Few appealing alternatives in high minors for the Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Few appealing alternatives in high minors for the Orioles

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

After the first three weeks, the Orioles have an 8-12 record. That projects to just under 100 losses, which many would consider a success after the 115-loss season in 2018.

The early part of the season has been a relative joyride, especially since the Orioles played 17 of their first 20 against New York, Boston, Tampa Bay and Oakland.

However, there are many challenges ahead, and the problems are difficult in some areas.

Take Cedric Mullins. The Orioles’ centerfielder, who impressed with his maturity in the final weeks of the 2018 season, has struggled more at the plate in 2019 than Chris Davis.

Davis has five hits in his last 13 at-bats — after starting 0-for-33 for a .109 average. Mullins is in a 1-for-32 slide that has dropped his average to .089. He appears overmatched at the plate but is playing a strong center field and contributed to Thursday’s 6-5, 11-inning win over Tampa Bay with a sliding catch in the 11th.

In most years, the Orioles might be thinking about a demotion for Mullins. But this year they don’t have an alternative in the minor leagues, at least not now. Mullins was not in the posted lineup for Friday’s game against Minnesota, which was rained out and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday, beginning at 4:05 p.m.

Joey Rickard, who has been playing center when Mullins doesn’t, isn’t considered a full-time centerfielder. He is a strong outfielder, however, and is coming off his best game with four hits, including the game-winner, against the Rays.

Austin Hays, who played well in spring training before he was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk, sprained his left thumb sliding headfirst in a minor league game in Sarasota. He’s not close to being ready to play.

The Tides, who are 6-9, and were also rained out on Friday, have an offense that has been as punchless as the Orioles’. Both teams have .230 averages, and the Orioles’ .299 on-base percentage trails Norfolk’s .302.


During the spring, the Orioles seemed pleased with their core of young outfielders, but none has sparkled at either Norfolk or Double-A Bowie.

Anthony Santander, who had a strong spring, is hitting .255 with a .283 OBP in 15 games. He has a homer and eight RBIs.

DJ Stewart, who was removed quickly from major league camp, is hitting .245 with three home runs and five RBIs, but does have 10 walks for a .383 OBP.

Stewart, a left-handed hitter, has been playing the corner outfield spots at Norfolk and has limited experience in center.

Norfolk has been playing Mason Williams in center, but he’s hitting just .213 with a .316 OBP. Williams is a left-handed hitter and had a .293 average in 51 games for Cincinnati last season. Unless Williams begins to hit, it would seem unlikely that the Orioles would add him while demoting Mullins.

The situation isn’t any better at Bowie, where the Baysox have lost 11 of 14.

Yusniel Diaz, the headliner among the five players the Orioles received from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado last July, has again struggled in Double-A.

Diaz is hitting .231 with a homer and seven RBIs. Ryan McKenna, who had an impressive first half last season for High-A Frederick, has again failed to produce in Double-A. McKenna has a .208 average in 13 games.

The demotion to Norfolk of catcher Chance Sisco also surprised some after his strong spring, as the Orioles decided to have Jesus Sucre and Pedro Severino handle the catching.

General manager Mike Elias explained that he wanted to see Sisco and the others who were demoted have sustained success in the minors before they returned to the Orioles.

Sisco is hitting just .163 in 11 games and has allowed five of six baserunners to steal.

There were also questions about the Orioles decision to keep Mike Wright, who has allowed 15 hits in 10 innings and has a 9.00 ERA.

However, the minor league relief alternatives to Wright aren’t appealing. Cody Carroll has yet to pitch because of an injured back. The only other pure reliever on the 40-man roster, Branden Kline, has an 8.53 ERA in his first five Triple-A games.

Some of Norfolk’s starting pitchers have shown promise. Yefry Ramirez hasn’t allowed a run in his first two starts, and Keegan Akin, new to Triple-A this year, has a 3.95 ERA in three starts.

Akin, who isn’t on the 40-man roster, needs more seasoning at Norfolk but appears to be a candidate for a call-up in the coming months.

Luis Ortiz, who was obtained from Milwaukee in the Jonathan Schoop trade, has a 4.76 ERA in three starts. Josh Rogers, who pitched once for the Orioles this season, has a 9.00 ERA in two starts.

Carroll, Rogers and Dillon Tate were obtained from the New York Yankees last July for Zack Britton. Tate, who was the centerpiece of that deal, is having an awful time at Bowie. Tate, who had a 5.75 ERA in seven starts for the Baysox last season, has a 10.29 ERA this year.

When Elias took over the Orioles, he said that he thought the minor league prospects were enough to work with, and that he had a favorable view of the trades that his predecessor, Dan Duquette, engineered at the trading deadline.

It’s clear that Elias was being kind, and that other than Jonathan Villar — who came with Ortiz and reliever Evan Phillips in the trade with Atlanta for Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day — those deals have provided little immediate help.

To be fair, reliever Zach Pop, who came with Diaz, has been excellent with Bowie. Pop has thrown 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits. Starter Dean Kremer, another piece in the Machado trade, led the minor leagues in strikeouts last year but has yet to pitch in 2019 because of an oblique injury.

Infielder Rylan Bannon, who was considered a throw-in in the Machado trade, has a .302 average for the Baysox.

Two of the best Oriole prospects, starting pitchers DL Hall (Frederick) and Grayson Rodriguez (Low-A Delmarva), are likely a year or two from helping the major league team.

Elias has been resourceful in signing minor league players, making waiver claims and using the Rule 5 draft.

His stated goal of boosting the talent level in the system will be augmented in the June draft, where the Orioles have the first pick.

If the alternatives in the minor leagues continue to underperform, Elias might have to trade in July to add players who are major league ready.

For the next three months, Elias will continue to add major league players at the margins and scout other teams’ minor league systems to see whom he might be able to obtain in July.

He’ll have to decide which Orioles have enough value for him to consider trading.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. Camden Brooks

    April 19, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    I have to admit, I am very surprised/bummed at the poor performance from so many guys at Norfolk and Bowie. Hopefully their coaches can help get them straightened out. Going to the Keys game tomorrow…looking forward to watching Mason McCoy.

  2. Ekim

    April 19, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Rich… After reading your appraisal of the woeful state of the O’s minor league players, I feel vindicated for having posted the warnings about the lack of talent we received last year for legitimate major league players. By the end of the season I stated that all we got (other than Villar who I noted at the time appeared to be a legitimate ML player) was a bunch of wanna-be’s and never will-be’s and you defended them basically telling me to “chill out”. Specially, on Mullins I wrote about having watched him play at Bowie and stating the he was no where near ready for ML pitching when he was brought up. He got everybody’s attention by starting off on a hitting streak but, this Spring, everybody seemed to forget how his season ended… and it’s continued into this season. I’ll admit I’ve been one who’s been on Wright’s case. But, I’ve waited for him to fulfill his “promise” for what seems like forever and continue to see the same-ole, same-ole, year in and year out.

    • Ekim

      April 19, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      Continuing… As to your post above, much of what you’ve written echos what I’ve posted here for the past nine months and taken some “heat” from both you and other posters. I consider myself to be a realist and, as such, believe in telling it as it really is and not in “sugar coating” something that’s obviously wrong. I’ve stated more than once that the hope for the O’s lies in the draft and the skill of Elias in making sound choices.

      • Baltimore Castaway

        April 20, 2019 at 2:46 pm

        No one can argue your assertions at this current time.

        It is wayyy early in this rebuild to be drawing any hard conclusions. To start with, the Minor League teams haven’t been playing for two weeks and the weather that they are playing in is atrocious. They each and all need time to show who they are. Every team in the system was rained out last night, as a case in point.

        I am going to take the long view here…

        • Rich Dubroff

          April 20, 2019 at 4:44 pm

          I think the long view is fine, Castaway. That’s why I said at the time of the trades they shouldn’t be judged until 2021, and Mike Elias can’t be judged on them because he didn’t make them.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 19, 2019 at 7:27 pm

      Ekim, I said we shouldn’t judge them for a few years. There is much time for them to prove they’re major leaguers. It’s just there is no immediate payoff from them and the players who were already in the system before the trades.

  3. Bumble bee

    April 19, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Thru out mlb history only a few trades for minor league players have the players turned out to be anything. If we can get a couple starters that are good we will be lucky. It’s all bout the draft and that means we a few years away seeing these players in games at Camden yards but it will be fun watching our new guys grow up.

  4. BirdsCaps

    April 19, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks for the good news Rich. The prospects we got to start the “rebuild” are looking like duds. After all the orioles gave up to get rentals (and except for Andrew miller they usually didn’t work out) when they were competitive, the birds got pennies on the dollar for most of their rentals (one could argue that the Britton and Schoop deals were fairly decent). Anyways, when you hear news like this it pushes back the timeline for the next competitive team by a year or two. Lets hope the caps and ravens keep things interesting for the 4-5 years because barring a miracle, the o’s wont be anywhere near the playoffs.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 19, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      I think that in two years, things could be better, BirdsCaps.

      • BirdsCaps

        April 19, 2019 at 8:34 pm

        I sure hope so, but I don’t see many promising prospects in the org right now. On a positive note, this team is way team is playing right now. Even though they are non competitive in some games, they are way more fun to watch this year than last.

  5. Bman123

    April 19, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Hays and Kremer will inject some life back into the system. Diaz, Mountcastle, Sisco, Santander, Stewart, McKenna, Harvey will all be fine eventually. Seems like their dismissal from spring training deflated them a bit. They’ll recover.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 19, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      I’m not defending Siscos terrible start at Norfolk but I would be deflated after argumentatively being the best hitter in Spring along with Hays getting sent down. As for Hays it’s karma to the organization that he got hurt in a minor league game. Does anybody not believe that if he was kept on the roster and started in center he wouldn’t be hitting better then Mullins and throwing better too of course he would

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 19, 2019 at 10:17 pm

      Bruce, good players slough off demotions. Hays got hurt sliding headfirst into second base, not because of karma.

      He probably would be hitting better than Mullins since he’s batting below

      • Jbigle1

        April 20, 2019 at 3:17 am

        I think we could call up Luis Matos or Corey Patterson out of retirement and they could bat around what Mullins is doing. Our CF depth in the upper level of the org is really shallow though. Mason Williams is our CF in Norfolk til Hays returns. Hays really hasn’t been a full time CF at this point either. I’m surprised Elias hasn’t tried to address that in a small deal or a waiver claim.

        This is pure speculation on my part but I’d watch Keon Broxton in NY. The Mets are set to get Frazier and Lowrie back relatively soon. They have a roster crunch coming up where 2 position players will have to get axed. Broxton is struggling right now and they have another backup/part time CF in Juan Lagares. As well as 2 guys who play in the corners there who are CF capable. He could possibly go down the DFA train and we could try to swoop in with our abundance of INTL cash and make a play. They also have Rajai Davis and Carlos Gomez sitting in AAA as depth guys. Aaron Altherr in Philly could find himself DFA’d sometime soon as well. Now the birds acquiring either one of those guys probably isn’t even be in the realm of possibilities but it’s at least fun to take a stab at what could happen. If either actually happens I should probably go play the lottery…..


        April 20, 2019 at 9:30 am

        In any job when your boss (Elias) lies to you and gives a promotion you earned to someone else for dubious reasons it is not good for your morale. That applies to Sisco and Hays and others. Don’t say there will be competition for jobs if a guy has no chance to make the team.

  6. Bhoffman1

    April 19, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    I read where Hays will take live pitching next week and return to Norfolk soon after.

  7. Jbigle1

    April 20, 2019 at 2:43 am

    The machado deal was the only deal where duquette did really well. We completely botched the Gausman situation because we placed a high value on that international money and then missed out on the entire intl market. Had we signed VV Mesa or Gaston that deal wouldn’t have been so bad. The MIL trade netted us Villar who was essentially the brewers trash but is the best piece we got back by a mile. We should be able to flip him for something this year so that deal was a win for that reason alone. We’ll see on the Britton trade.cody Carroll has a big fastball and Dillon Tate still has some potential. Tate I think will be a reliever soon but I have hope for him there.

    Duquette’s crown jewel was the machado trade though. I’m excited for Diaz as he think he is a big league regular. I think Pop is a future quality bullpen piece and I really like Kremer. I think Kremer has a good shot at sticking in our rotation for years to come. That’s a good haul considering it was for half a season of machado.

    Obviously if we cashed in these guys earlier we’d have a lot more to show for it. Elias is starting from real close to the bottom. It’s important to remember that. We can’t really criticize the guy with any validity anytime soon.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 20, 2019 at 6:36 am

      Valid points in your last paragraph, jbigle. Diaz, though, must start showing more.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 20, 2019 at 6:57 am

      Again why trade Vilar. He can hit and run certain players you keep . Also Rich fails to mention the blunder of getting rid of Jackson. He could have been in centerfield now a big upgrade over Mullins till Hays or Diaz are called up.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 20, 2019 at 7:00 am

      There was NO reason to trade Gausman period. Under Elias new system he would be a ace like he is in Atlanta right now. Bundy was the one to trade. I hate DD for a lot of reasons but that’s biggest one. I don’t think he was traded because of money.


        April 20, 2019 at 9:32 am

        Getting rid of Gausman for nothing was a salary dump of he & O’Day. I strongly doubt Dan did it on his own. I think he was ordered to by the Angelos boys.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 20, 2019 at 10:53 am

      I would have preferred they keep Jackson, but they felt with 13 pitchers and a three-man bench, two Rule 5 players was unwieldy.


        April 20, 2019 at 11:02 am

        Who has more long term potential? Jackson or Hanser Alonso? Alonso’s 500 batting average is down to 280 now. I expect it to be 200 in another month or so. That was his career avg before this year.

        • Rich Dubroff

          April 20, 2019 at 2:04 pm

          Drew Jackson. That was why I was surprised about the move. I think they were hoping they could make a deal with the Dodgers to keep Jackson as they did with Pedro Araujo. However, with the all the maneuvering they’ll make this year, keeping two Rule 5 players would be too hard for them, and they thought they could get Jackson through waivers more easily this time of year than perhaps June.

  8. Phil770

    April 20, 2019 at 9:42 am

    Prospects are just that…prospects. Keep in mind that the Dodgers did not keep Machado, Brewers did not keep Schoop. NY resigned Britton as set up guy at a price that is an overpay. O’Day is hurt again. KG may blossom, but he did not perform here. The slot money that seemed wasted has been used to acquire a number of other prospects. Bottom line, new system of development and prospects, this is what rebuild looks like. Would I rather have KG than Bundy? Meh.

    • ButchBird59

      April 20, 2019 at 10:49 am

      I like your thinking!!!

      You pretty much have to approach this Oriole club as if they’re an expansion team. The players acquired last year were like the expansion draft. Now, it’s up to Elias to start stocking the new team with fresh bodies for the future. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this June draft coming up is huge. No, one cannot expect a dynasty roster overnight but, this draft will be the first true picture of the new Oriole way. We are starting to see a new philosophy emerge at the major league level. Let’s hope it permeates through the system as well.

      From what I’ve seen in this early part of the 2019 season, job one should be loading the system with young arms. I’m not picking on Bundy but, just using him as an example. I think it was Roberts on the Orioles broadcast the other night that mentioned 65% of his outs were fly balls. I’m hoping a big part of the new way is an emphasis on ground ball pitchers. Yes, I know, easier said than done but, it’s a good place to start.


        April 20, 2019 at 10:59 am

        I like ground ball pitchers also and the O’s have always liked them. But analytics geeks (Houston, Elias, Sig) emphasize high fastball pitchers. I bet that is one of the reasons the O’s are giving up so many homers this year. But no writer or broadcaster can say that because it is heresy to question the new braintrust.


      April 20, 2019 at 10:54 am

      KG might not be great but his arm is healthy and he still hits 97. Bundy is lucky to hit 90. Bundy is a sad story. So young and he has lost his stuff because of all his arm troubles.

      The slot $ was used to acquire the same kind of nobody prospects Dan was ripped for acquiring.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 20, 2019 at 10:55 am

      Interesting points from both Phil and ButchBird.

  9. mcgooding

    April 20, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Rich, I’m pretty sure that the top two prospects in this years draft are position players. One being a catcher. Is there any college pitching prospects that the O’s could go after with the #1 pick, or do the Orioles have the Raven’s draft philosophy in best player available?

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 20, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      Mcgooding, I will plead ignorance about the Orioles’ draft prospects. The two names you’re reading about are Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman and Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. Other than that, I’m not sure. We’ll be hearing more about Elias’ draft philosophy in the coming weeks.

  10. mindless1

    April 20, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    It is disappointing to see so little near-term talent in the minors.
    And, that’s AFTER dealing away Machado and Schoop and Britton and Gausman!
    I would think we could have gotten more, although, at the time, the media was gushing over how MANY players the Orioles acquired.

    I still think Diaz has potential, and maybe a couple of the pitchers.

    Also, the demise of Bundy has me concerned.
    A couple of years ago, after the TJ surgery, he was throwing 95-96. Now that he’s supposedly recovered, he’s down to 89-90. His fastball is perfectly straight and he likes to throw it in the middle of the plate, belt-high, with predictable results. Is he just getting old or is there some mechanical flaw in his delivery?

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 20, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      Mindless, Bundy is 26, so he’s not getting old. His diminished velocity is a mystery to me.

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