynns, Norfolk/Orioles.
2016 selection: Chance Sisco, Bowie/Norfolk
2017 selection: Chance Sisco, Norfolk/Orioles
FIRST BASE: Aderlin Rodriguez, Bowie
Three years, three times that I’ve picked the Dominican Republic native in this spot. And yet, we haven’t had a chance to see if he can play in the majors – even for a team that just set a franchise record for losses. Rodriguez, who will turn 27 in November, batted .286 with 23 homers, 20 doubles and 92 RBIs in 128 games for the Baysox. He finished third in the Eastern League in home runs and RBIs, as well as fifth in runs scored (76) and 10th in OPS (.813). Rodriguez hit an incredible .339 (61-for-180) with a 1.000 OPS and 48 RBIs in 48 games after the All-Star break. He has averaged 23 homers, 87 RBIs and 22 doubles in 127 games over the past three years. Look, I know Rodriguez isn’t a heralded prospect. And maybe he couldn’t compete at the highest level. But when you’re putting up numbers like that for three straight years and the major-league squad is breaking records for futility, you should at least get a chance to show what you can do. If I were Rodriguez, I’d look elsewhere for an opportunity in 2019. Meanwhile, High-A Frederick’s Wilson Garcia came close to supplanting Rodriguez from his throne. The Venezuela native finished with a .295 average, 23 homers, 24 doubles and 70 RBIs in 108 games with the Keys. The Orioles acquired Garcia, 24, in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies at the beginning of May.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Seamus Curran, Delmarva/Aberdeen; J.C. Escarra, Frederick/Aberdeen; Ian Evans, GCL Orioles/Aberdeen; Wilson Garcia, Frederick; Juan Montes, GCL Orioles; Garabez Rosa, Norfolk.
2016 selection: Aderlin Rodriguez, Frederick
2017 selection: Aderlin Rodriguez, Bowie
SECOND BASE: Corban Joseph, Bowie/Orioles
Joseph, who will turn 30 at the end of October, made it back to the majors in the middle of June for the first time since he played both games of a doubleheader with the New York Yankees in May 2013. And he rejoined the major-league club after rosters expanded in September. So, you’re likely familiar with Joseph’s limited action with the Orioles in 2018. But you might not know that the 2008 fourth-round selection of the Yankees thrived on the farm this year. Overall, he finished with a .312 average, 17 homers, 30 doubles, 73 runs and 68 RBIs in 122 games at Bowie. Joseph batted .352 with five homers, 10 doubles and 17 RBIs in 27 games for the Baysox in May – his best month. Throughout the minors, only one other player deserved consideration – Frederick second baseman Preston Palmeiro. The 2016 seventh-round pick – and son of former Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro – hit .251 with 17 homers, 19 doubles and 64 RBIs in 131 games with the Keys. Low-A Delmarva’s Kirvin Moesquit shifted to center field once the team added 2018 competitive balance round A selection Cadyn Grenier in early July, but he played more games at second base this season. That’s why he is listed here. The 2015 24th-round selection led the South Atlantic League – and all Orioles minor leaguers – with 49 stolen bases.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Branden Becker, Delmarva; Kirvin Moesquit, Delmarva; Preston Palmeiro, Frederick; Breyvic Valera, Norfolk/Orioles.
2016 selection: Garabez Rosa, Bowie/Norfolk
2017 selection: Steve Wilkerson, Frederick/Bowie
SHORTSTOP: Adam Hall, Aberdeen
You’re forgiven if you forgot about the 2017 second-round pick’s professional debut last summer. Hall, 19, had six hits – including a double and a triple – and scored four runs in his first two games with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles. But then, the Canada product suffered an oblique injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Despite some early struggles, Hall got back on track this year with the IronBirds. Through the first two months of Short-A Aberdeen’s schedule, he only hit .235 (31-for-132) with 11 RBIs and six stolen bases in 37 games. However, that all changed in August. Hall posted a .390 average (32-for-82) with 12 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 20 runs in 23 games to earn the organization’s Player of the Month award. Overall, he batted .293 with 22 stolen bases in 62 games. I’m interested to see how the Orioles handle Hall’s progression since they jumped Grenier straight to Delmarva this year. The final numbers don’t look too strong for Grenier – .216 average, 53 strikeouts in 43 games – but he did much better in the last three weeks. He’ll obviously be someone to watch heading into 2019, too. Speaking of the Shorebirds, Mason McCoy played in 89 games at shortstop before shifting to second base upon Grenier’s arrival. McCoy, 23, hit .266 with 18 doubles, 10 triples and 13 stolen bases in 124 games. While the 2017 sixth-round pick isn’t on any list of top prospects, he provides depth in the middle infield. Finally, you’ll want to remember Jean Carmona, 18, moving forward. Acquired in the trade that sent second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Dominican Republic native batted .226 (21-for-93) in 24 games at Aberdeen.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Cadyn Grenier, Delmarva; Mason McCoy, Delmarva; Luis Sardiñas, Norfolk/Orioles.
2016 selection: Ryan Mountcastle, Delmarva
2017 selection: Ryan Mountcastle, Frederick/Bowie
THIRD BASE: Ryan Mountcastle, Bowie
For the past two years, I’ve picked Norfolk’s Drew Dosch at this position. The 2013 seventh-round selection has steadily climbed the organizational ladder over the past five seasons. As I’ve written in the past, though, he isn’t an offensive standout. Dosch, 26, missed three weeks in April because of a hamstring injury. He returned to bat .276 with seven homers, 24 doubles and 40 RBIs in 103 games while splitting time between first base, third base and designated hitter with the Tides. While I like Dosch, that simply wasn’t enough to justify giving the award to him again – especially with Mountcastle lurking at Bowie. The 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) officially qualified for third base this year after his position switch last summer. Mountcastle, 21, hit .297 with 13 homers, 19 doubles and 59 RBIs in 102 games for the Baysox. That’s a big improvement over his .222 average (34-for-153) in 39 games at Bowie to end 2017. Mountcastle’s numbers dipped in the second half, but he remains on the right path. Based on his performance with the Orioles over the past couple of months, I could also throw Renato Núñez into the discussion here. The Venezuela native has shown that he can hit the ball out of the park, so it’ll be nice to see what he does in 2019. Núñez, 24, batted .289 with 14 doubles and five homers in 56 games with the Tides before his promotion. I’ll also be keeping an eye on Jean Carlos Encarnacion next year. After coming over from the Braves in the deal for Gausman and O’Day, the Dominican Republic native flashed some potential before he closed with a lengthy slump. Encarnacion, 20, finished with a .218 average (22-for-101) in 26 games with the Shorebirds.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Trevor Craport, Delmarva; Drew Dosch, Norfolk; Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Delmarva; Anderson Feliz, Bowie/Norfolk; Renato Núñez, Norfolk/Orioles; Jomar Reyes, Frederick; Willy Yahn, Aberdeen.
2016 selection: Drew Dosch, Bowie
2017 selection: Drew Dosch, Bowie/Norfolk
LEFT FIELD: Zach Jarrett, Delmarva
First, let me note that the outfield awards are broken down by specific position – with the players considered for the one in which they played the most games. And as you’ll see, by that measure, left field offered the weakest crop of the three positions in 2018. After breaking out in 2017 to earn the Carolina League Most Valuable Player award – and a spot as a right fielder on the BaltimoreBaseball.com All-Star Squad – Ademar Rifaela took a step back at Bowie this year. Rifaela, who will turn 24 in November, finished with a .265 average, seven homers, 22 doubles and 41 RBIs in 100 games. Even worse, the Curacao native lost playing time down the stretch after the Baysox added reinforcements from all the Orioles’ trades. Mike Yastrzemski – grandson of Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski – contributed for Norfolk after moving up from Bowie in the middle of May. He batted .265 with 18 doubles, six triples and nine homers in 94 games for the Tides. But the younger Yastrzemski, 28, likely won’t factor into the Orioles’ rebuilding process. That leaves another player with an impressive pedigree as my pick for this position. Jarrett, the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, came out of the gate on fire for the Shorebirds. In 21 games in April, the 2017 28th-round pick batted .338 (27-for-80) with seven homers, five doubles, 14 RBIs and 18 runs. Jarrett, who will turn 24 in December, shared the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Month award with Norfolk catcher Andrew Susac. In June, Jarrett had another monster month – with a .356 average (36-for-101), 10 doubles and 18 RBIs in 26 games. Although he wasn’t as productive during the rest of the season, Jarrett ended with an overall average of .277 in 129 games. He led the Shorebirds in homers (14) and hits (139), while finishing tied for the team lead in runs (74) and RBIs (72).
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Randolph Gassaway, Frederick/Aberdeen; Ademar Rifaela, Bowie; Mike Yastrzemski, Bowie/Norfolk.
2016 selection: Christian Walker, Norfolk
2017 selection: DJ Stewart, Bowie
CENTER FIELD: Cedric Mullins, Bowie/Norfolk/Orioles
A couple of weeks ago, the Orioles recognized their new center fielder as the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year. Mullins, who will turn 24 on Oct. 1, burst into the major leagues with a .317 average and .941 OPS in 18 games in August. However, for the entire month of September, he has been stuck in a massive slump. In 23 games through Wednesday, the 2015 13th-round selection was only hitting .198 (18-for-91) with 23 strikeouts. Nonetheless, he’s still the slam-dunk pick at this position in 2018. Mullins hit .313 (63-for-201) with 23 extra-base hits, nine stolen bases and 28 RBIs in 49 games for the Baysox before moving up to Norfolk at the beginning of June. In 60 games with the Tides, he batted .269 with 26 extra-base hits, 12 stolen bases and 19 RBIs. Despite his recent struggles at the plate, I’m not changing my mind on Mullins’ future. It’s still bright. Behind Mullins, you can’t forget what Ryan McKenna did in 67 games with Frederick before he was promoted to Bowie on June 21. The 2015 fourth-round pick hit .377 (97-for-257) with eight homers, 18 doubles, 60 runs and 37 RBIs with the Keys. McKenna, 21, had a .397 average (46-for-116) in 28 games in May and a .423 average (22-for-52) in 16 games in June before moving to the Baysox. Although his momentum didn’t continue at the next level, where he hit .239 (51-for-213) in 60 games, he’s still a big part of the club’s future.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Nick Horvath, Aberdeen; Ryan McKenna, Frederick/Bowie.
2016 selection: Cedric Mullins, Delmarva
2017 selection: Austin Hays, Frederick/Bowie/Orioles
RIGHT FIELD: DJ Stewart, Norfolk/Orioles
When healthy, Austin Hays played most of his games this year in right field. So, he likely would have been the obvious pick in this spot if it weren’t for the trouble with his ankle. As the 2016 third-round selection battled lingering pain all season, he only batted .235 with 12 homers, 14 doubles and 46 RBIs in 75 games split between Bowie and Aberdeen. Hays, 23, underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture earlier this month. He’ll no longer play in the Arizona Fall League as originally planned, but he should be back in 2019. I also briefly considered Yusniel Diaz, the highly-regarded Cuban prospect whom the Orioles received from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal for infielder Manny Machado. But Diaz, who will turn 22 on Oct. 7, only played in 38 games with the Baysox. And he hit just .239 (32-for-134) in that span after posting a .314 average in 59 games with Double-A Tulsa in the Dodgers’ minor-league system. So, I couldn’t go with him. Ultimately, I settled on Stewart. But it wasn’t really because of what the 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) did with the Tides this year. Stewart, who will turn 25 in November, only hit .235 in 116 games with Norfolk – including just .212 (39-for-184) after the International League All-Star break. His worst month came in July, when he batted .175 (17-for-97) with 28 strikeouts in 27 games. None of that strengthens my case for why I chose Stewart. But truthfully, I’m taking the cheap way out here since he has made a couple of highlights in his limited time with the Orioles. Stewart homered in back-to-back games last week and had an RBI in four straight appearances. That’s good enough for this year. We’ll see how he performs in the spring.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Yusniel Diaz, Bowie; Robert Neustrom, Aberdeen; T.J. Nichting, Delmarva/Frederick; Will Robertson, Delmarva; Anthony Santander, Orioles/Bowie/Aberdeen/Norfolk.
2016 selection: Austin Hays, Aberdeen
2017 selection: Ademar Rifaela, Frederick
STARTING PITCHER: Keegan Akin, Bowie
Longtime readers might be surprised that I didn’t select Zac Lowther in this spot. As you could tell from my updates throughout the year, I’m a big fan of the 2017 competitive balance round B pick. In 23 games (22 starts) between Delmarva and Frederick this season, he went 8-4 with a 2.18 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. Lowther, 22, led all Orioles minor leaguers with 151 strikeouts in 123 2/3 innings. Opponents only batted .195 against him. And the organization recognized Lowther as its Minor League Player of the Month twice (April and June). If nothing else, maybe I could have bent the rules a little bit and named co-winners like the Orioles did for the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award earlier this month. But I decided to give the honor to Akin because he put up the numbers at a higher level in 2018. Overall, the 2016 second-round selection went 14-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 25 starts. His 14 wins fell just one short of Bowie’s franchise record, set by Brad Bergesen in 2008. Akin led the Eastern League in wins and strikeouts (142), earning the league’s Pitcher of the Year award. He became the first Baysox player to do that since Bergesen. Meanwhile, if this were simply an honor for the second half, Delmarva left-hander DL Hall would’ve won in a landslide. In 11 games (10 starts) after the South Atlantic League All-Star break, the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) went 2-2 with a 0.84 ERA. Hall, who turned 20 last week, only gave up five earned runs in 53 2/3 innings during that stretch. Overall, Hall had a 2-7 record and 2.10 ERA in 22 games (20 starts). He struck out 100 batters and posted a 1.17 WHIP in 94 1/3 innings. Hall appears ready to take the next step in 2019.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Cristian Alvarado, Frederick; Michael Baumann, Delmarva/Frederick; Cameron Bishop, Delmarva; DL Hall, Delmarva; Matthew Hammonds, GCL Orioles/Aberdeen; Brenan Hanifee, Delmarva; David Hess, Norfolk/Orioles; Dean Kremer, Bowie; Zac Lowther, Delmarva/Frederick; John Means, Bowie/Norfolk/Orioles; Luis Ortiz, Norfolk/Orioles; Luis Perez, Aberdeen/Delmarva; Yefry Ramírez, Norfolk/Orioles; Grayson Rodriguez, GCL Orioles; Drew Rom, GCL Orioles; Alex Wells, Frederick; Jimmy Yacabonis, Norfolk/Orioles.
2016 selection: Brian Gonzalez, Delmarva
2017 selection: Alex Wells, Delmarva
RELIEF PITCHER: Branden Kline, Frederick/Bowie
Like a baseball game, we’ll wrap things up with the bullpen. And in 2018, the organization had two dominant forces in the ninth inning – Kline and Frederick left-hander Tyler Erwin. Kline missed almost three full years because of Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery and a couple of setbacks. But the wait proved to be worth it this year as the 2012 second-round pick went 5-4 with a 1.64 ERA and 17 saves while spending time with the Keys and the Baysox. Kline, who will turn 27 this weekend, struck out 71 batters in 65 2/3 innings between the two levels. Frankly, I’m a little bit surprised that he didn’t get an opportunity in the majors this year. But I’m sure the Orioles just wanted to take things slowly. The club will need to add Kline to its 40-man roster by mid-November or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft in December. Meanwhile, Erwin had a 1.58 ERA and 18 saves in 50 appearances at Frederick. He struck out 84 batters and held opposing hitters to a .183 average in 68 1/3 innings. The 2016 23rd-round selection didn’t allow any earned runs in 16 2/3 innings in August. Erwin, 24, struck out 21 hitters and only gave up three hits in that span. He’ll represent the Orioles in the Arizona Fall League. Bowie right-handers Tanner Chleborad and Jay Flaa, as well as left-hander Chris Lee, will also pitch in the league. One final note: Left-hander Paul Fry needs to be mentioned. Fry, 26, went 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 28 games between Norfolk and Bowie before the Orioles called him up on June 29. In 34 major-league appearances through Wednesday, he was 0-2 with a 3.63 ERA.
Honorable mention (listed alphabetically by last name): Tanner Chleborad, Bowie; Ryan Conroy, GCL Orioles/Aberdeen; Tyler Erwin, Frederick; Jay Flaa, Bowie; Paul Fry, Bowie/Norfolk/Orioles; Luis Gonzalez, Bowie/Norfolk; Donnie Hart, Norfolk/Orioles; Steven Klimek, Frederick; Max Knutson, Delmarva; Kevin Magee, GCL Orioles/Aberdeen; Zach Matson, Aberdeen/Frederick; Ryan Meisinger, Bowie/Norfolk/Orioles; Zach Muckenhirn, Delmarva/Frederick/Bowie; Evan Phillips, Norfolk/Orioles; Zach Pop, Bowie; Jayvien Sandridge, GCL Orioles; Nick Vespi, Delmarva; Nick Vichio, Aberdeen.
2016 selection: Donnie Hart, Bowie/Orioles
2017 selection: Jimmy Yacabonis, Norfolk/Orioles