With the unofficial end of summer upon us, most folks are ready for some football.
No one wants to watch the Orioles grind their way to a third straight last-place finish in the American League East – and likely a second consecutive 100-loss season. The club must win 19 of its final 29 games (a .655 winning percentage) to avoid reaching that milestone again.
No one wants to see so many balls flying off opponents’ bats and out of the ballpark. Going into today – remember, with 29 games still left – the Orioles have allowed 263 homers, a major-league record that could hit 300 (or more) before it’s etched in the annals of infamy.
Even the club’s biggest diehard fans can’t deny that the first step of the Orioles’ rebuild has been brutal at the major-league level. However, it’s a much different story in the minors.
With the season winding down, as many as three Orioles’ affiliates could earn playoff berths.
Low-A Delmarva (88-46) will play in the South Atlantic League playoffs after establishing a franchise record for wins in a season. The Shorebirds went 48-21 in the first half to win the league’s Northern Division, and they’re currently tied for the division lead in the second half.
With four games left, Double-A Bowie (75-61) currently holds a two-game lead over Erie in the Eastern League’s Western Division. If the Baysox can hang on to the lead, they would face Harrisburg – which won the first half – in a best-of-five series starting next week.
In the New York-Penn League, Short-A Aberdeen (40-31) remains in a three-way race for the McNamara Division title. The IronBirds are currently tied with Brooklyn, one game behind Hudson Valley. Aberdeen will host Brooklyn tonight before closing the regular season with three games at Hudson Valley. The league’s wild-card spot is also up for grabs.
Even farther down on the farm, the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles posted the league’s best record (38-15) to run away with the South Division by seven games over the Twins. However, with Hurricane Dorian projected to hit Florida early next week, the league decided to cancel the final two games of the regular season and all of the postseason.
I’m planning to do one more “Dean Jones Report” next month to wrap up the performances of the Orioles’ affiliates in the postseason. And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and analysis if you go to any games. You can share your comments at the bottom of this post.
Now, let’s dive into the latest Dean Jones Report update.
As regular readers know, the Dean Jones Report is my way to keep you updated on the latest happenings in the Orioles’ minor-league system. Each month, I share the latest news, notes and analysis about the 12 prospects who make up my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings.
Remember, I categorize each player as a rising stock (bullish) or a falling stock (bearish), based on his recent play. I also highlight several others in two categories – surging and falling – and a “spotlight” from the 2019 draft, so you can see who’s hot and who’s not.
Then, at the bottom of every post, I share the upcoming schedules for the Orioles’ top five affiliates. With that, you know when to head to the ballpark to see these players in action.
No. 1: Adley Rutschman, C, Delmarva
Statistics: .143, 1 HR, 3 RBIs in 5 games (GCL Orioles); .325, 1 HR, 15 RBIs, 7 2Bs in 20 games (Aberdeen); .100, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 2B in 9 games (Delmarva)
Forget that Rutschman, 21, is batting .100 (3-for-30) in nine games with the Shorebirds. The important thing is that the top overall pick in this year’s draft advanced to Delmarva – his second promotion so far this year – after heating up at Aberdeen earlier this month. He hit .344 (21-for-61) with 15 RBIs in 16 games for the IronBirds in August before moving up, including an incredible 5-for-5 performance in his final game with Aberdeen on Aug. 19. Of course, the Shorebirds would love to see Rutschman start hitting in time for the South Atlantic League playoffs next week. For now, he’s hitless in his last nine official at-bats.
No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/3B/OF, Norfolk
Statistics: .309, 25 HRs, 81 RBIs, 35 2Bs, 81 runs in 123 games
If you were running the Orioles, would you bring the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) up to the majors for the final month? Mountcastle, 22, earned the International League Most Valuable Player award after a breakthrough season with the Tides. He leads the league in hits (156) and total bases (268), and ranks among the top five in doubles (35, third), RBIs (81, fourth) and runs (81, fifth). Although Mountcastle is only batting .280 in August – his lowest monthly average of the season – he remains the club’s most polished hitting prospect. It would be nice to watch Mountcastle at Camden Yards in September. But again, I ask you: If you were running the Orioles, would you reward him with a promotion?
No. 3: DL Hall, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 4-5, 3.46 ERA, 116 Ks, 54 BBs, 1.33 WHIP in 80 2/3 innings
I’m “bearish” on Hall, who will turn 21 on Sept. 19, for one reason: He ended the season on the injured list with a mild strain of his left lat muscle. The 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) didn’t pitch after Aug. 8, when he gave up three runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings during the Keys’ 8-2 loss to Potomac. Hall pitched much better in the second half (2-3, 2.85 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in 41 innings) than he did in the first half (2-2, 4.08 ERA, 1.59 WHIP in 39 2/3 innings). Opponents only batted .198 against him this season, including just .146 after the Carolina League All-Star break. Truthfully, Hall didn’t need to pitch until the end of the year. The Orioles know what he can do. He’ll likely start the 2020 season at Bowie.
No. 4: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 10-4, 2.68 ERA, 129 Ks, 36 BBs, 0.99 WHIP in 94 innings
In three of his past four starts, the 2018 first-round selection (11th overall) has been literally unhittable. Rodriguez, 19, struck out 10 hitters in five no-hit innings against Kannapolis on Aug. 10. Six days later, he had six strikeouts in three perfect innings during Delmarva’s 5-0 win at Lakewood. Then, last night, Rodriguez allowed one unearned run in six no-hit innings as the Shorebirds made another trip back to New Jersey to face the BlueClaws. He finished with seven strikeouts in Delmarva’s 3-1 victory. Although Rodriguez suffered his fourth loss of the year after allowing four runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings at Hagerstown last Saturday, he finished August with a 2.49 ERA in 21 2/3 innings.
No. 5: Yusniel Diaz, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .333, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs in 3 games (Aberdeen); .273, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs in 6 games (Frederick); .257, 11 HRs, 53 RBIs, 18 2Bs, 44 runs in 73 games (Bowie)
The Cuba native broke through with a three-hit performance in Bowie’s 17-2 victory at Reading on Thursday night. It was the first time that Diaz, 22, had three hits in a game since he did it on back-to-back games on July 13 and 14 at Akron. I should note that Diaz spent roughly three weeks on the injured list with a quadriceps injury during that span, but my point is that he has struggled to be consistent – and healthy – this season. One erratic season won’t sink a top prospect like Diaz, but he’ll have to rebound heading into next year.
No. 6: Austin Hays, OF, Norfolk
Statistics: .278, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs, 5 runs in 5 games (Aberdeen); .162, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs, 3 runs in 9 games (Frederick); .268, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs, 5 2Bs, 9 runs in 14 games (Bowie); .248, 9 HRs, 24 RBIs, 14 2Bs, 39 runs in 55 games (Norfolk)
Hays, 24, appears to be the front-runner as the Orioles look to fill the hole in center field for 2020 and beyond. However, the 2016 third-round selection still hasn’t come close to the offensive numbers he put up two years ago, when he batted .329 with 32 homers, 32 doubles and 95 RBIs in 128 games between Frederick and Bowie. So far this month, Hays is hitting .258 (25-for-97) with only one double and just eight RBIs in 25 games for Norfolk. I’m still optimistic on Hays’ long-term future, but he needs to find more pop in his bat.
No. 7: Zac Lowther, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 13-7, 2.66 ERA, 145 Ks, 63 BBs, 1.13 WHIP in 142 innings
On Aug. 6, the 2017 competitive balance round B pick struck out a season-high 10 batters as the Baysox beat Trenton, 4-3. Lowther, 23, allowed three runs and four hits in six innings during the victory. He finished second behind Erie right-hander Matt Manning for the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year. Lowther currently leads the league in wins (13) and ranks among the league leaders in strikeouts (145, second), ERA (2.66, third) and innings pitched (142, fourth). Although Rodriguez is the better prospect, I’d vote for Lowther to win the organization’s Jim Palmer Pitcher of the Year award. He shared the honor with left-hander Keegan Akin last season. But even if Lowther doesn’t get the accolades, he’s still a candidate to compete for a spot on the major-league squad in spring training next year.
No. 8: Gunnar Henderson, SS, GCL Orioles
Statistics: .259, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 5 2Bs, 21 runs in 29 games
The 2019 second-round selection didn’t do anything to hurt his prospect status through 29 games in the Gulf Coast League. Henderson, 18, hit .273 (18-for-66) with six extra-base hits and eight RBIs in 17 games in August. He batted mostly in the No. 2 spot in the order.
No. 9: Keegan Akin, LHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 6-7, 4.73 ERA, 131 Ks, 61 BBs, 1.51 WHIP in 112 1/3 innings
Akin, 24, was charged with eight runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings during the Tides’ 9-5 loss at Syracuse on Aug. 18. His ERA jumped to 4.92 after the outing – its second-highest mark of the year. Then, six days later, the 2016 second-round pick issued a career-high seven walks in 5 2/3 innings as Norfolk suffered a 5-3 loss at Charlotte in the first game of a doubleheader. Akin bounced back last night, holding Gwinnett to one run and two hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked three in Norfolk’s 8-1 victory. His 4.73 ERA looks abysmal, but it actually ranks seventh in the International League. (Remember, the offensive numbers in Triple-A have been even worse than the majors.) Akin leads the league with 131 strikeouts in 112 1/3 innings, but he’s also second with 61 walks allowed.
No. 10: Michael Baumann, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-4, 3.83 ERA, 77 Ks, 24 BBs, 1.19 WHIP in 54 innings (Frederick); 6-2, 2.31 ERA, 65 Ks, 21 BBs, 0.94 WHIP in 70 innings (Bowie)
Baumann, who will turn 24 on Sept. 10, has earned the win in each of his past four starts for the Baysox. Against Richmond on Aug. 14, the 2017 third-round selection tossed his second nine-inning shutout in a month. He struck out seven Flying Squirrels hitters and scattered four hits in Bowie’s 4-0 victory. Remember, Baumann threw a no-hitter against Harrisburg on July 16. Last night, with the Baysox fighting for an Eastern League playoff spot, he had eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings during the team’s 17-2 rout at Reading.
No. 11: Dean Kremer, RHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 14 Ks, 4 BBs, 1.03 WHIP in 9 2/3 innings (Frederick); 9-4, 2.98 ERA, 87 Ks, 29 BBs, 1.23 WHIP in 84 2/3 innings (Bowie); 0-2, 10.05 ERA, 16 Ks, 4 BBs, 1.81 WHIP in 14 1/3 innings (Norfolk)
The Orioles promoted the 2016 14th-round pick to Norfolk two weeks ago. And Kremer, 23, has struggled through his first three starts with the Tides, allowing 16 runs and 22 hits in 14 1/3 innings. That’s why I’m “bearish” on Kremer this month. However, in the long run, he should be fine. Earlier this week, the Orioles announced that Kremer would represent the team in the Arizona Fall League. He’ll be joined by Bowie left-hander Alex Wells, Norfolk infielder Rylan Bannon, Bowie infielder Mason McCoy, Frederick right-hander David Lebron and two other players – a pitcher and an outfielder – who will be announced at a later date.
No. 12: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Orioles
Statistics: 2-5, 5.19 ERA, 61 Ks, 21 BBs, 1.42 WHIP in 59 innings (Bowie); 1-1, 4.32 ERA, 22 Ks, 5 BBs, 1.08 WHIP in 16 2/3 innings (Norfolk); 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 Ks, 3 BBs, 1.25 WHIP in 4 innings (Orioles)
What a whirlwind season for the 2013 first-round selection (22nd overall). If you told me on June 7 that Harvey, 24, would be pitching for the Orioles before the end of the year, I wouldn’t have believed you. At that point, he was 2-5 with a 6.12 ERA in 11 starts for Bowie. Then, the organization shifted Harvey to the bullpen. By the end of June, the club promoted him to Norfolk. He received the major-league call-up two weeks ago. Except for one bad outing with the Tides in mid-July, Harvey has shined in his new role. It’s still too early to say whether he will ever earn a spot in the Orioles’ rotation, but he’s gaining major-league experience. That’s never a bad thing. Let’s see how he finishes the season.
2019 DRAFT SPOTLIGHT
Kyle Stowers, OF, Aberdeen: The Orioles’ competitive balance round B pick out of Stanford is tied for the team lead in home runs (five) and doubles (12), but he’s only hitting .216 overall. Stowers, 21, homered in three straight games at Vermont from Aug. 11-13. He also hit a solo shot against the Lake Monsters on Aug. 17 at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium.
Gray Fenter, RHP, Delmarva: The 2015 seventh-round pick completed a dominating month with 11 strikeouts in five no-hit innings during the Shorebirds’ 7-0 win at Lakewood on Tuesday. Fenter, 23, went 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 19 innings over five games in August. Overall, he is 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings.
Johnny Rizer, OF, Delmarva: After hitting .305 with 14 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs in 27 games at Aberdeen, the 2019 seventh-round selection moved up to the Shorebirds. Rizer, 22, has continued to get on base. He’s batting .310 with nine extra-base hits and 18 RBIs in 32 games with Delmarva. However, he only has four hits in his past 22 at-bats (.182).
Toby Welk, 3B, Delmarva: A month ago, I wrote about the 2019 21st-round pick in the “draft spotlight” section. Welk, 22, cooled off slightly after that post, but he finally earned a call-up to Delmarva on Aug. 24. He has hit safely in his first six games with the Shorebirds. Through the two levels, Welk is batting .342 with 12 doubles and 30 RBIs in 54 games.
Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Frederick: In four starts during day games, the 2016 fourth-round selection is 4-0 with a 3.24 ERA. The bad news is, most baseball games – even in the minors – are played at night. Hanifee, 21, is 5-10 with a 4.93 ERA in 20 games (18 starts) in those instances. He gave up six runs and 11 hits in six innings at Down East last night.
Blaine Knight, RHP, Frederick: The 2018 third-round pick can’t get anything right lately. Knight, 23, allowed six runs (five earned) and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings Tuesday as Frederick lost, 7-3, at Down East. And he didn’t strike out anyone for the first time in 22 professional games. Knight is 1-11 with a 6.29 ERA in 78 2/3 innings for the Keys.
Drew Rom, LHP, Delmarva: Judging by the full body of work, the 2019 season was a major success for the 2018 fourth-round pick. Rom, 19, is 6-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings for the Shorebirds. However, he is only 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in 10 games (seven starts) in the second half, including 0-1 with a 5.30 ERA in four starts in August.
THE MONTH AHEAD
Aug. 30 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
Aug. 31 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
Sept. 1 – vs. Charlotte, 6:05 p.m.
Sept. 2 – vs. Charlotte, 1:05 p.m.
Bowie (75-61 overall, 45-23 in second half)
Aug. 30 – at Richmond, 7:05 p.m.
Aug. 31 – at Richmond, 6:05 p.m.
Sept. 1 – at Richmond, 6:05 p.m.
Sept. 2 – at Richmond, 1:05 p.m.
TBD – Eastern League postseason
Frederick (53-79 overall, 24-39 in second half)
Aug. 30 – vs. Potomac, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 – vs. Potomac (doubleheader), 4 p.m.
Sept. 1 – vs. Potomac, 6 p.m.
Sept. 2 – vs. Potomac, noon
Delmarva (88-46 overall, 40-25 in second half)
Aug. 30 – vs. Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.
Aug. 31 – vs. Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.
Sept. 1 – vs. Kannapolis, 5:05 p.m.
Sept. 2 – vs. Kannapolis, 2:05 p.m.
TBD – South Atlantic League postseason
Aug. 30 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.
Aug. 31 – at Hudson Valley, 6:05 p.m.
Sept. 1 – at Hudson Valley, 4:35 p.m.
Sept. 2 – at Hudson Valley, 2:05 p.m.
TBD – New York-Penn League postseason