Dean Jones Report: Mountcastle honored, Rodriguez and Knight sizzling for Delmarva - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dean Jones Report

Dean Jones Report: Mountcastle honored, Rodriguez and Knight sizzling for Delmarva

One of these things is not like the others. It isn’t hard to figure out.

  1. Orioles (10-16)
  2. Triple-A Norfolk (7-14)
  3. Double-A Bowie (4-16)
  4. High-A Frederick (8-12)
  5. Low-A Delmarva (16-2)

My colleague, Paul Folkemer, touched on Delmarva’s fast start in this recent post.

The Shorebirds already have a 10-game winning streak this season. They’ve won four straight after losing at Greensboro on Saturday, including a 4-3 win over Augusta last night.

Delmarva is 11-0 at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium so far in 2019. The club holds a three-game lead over Hickory in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division.

It’s shaping up to be a fun summer in Salisbury. Try to catch a game there if you can.

On the flip side, things have been downright miserable in Bowie.

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The Baysox are 1-7 at Prince George’s Stadium so far this year. They’re last in the Eastern League’s Western Division, already 13 games behind division-leading Harrisburg (17-3).

It gets worse…

Bowie ranks last in the 12-team league with a .191 team batting average and .537 OPS. The club also has the second-most strikeouts in the league (182). On the mound, the Baysox are last in team ERA (4.38) and tied for the most home runs allowed (19).

The “Dean Jones Report” is my way to update readers on the Orioles’ minor-league system.

Every month, I’ll share the latest news about the prospects who make up my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings. I’ll list each player as a rising stock (bullish) or a falling stock (bearish), based on his recent play. Plus, I’ll highlight a handful of other players divided into two categories – surging and falling. These players will show you who’s hot and who’s not.

Then, at the bottom of every post, I’ll share the upcoming schedule for each of the Orioles’ affiliates. That way, you’ll know when to get out and see all of these players in action. And after you do, be sure to let me know your thoughts at [email protected].

One last thing: Look for next month’s “Dean Jones Report” update on Friday, May 31.

With all that said, let’s dive into this month’s update…

DEAN’S DOZEN

No. 1: Yusniel Diaz, OF, Bowie
BEARISH
Statistics: .225, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 2Bs, 7 runs in 20 games
MILB.com Player Page

In short, I’m “bearish” on the Cuba native for one simple reason: I’m expecting more from him. And I believe most Orioles fans would agree with that. Diaz, 22, was the biggest piece in the Orioles’ fire sale last summer. But he only batted .239 with 11 extra-base hits (five homers, five doubles and one triple) in 38 games at Bowie in 2018. And so far this year, he still isn’t producing at a “top prospect” level. Diaz doesn’t have an extra-base hit since April 13 – a span of 11 games. And he only has three multi-hit games all year. Of course, we aren’t even out of the first month. So don’t throw in the towel yet. But if Diaz’s production doesn’t improve soon, at a minimum, it’ll be longer before he’s playing at Camden Yards.

No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B/1B, Norfolk
BULLISH
Statistics: .278, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, 3 2Bs, 14 runs in 21 games
MILB.com Player Page

Mountcastle, 22, is only hitting .176 (3-for-17) with five strikeouts in his past four games. But that isn’t enough to turn me “bearish” today. That’s because the 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) went 7-for-10 (.700) with two homers, two doubles, five RBIs and five runs in a three-game stretch for the Tides immediately before the cold streak. All four of his home runs came in a span of five games last week. As a result, Mountcastle earned the International League’s Batter of the Week award on Monday. It’s worth noting that he has played first base in 18 of Norfolk’s 21 games so far this year. He has committed two errors in 138 total chances. We’ll keep an eye on Mountcastle’s defense throughout the season.

No. 3: DL Hall, LHP, Frederick
BEARISH
Statistics: 0-0. 6.30 ERA, 15 Ks, 9 BBs, 2.10 WHIP in 10 innings
MILB.com Player Page

Through three starts with the Keys, the 2017 first-round selection (21st overall) has allowed 22 opponents to reach base in only 10 innings – 12 hits, nine walks and one hit batter. That obviously isn’t good., but it’s still early. Hall, 20, started strong in his most recent start last Saturday against Salem. He retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the first inning. But then, in the second, the first three batters reached base (two singles and a walk). After an RBI groundout, Hall prevented any further damage with two more strikeouts to end the inning. He wasn’t as lucky in the third. The Red Sox scored three runs on three singles, two walks and a sacrifice fly. Hall left the game after throwing just 45 of his 71 pitches for strikes. For now, it appears that he’s only throwing 70-75 pitches per outing. We’ll see if that increases as the season progresses. He’s scheduled to start tonight at Winston-Salem.

No. 4: Austin Hays, OF, Norfolk
BEARISH
Statistics: N/A
MILB.com Player Page

Shortly after spring training started in February, the 2016 third-round pick talked with my colleague Rich Dubroff about being fully recovered from the left ankle injury that caused him to miss much of the 2018 season. Hays, 23, was looking forward to competing for a spot on the major-league squad. And he played well in the spring, batting .351 with five homers and a team-leading 13 RBIs. Nevertheless, the Orioles optioned him to Norfolk on March 17. And less than a week later, he was no longer fully healthy. Hays suffered a sprained left thumb while sliding into a base during a minor-league game on March 23. He’s reportedly working in Sarasota to get up to speed. For now, we can only wait for his return.

No. 5: Keegan Akin, LHP, Norfolk
BULLISH
Statistics: 0-1, 4.58 ERA, 23 Ks, 7 BBs, 1.30 WHIP in 17 2/3 innings
MILB.com Player Page

Truthfully, I only had one tough decision to make on whether to go “bullish” or “bearish” this month. And since I’m writing about it here, you can tell that it involved the 2016 second-round selection. Akin, 24, pitched well on April 12 in the Tides’ 6-5 win over Toledo. He struck out 10 hitters and didn’t walk anyone, holding the Mud Hens to two runs and four hits in six innings. It was the fifth time that Akin has reached double-digit strikeouts in his four-year professional career. But in two starts since then, he has thrown too many pitches and struggled with his command. Having said that, I’m staying optimistic this month. While Akin needs to shake off his recent funk, he’s still only one step away from the majors. Keep in mind, he pitched to a 4.80 ERA in his first three starts for Bowie last season. But he bounced back to win the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year award after finishing 14-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 25 starts. The first month isn’t going to make or break his entire year.

No. 6: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Delmarva
BULLISH
Statistics: 3-0, 0.54 ERA, 28 Ks, 6 BBs, 0.78 WHIP in 16 2/3 innings
MILB.com Player Page

Wow. That’s probably the best way to describe the 2018 first-round pick (11th overall) through his first three starts for the Shorebirds. Rodriguez, 19, struck out 10 hitters and only allowed two hits in five scoreless innings during his South Atlantic League debut – a 3-0 win at Lexington on April 5. A week later, he did even better. Rodriguez held Lakewood to just one hit in six innings and had another 10 strikeouts in Delmarva’s 5-3 victory. On April 15, he earned the South Atlantic League’s Pitcher of the Week award for those two outings. Rodriguez finally allowed a run in his most recent start, but the Shorebirds still cruised to a 6-1 win at Greensboro on April 18. He struck out eight batters in that game. For the players who’ve struggled so far, I’ve noted that it’s still early. The same can be said for players like Rodriguez who have excelled out of the gate. But you can’t ask for much more at this point.

No. 7: Ryan McKenna, OF, Bowie
BEARISH
Statistics: .176, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 2Bs, 8 runs, 1 SB in 19 games
MILB.com Player Page

Through 19 games with Frederick last year, the 2015 fourth-round selection was hitting .347 (26-for-75). McKenna, 22, went on to post a .377 average with 28 extra-base hits (eight homers, 18 doubles and two triples) in 67 games for the Keys before moving up to Bowie. However, he has started off much colder this season. McKenna is only batting .176 (12-for-68) through 19 games with the Baysox. Since he has served almost exclusively as the leadoff hitter, it makes sense that the club has struggled alongside him. When McKenna starts to snap out of his slump, his role as a catalyst should boost Bowie’s overall play. He only has two multi-hit performances – and both of those came within the first four games.

No. 8: Zac Lowther, LHP, Bowie
BULLISH
Statistics: 1-1, 1.93 ERA, 10 Ks, 9 BBs, 1.29 WHIP in 14 innings
MILB.com Player Page

Most folks who’ve read my posts on BaltimoreBaseball.com over the past couple of years know I’m a big fan of the 2017 competitive balance round B pick. I’m not the only one, though. Lowther, 22, shared the organization’s 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year award with Akin after going 8-4 with a 2.18 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) between Delmarva and Frederick. He had 151 strikeouts in 123 2/3 innings, and opponents only batted .195 against him. So far with the Baysox this year, Lowther has picked up where he left off. After three starts, he is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA. One red flag to watch: Lowther has walked nine hitters in 14 innings – including five in four innings on April 14 against Harrisburg. Last year, he only issued 35 walks all season. It’s something he’ll need to shake in the coming weeks. Lowther is scheduled to start tonight against Akron at Prince George’s Stadium.

No. 9: Dean Kremer, RHP, Bowie
BEARISH
Statistics: N/A
MILB.com Player Page

The 2016 14th-round selection pitched well in eight starts for the Baysox at the end of last season. Kremer, 23, went 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings after the Orioles acquired him in the mid-July blockbuster deal that sent infielder Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unfortunately, Kremer still isn’t fully healed from a strained left oblique suffered before spring training began. He reportedly remains at extended spring training in Florida. We’ll have to wait and see where things stand a month from now.

No. 10: Blaine Knight, RHP, Delmarva
BULLISH
Statistics: 2-0, 0.87 ERA, 26 Ks, 4 BBs, 0.58 WHIP in 20 2/3 innings
MILB.com Player Page

Remember everything I said about Rodriguez earlier? Let’s just save some time and repeat it here for the 2018 third-round pick. Knight, 22, has been just as impressive through his first four starts for the Shorebirds. Last night, he held Augusta to two hits in five scoreless innings during Delmarva’s 4-3 victory. Knight struck out eight batters and didn’t walk anyone. He has thrown between 70 and 78 pitches in every start, lasting five innings in three outings and 5 2/3 innings in the other game. Knight will be a good indicator of how aggressive the Orioles will be under Mike Elias when it comes to promotions. If his success continues in the coming weeks, we’ll see if the organization will elevate him to Frederick.

No. 11: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie
BEARISH
Statistics: 0-1, 5.60 ERA, 21 Ks, 5 BBs, 1.53 WHIP in 17 2/3 innings
MILB.com Player Page

We’ll see if last night’s outing was a step in the right direction for the 2013 first-round selection (22nd overall). Harvey, 24, held Akron to one hit and one walk in five scoreless innings during Bowie’s 6-2 loss in 10 innings. His first three starts were nowhere near as pretty. Harvey was roughed up for 13 runs (11 earned) and 21 hits in 12 2/3 innings during those games. It’s a long season. But as anyone who has followed Harvey’s career over the past seven years knows, the important thing is that he’s healthy and taking the mound every fifth day (or sixth or seventh day, as has been the case with the Baysox this year).

No. 12: Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Frederick
BEARISH
Statistics: 1-2, 8.50 ERA, 10 Ks, 11 BBs, 1.72 WHIP in 18 innings
MILB.com Player Page

Hanifee, who will turn 21 on May 29, was lit up on Tuesday night at Fayetteville. The 2016 fourth-round pick gave up eight runs and 10 hits in four innings as the Keys lost, 8-1. He allowed seven runs in the first inning alone. Hanifee also struggled in his first start of the year. He surrendered seven runs (six earned) on three hits and five walks in Frederick’s 9-4 loss to Winston-Salem on April 4. Hanifee’s other two starts weren’t nearly as terrible, but the bad far outweighs the good at this point. He has never been a big strikeout pitcher, but the uptick in walks is a little concerning. Through 18 innings in 2019, Hanifee has already walked 11 hitters. Last season, he only issued 22 walks in 132 innings for Delmarva.

SURGING

Adam Hall, 2B-SS, Delmarva: The 2017 second-round selection only has four extra-base hits – all doubles – through 17 games. But Hall, who will turn 20 on May 22, is batting an impressive .379 (25-for-66) with 10 RBIs and 16 runs in 17 games. He’s second in the South Atlantic League in average and runs. His nine stolen bases rank third in the league.

Robert Neustrom, OF, Delmarva: Neustrom, 22, started off on a tear for the Shorebirds. After seven games, the 2018 fifth-round pick was batting .379 (11-for-29) with two homers and nine RBIs. Although Neustrom only has one multi-hit game since then, it’s still worth mentioning his name here. Overall, he’s batting .295 with 13 RBIs and 13 runs in 16 games.

Zach Pop, RHP, Bowie: In 14 appearances for the Baysox last season, the 2017 seventh-round selection – who came to the Orioles in the deal for Machado – went 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA. Pop, 22, had 17 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. This year, his results have been even better in six appearances. Pop is 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA and nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings.

Bruce Zimmermann, LHP, Bowie: The Loyola Blakefield graduate struggled after coming to his hometown organization from the Atlanta Braves in the trade for right-handers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day last summer. Zimmermann, 24, went 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in five starts for the Baysox in 2018. But this year, he has a 1.59 ERA through three starts.

FALLING

Pedro Araujo, RHP, Bowie: In 5 2/3 innings over five appearances since heading back to the Baysox, the 2017 Rule 5 draft pick has allowed three runs on three hits and five walks. That works out to a 4.76 ERA. It’s better than a 8.16 ERA in 28 2/3 career innings in the major leagues. But Araujo, 25, is probably a long way from a return to the Orioles.

Luis Ortiz, RHP, Norfolk: The Orioles acquired the 2014 first-round selection (30th overall) from the Milwaukee Brewers in the deal for infielder Jonathan Schoop last July. Ortiz, 23, hasn’t pitched more than 4 1/3 innings in his first four starts with the Tides this season. Overall, he is 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA. Even worse, he has walked 11 batters in 15 1/3 innings.

Chance Sisco, C, Norfolk: Although the 2013 second-round pick exhausted his rookie eligibility in 2018, I know Orioles’ fans still want to know how he’s doing. And to be honest, it hasn’t been good for Sisco, 24, through 15 games with the Tides this season. He is only hitting .190 (11-for-58) with three doubles, four RBIs and a disappointing 21 strikeouts.

Dillon Tate, RHP, Bowie: When the Orioles traded closer Zack “Don’t Call Me Zach” Britton to the New York Yankees last summer, the 2015 first-round selection (fourth overall) was considered the centerpiece of the deal. But Tate, 24, is 2-6 with a 6.08 ERA in 11 games (nine starts) with the Baysox over the past two seasons. And he’s no longer in the rotation.

THE MONTH AHEAD

Norfolk (7-14)
April 26 – at Louisville, 7 p.m.
April 27 – at Louisville, 6:30 p.m.
April 28 – at Louisville, 2 p.m.
April 29 – at Durham, 7:05 p.m.
April 30 – at Durham, 10:35 a.m.
May 1 – at Durham, 10:35 a.m.
May 2 – vs. Charlotte, 6:35 p.m.
May 3 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
May 4 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
May 5 – vs. Charlotte, 1:05 p.m.
May 6 – OFF
May 7 – vs. Pawtucket, 6:35 p.m.
May 8 – vs. Pawtucket, 6:35 p.m.
May 9 – vs. Pawtucket, 12:05 p.m.
May 10 – vs. Buffalo, 7:05 p.m.
May 11 – vs. Buffalo, 7:05 p.m.
May 12 – vs. Buffalo, 1:05 p.m.
May 13 – OFF
May 14 – at Toledo, 6:35 p.m.
May 15 – at Toledo, 10:35 a.m.
May 16 – at Toledo, 10:35 a.m.
May 17 – at Indianapolis, 7:15 p.m.
May 18 – at Indianapolis, 7:05 p.m.
May 19 – at Indianapolis, 1:35 p.m.
May 20 – OFF
May 21 – vs. Durham, 6:35 p.m.
May 22 – vs. Durham, 6:35 p.m.
May 23 – vs. Durham, 12:05 p.m.
May 24 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
May 25 – at Gwinnett, 6:05 p.m.
May 26 – at Gwinnett, 1:05 p.m.
May 27 – at Gwinnett, 6:05 p.m.
May 28 – vs. Columbus, 6:35 p.m.
May 29 – vs. Columbus, 6:35 p.m.
May 30 – vs. Columbus, 12:05 p.m.

Bowie (4-16)
April 26 – vs. Akron, 7:05 p.m.
April 27 – vs. Akron, 6:35 p.m.
April 28 – vs. Akron, 1:35 p.m.
April 29 – vs. Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
April 30 – vs. Richmond, 11:05 a.m.
May 1 – vs. Richmond, 11:05 a.m.
May 2 – at Erie, 6:05 p.m.
May 3 – at Erie, 6:05 p.m.
May 4 – at Erie, 6:05 p.m.
May 5 – at Erie, 1:35 p.m.
May 6 – at Altoona, 6 p.m.
May 7 – at Altoona, 6 p.m.
May 8 – at Altoona, 10:30 a.m.
May 9 – OFF
May 10 – vs. Richmond, 7:05 p.m.
May 11 – vs. Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
May 12 – vs. Richmond, 1:35 p.m.
May 13 – at Akron, 6:35 p.m.
May 14 – at Akron, 10:35 a.m.
May 15 – at Akron, 10:35 a.m.
May 16 – vs. Erie, 6:35 p.m.
May 17 – vs. Erie, 7:05 p.m.
May 18 – vs. Erie, 6:35 p.m.
May 19 – vs. Erie, 1:35 p.m.
May 20 – vs. Binghamton, 6:35 p.m.
May 21 – vs. Binghamton, 6:35 p.m.
May 22 – vs. Binghamton, 11:05 a.m.
May 23 – OFF
May 24 – at Erie, 6:05 p.m.
May 25 – at Erie, 6:05 p.m.
May 26 – at Erie, 1:35 p.m.
May 27 – at Erie, 1:35 p.m.
May 28 – vs. Akron, 6:35 p.m.
May 29 – vs. Akron, 6:35 p.m.
May 30 – vs. Akron, 11:05 a.m.

Frederick (8-12)
April 26 – at Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.
April 27 – at Winston-Salem, 2 p.m.
April 28 – at Winston-Salem, 2 p.m.
April 29 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
April 30 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
May 1 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
May 2 – vs. Wilmington, 11 a.m.
May 3 – at Lynchburg, 6 p.m.
May 4 – at Lynchburg, 6 p.m.
May 5 – at Lynchburg, 3 p.m.
May 6 – OFF
May 7 – vs. Potomac, 7 p.m.
May 8 – vs. Potomac, 7 p.m.
May 9 – vs. Potomac, 11 a.m.
May 10 – vs. Fayetteville, 7 p.m.
May 11 – vs. Fayetteville, 6 p.m.
May 12 – vs. Fayetteville, 1 p.m.
May 13 – at Wilmington, 6:35 p.m.
May 14 – at Wilmington, 6:35 p.m.
May 15 – at Wilmington, 10:35 a.m.
May 16 – at Wilmington, 6:35 p.m.
May 17 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.
May 18 – vs. Salem, 6 p.m.
May 19 – vs. Salem, 1 p.m.
May 20 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 7 p.m.
May 21 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 7 p.m.
May 22 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 7 p.m.
May 23 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 11 a.m.
May 24 – at Potomac, 7:05 p.m.
May 25 – at Potomac, 6:35 p.m.
May 26 – at Potomac, 1:05 p.m.
May 27 – at Potomac, 1:05 p.m.
May 28 – OFF
May 29 – vs. Lynchburg, 7 p.m.
May 30 – vs. Lynchburg, 7 p.m.

Delmarva (16-2)
April 26 – vs. Augusta, 7:05 p.m.
April 27 – vs. Augusta, 7:05 p.m.
April 28 – vs. Augusta, 2:05 p.m.
April 29 – OFF
April 30 – at Columbia, 7:05 p.m.
May 1 – at Columbia, 11:05 a.m.
May 2 – at Columbia, 7:05 p.m.
May 3 – at Asheville, 7:05 p.m.
May 4 – at Asheville, 6:05 p.m.
May 5 – at Asheville, 2:05 p.m.
May 6 – at Asheville, 10:35 a.m.
May 7 – OFF
May 8 – vs. Greensboro, 7:05 p.m.
May 9 – vs. Greensboro, 10:35 a.m.
May 10 – vs. Greensboro, 7:05 p.m.
May 11 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
May 12 – vs. Hagerstown, 2:05 p.m.
May 13 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
May 14 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
May 15 – at Greensboro, 11 a.m.
May 16 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
May 17 – at Kannapolis, 7 p.m.
May 18 – at Kannapolis (doubleheader), 5:30 p.m.
May 19 – at Kannapolis, 3 p.m.
May 20 – at Kannapolis, 7 p.m.
May 21 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
May 22 – vs. Lakewood, 10:35 a.m.
May 23 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
May 24 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
May 25 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
May 26 – vs. Hagerstown, 2:05 p.m.
May 27 – vs. Hagerstown, 2:05 p.m.
May 28 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
May 29 – OFF
May 30 – at Greenville, 7:05 p.m.

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