Dean Jones Report: Rutschman, Mountcastle remain top prospects; three top pitchers; Henderson shows promise - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dean Jones Report

Dean Jones Report: Rutschman, Mountcastle remain top prospects; three top pitchers; Henderson shows promise

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

 I’ll jump right into things this month.

Loyal BaltimoreBaseball.com readers know the Dean Jones Report is my way to keep you updated on the latest news and notes on the Orioles’ minor-league system. As always, I follow the prospects in the organization who make up my latest Dean’s Dozen rankings.

I categorize each player as a rising stock (bullish) or a falling stock (bearish). Normally, the ratings are based on recent play. But since this is the end-of-season recap, they’re geared more toward the longer term. And at the bottom of this month’s post, you’ll see six players who I believe are either surging or falling because of how they performed this season.

The statistics listed for each player only include the regular season. For the Low-A Delmarva and Double-A Bowie players, I noted their specific playoff performances in the write-ups.

One final note: I’m happy to report that I’ll be returning to BaltimoreBaseball.com for the 2020 season. Look for the Dean Jones Report on the final Monday of every month.

With that said, let’s dive into the final Dean Jones Report of the 2019 season…

DEAN’S DOZEN

No. 1: Adley Rutschman, C, Delmarva

BULLISH

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Statistics: .143, 1 HR, 3 RBIs in 5 games (GCL Orioles); .325, 1 HR, 15 RBIs, 7 2Bs in 20 games (Aberdeen); .154, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs, 1 2B in 12 games (Delmarva)

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Rutschman, 21, officially ended his first professional season with a .254 average, four homers and 26 RBIs in 37 games across three levels – from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to the Low-A South Atlantic League. Those numbers don’t include the 2019 first overall pick’s three hits in eight at-bats during the Shorebirds’ two games in the South Atlantic League playoffs. Rutschman had his team’s only two hits in the heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Hickory in 10 innings on Sept. 6 that eliminated Delmarva from the playoffs. Overall, it was a good first step for the Orioles’ Player of the Month in August. We’ll get to see how Rutschman plays in his first full season in 2020. It will likely start in Frederick.

No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/3B/OF, Norfolk

BULLISH

Statistics: .312, 25 HRs, 83 RBIs, 35 2Bs, 81 runs in 127 games

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The Orioles must add the Brooks Robinson Player of the Year and International League Most Valuable Player to their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft in December. So why didn’t they do it – and reward Mountcastle, 22 – with a September call-up? The knocks against the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) include his lack of walks – 24 in 127 games this year – and his lack of a position defensively. Personally, if I were running the organization, I would have thrown both of those things out the window and let him put a ribbon on an impressive year with some time in the majors. But unfortunately, I’m not calling the shots for the Orioles. I’m just a part-time blogger who wishes the rebuild could happen overnight.

No. 3: DL Hall, LHP, Frederick

BULLISH

Statistics: 4-5, 3.46 ERA, 116 Ks, 54 BBs, 1.33 WHIP in 80 2/3 innings

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As I mentioned last month, the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) didn’t pitch after Aug. 8 because of a strained left lat muscle. But it sounds like Hall, who turned 21 on Sept. 19, should be healthy long before the start of spring training. Although his season ended earlier than expected, Hall finished strong after a rocky start with the Keys. Through the end of June, he was 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA. But in July and August, Hall went 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA. I’m back to “bullish” this month because I’m looking at the long-term picture with Hall.

No. 4: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Delmarva

BULLISH

Statistics: 10-4, 2.68 ERA, 129 Ks, 36 BBs, 0.99 WHIP in 94 innings

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The season ended on a down note for the 2018 first-round selection (11th overall) with a loss in Game 1 of the South Atlantic League playoffs at Hickory. Rodriguez, 19, gave up four runs and four hits in six innings during the Shorebirds’ 4-3 loss to the Crawdads. But that single performance didn’t change anything about Rodriguez’s tremendous year. In eight home starts, he was 6-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 61 strikeouts across 43 2/3 innings. Rodriguez went 4-4 with a 4.29 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings during 12 games on the road. The next step up the ladder will happen in 2020, where he’ll likely begin with Frederick.

No. 5: Yusniel Diaz, OF, Bowie

BEARISH

Statistics: .333, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs in 3 games (Aberdeen); .273, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs in 6 games (Frederick); .262, 11 HRs, 53 RBIs, 19 2Bs, 45 runs in 76 games (Bowie)

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Diaz, 22, wrapped up the regular season with three multi-hit performances in his final four games, boosting his final average with the Baysox up to .262 in 76 games. The Cuba native batted .257 (9-for-35) in eight games during the Eastern League playoffs, but he went hitless in his final nine official at-bats in the championship series against Trenton. Overall, Diaz has shown flashes of his potential but hasn’t lived up to being the cornerstone of the club’s 2018 trade-deadline haul – at least not yet. The Orioles will need to add Diaz to their 40-man roster to protect him from this year’s Rule 5 draft. He’s still young, so that’s a no-brainer. We’ll see if Diaz can stay healthy for a full season in 2020, likely starting at Norfolk.

No. 6: Austin Hays, OF, Orioles

BULLISH

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); .254, 10 HRs, 27 RBIs, 16 2Bs, 43 runs in 59 games (Norfolk); .302, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 4 2Bs, 6 runs in 15 games (Orioles)

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What a whirlwind few weeks for the 2016 third-round selection. Hays, 24, appeared to be headed straight to the Arizona Fall League instead of becoming a September call-up when Norfolk’s season ended on Labor Day. But after Major League Baseball adjusted the rules for the fall showcase league’s rosters, the Orioles decided to bring him to the majors on Sept. 7. And over the past two weeks, Hays has made the most of the opportunity with a .302 average, four doubles and seven RBIs in 15 games so far this season. He hit his first homer last Thursday in the Orioles’ 8-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and followed that with a two-run, game-tying shot in the 7-6 defeat against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday. Plus, Hays’ dazzling defense in center field has added some excitement and hope for the future.

No. 7: Zac Lowther, LHP, Bowie

BULLISH

Statistics: 13-7, 2.55 ERA, 154 Ks, 63 BBs, 1.11 WHIP in 148 innings

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It’s not easy to split an award three ways, but I think the 2017 competitive balance round B pick also deserved a slice of the Orioles’ Jim Palmer Pitcher of the Year award. Lowther, 23, ended the season on the injured list with minor soreness in his left shoulder, but not before putting up impressive numbers for the third straight season. He led the Eastern League in strikeouts (154) and wins (13), and finished second in ERA (2.55). Lowther also made one start in the playoffs, earning the win in Game 3 of the Western Division Championship Series at Harrisburg on Sept. 6. He allowed one run and five hits in 6 1/3 innings.

No. 8: Gunnar Henderson, SS, GCL Orioles

BULLISH

Statistics: .259, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 5 2Bs, 21 runs in 29 games

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The Gulf Coast League Orioles’ season ended before my last update on Aug. 30, so nothing has changed with Henderson. As I said last month, the 2019 second-round selection didn’t do anything to hurt his prospect status in his first professional season. He’s still a long way from Camden Yards, but it will be fun to watch his progression over the next few years.

No. 9: Keegan Akin, LHP, Norfolk

BEARISH

Statistics: 6-7, 4.73 ERA, 131 Ks, 61 BBs, 1.51 WHIP in 112 1/3 innings

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The official record shows that I’m “bearish” on the 2016 second-round pick. That’s because Akin, 24, didn’t dominate in Triple-A like he did at the Double-A level a year ago, when he earned the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year award after going 14-7 with a 3.27 ERA and a league-leading 142 strikeouts in 137 2/3 innings. This year, he went 6-7 with a 4.73 ERA in 112 1/3 innings. But as I said last month, those numbers are misleading because of the offensive explosion in Triple-A. Akin’s ERA was sixth in the International League. And for the second straight season, he led a league in strikeouts. I’ve seen some rumblings online that the Orioles might not protect Akin from the Rule 5 draft in December. I think that would be a terrible mistake. In a rebuild, you must find a spot for a left-hander with strikeout stuff.

No. 10: Michael Baumann, RHP, Bowie

BULLISH

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)

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One of my biggest regrets this season is not including the 2017 third-round pick in my initial Dean’s Dozen. Baumann, who turned 24 on Sept. 10, eventually pitched his way onto the list before splitting the Orioles’ 2019 Jim Palmer Pitcher of the Year award with Rodriguez. His best month was July, during which he went 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 32 2/3 innings across five starts – including a no-hitter on July 16 against Harrisburg. Baumann didn’t factor into the decision in Game 1 of the Western Division Championship Series against the Senators on Sept. 4. He allowed two runs and three hits in five innings during Bowie’s 5-3 victory. Then, on Sept. 10, Baumann gave up two runs and five hits in 3 2/3 innings of the Eastern League Championship Series at Trenton. He struck out six batters and issued five walks.

No. 11: Dean Kremer, RHP, Norfolk

BULLISH

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, 8.84 ERA, 21 Ks, 4 BBs, 1.76 WHIP in 19 1/3 innings (Norfolk)

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Although Kremer, 23, only made one more start for the Tides after my last update, I’ve flipped to “bullish” on him because I’m looking at the big picture. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2016 14th-round selection, who came to the Orioles in the 2018 trade for Manny Machado, will likely pitch in the majors at some point in 2020 – perhaps as early as Opening Day. Kremer is representing the organization in the Arizona Fall League, where he threw two scoreless innings for the Surprise Saguaros on Friday night. He had three strikeouts and allowed two hits. The Orioles must add Kremer to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft.

12: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Orioles

BULLISH

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, 1.42 ERA, 11 Ks, 4 BBs, 1.11 WHIP in 6 1/3 innings (Orioles)

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One major note on my “bullish” rating for the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall): I’m cautiously bullish. Harvey – who will turn 25 in December – shined in his first foray into the majors, finishing with a 1.42 ERA in 6 1/3 innings over seven relief appearances. However, the Orioles shut him down last week due to soreness in his right biceps. And as everyone knows, Harvey has struggled with injuries throughout his seven-year professional career. It appears to just be precautionary this time, and he’ll have an entire offseason to return to full strength. The Orioles hope that happens. A healthy Harvey is an asset in the bullpen.

SURGING

Gray Fenter, RHP, Delmarva: The 2015 seventh-round selection went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 22 games (17 starts). Fenter, 23, finished with 123 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings. He also had 13 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings during Delmarva’s 1-0 loss to Hickory in the South Atlantic League playoffs on Sept. 6. Will the Orioles protect him from the Rule 5 draft?

Adam Hall, 2B-SS, Delmarva: Hall, 20, cooled off down the stretch, batting only .240 (23-for-96) with just three extra-base hits in 27 games in August. But the 2017 second-round pick still went 9-for-10 in stolen bases in the month, finishing with 33 overall (third in the South Atlantic League). Hall ended the year with a .298 average, 22 doubles and 78 runs.

Cody Sedlock, RHP, Bowie: After two terrible seasons, the 2016 first-round selection (27th overall) lost most of his prospect luster. But Sedlock, 24, bounced back a bit this year, going 5-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 95 innings between Frederick and Bowie. The Orioles must add Sedlock to the 40-man roster, or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft.

FALLING

Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B, Delmarva: The Dominican Republic native still has plenty of time to develop into a star – or at least a major leaguer. But I had higher hopes when the Orioles acquired Encarnacion, 21, from the Atlanta Braves at the 2018 trade deadline. Instead, he only hit .240 with a .648 OPS and 145 strikeouts in 120 games this year.Blaine Knight, RHP, Frederick: After going 3-0 with a 0.68 ERA with Delmarva, the 2018 third-round pick was promoted to the Keys in early May. Then, it all fell apart for Knight, 23, who went 1-12 with a 6.13 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) at Frederick. He was 0-5 with a 7.33 ERA in 23 1/3 innings in June and 0-3 with a 9.39 ERA in 15 1/3 innings in August.

Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie: In case you forgot, here’s a reminder: Mullins, who will turn 25 on Oct. 1, batted leadoff in the Orioles’ 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees on Opening Day in March. It seems like a lifetime ago. After being sent down to Norfolk on April 22, the 2015 13th-round pick was demoted again to Bowie on July 11. What a difference a year makes.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Orial

    September 27, 2019 at 8:42 am

    Thanks for the reports during the season Dean. Much needed. Akin is all over the board on progressions–but his stuff does seem to fall in line with a lot of present O’s relievers(control). Still pulling for Mullins. Question Dean–Hays still going to AFL?

    • Bancells Moustache

      September 27, 2019 at 9:38 am

      Gotta like the amount of bullishness here. Interested to see Rutschman’s placement next spring. Granted he’s quite polished, but he didn’t exactly light the Sally league on fire in his very brief Shorebirds time. That’s not a knock on him, but given Elias tendency to make guys earn a promotion, have to question whether he starts in Frederick, though I have no doubt he wears a Keys jersey by mid-summer.

      Hopefully there are no service time shenanigans with Mountcastle, though the glove issue is still a bugbear. I couldn’t care less about the walks, the modern corporate baseball obsession with them is an annoyance. Some guys need to just get up there and shoot their gun. I am 100% convinced that the pressure to work long counts and walk is what destroyed a certain very expensive first baseman.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        September 27, 2019 at 11:02 am

        Would never claim that I ever thought about Crush being ruined by over-working the count, (it is an interesting theory), but I do agree with you that this whole emphasis walks is a major annoyance. I once heard it stated that so many good hitters came from the Dominican Republic because “You can’t walk off the island”. Figuratively speaking of course, there may be some truth to that. Personally I blame Jonah Hill for the whole base on balls emphasis

  2. Camden Brooks

    September 27, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Hopefully Blaine Knight gets his stuff together next year. Not sure what happened, but he is a reminder that there will be hiccups/dead ends with some of the younger talent.

  3. willmiranda

    September 27, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Agree with you totally on Mountcastle. Also that it’s unfortunate you’re not calling the shots. If, after all he’s achieved, Mountcastle is still in limbo with the O’s they should trade him. If they can’t find a use or place for him, I’ll bet some other team can. Happily for the new team, they won’t have to give much because the O’s management has been so busy trashing him. Reminds me somewhat of Jayson Werth. I’ll miss your reports over the winter (what ever happened to winter ball?), but look forward to reading you in the spring. Merry Christmas!

    • Jbigle1

      September 27, 2019 at 12:39 pm

      He’s spent one year in AAA. That’s a bit overblown to suggest that. He’ll most definitely get a shot to play next season. But it’s going to have to come at the expense of Renato unless we let him play 3B. I would imagine Elias would like to give Nunez all the looks between now and then. Such is life when you’re a prospect without a defensive position.

    • Orial

      September 28, 2019 at 10:20 am

      I don’t think they’re “trashing” as much as worrying about him striking out a REAL lot if he doesn’t learn some plate discipline.

  4. Baltimore Castaway

    September 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Well researched and well written Dean.

    Personal views and observations;

    – happily surprised w your placement of Gunnar Henderson so high on this list. He must really be some kind of talent.. Thank you also Mr. Adley Rutschman for leaving $400K of your Bonus Slot “on the table” so that the Orioles could take that money and sign Henderson–a fun fact that No One mentions and that he gets ZERO credit for.. Adley for President!

    – Diaz, Kremer, Sedlock and Akin need to really knuckle down and get a lot more consistent in their games..
    Very talented but they need to get better and stay better, especially Yusniel Diaz. He zones-out for long periods of time and then zones back-in. He is a huge talent, just needs to execute consistently.
    Reminds me somewhat of a guy named Machado who played the same way when he was at Bowie..he has similar talent as Machado albeit as a corner outfielder.

    – Drew Rom and Ryan Wilson are two very good Starters in Delmarva. In previous years they would have been in the 12–a clear sign of depth in the system finally.

    – What happened to Cadyn Grenier??? Hopefully he gets his mojo back and plays well in Frederick next year.

    – Adam Hall is a flat-out Baller…he plays w fire, purpose and consistency. He was probably the best player in the South Atlantic League this year until Rutschman arrived on the scene.

    – Looking for Blaine Knight to gain strength and consistency in 2020. He is a competitor but needs to get stronger..

    – What has happened to Matt Dietz?

  5. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 27, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Thanks Dean. As always, your stuff is a good read, not to mention more-than-informative.

    I know it wouldn’t have the same catchy ring to it, but hopefully some day Mike Elias’ good farm system work results in so many excellent minor league players, that you’ll have to change the subtitle of your report to “Dean’s 2-Dozen”. (or 3 even?)

  6. Djowen

    September 27, 2019 at 11:10 am

    According to Dan Connolly on The Athletic Diaz is not eligible for this year’s rule 5 draft. “One name not on that list is 22-year-old Yusniel Diaz, who is not eligible for this year’s Rule 5 draft because he was 18 on June 5, 2015, the year he was signed. He’ll have to be placed on the roster before next year’s draft to remain protected.”

    • ClayDal

      September 27, 2019 at 11:54 am

      That wouldn’t be true because Mountcastle was also 18 when he signed in 2015 and he has to be protected in the Rule 5 draft this winter

      • Djowen

        September 27, 2019 at 12:02 pm

        Mountcastle played in 2015 Diaz didn’t. One has 5 years and the other has 4.

      • Jbigle1

        September 27, 2019 at 12:42 pm

        Correct. The only time a signing of an intl player would not count for that season would be if it were after the DSL league ended.

    • ClayDal

      September 27, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      So jbigle1, I address this question to you. Diaz signed in July 2015, but never played in a game. So I am correct in assuming that would not be considered a season ? If a player under 19 is drafted and signed, it’s 5 seasons before they need to be protected, 4 if they are over 19. Diaz was an international signing, so are the rules different for him? If the 2 months that a player drafted in June counts as a full year for Rule 5 draft purposes, then it makes little sense to play a prospect in July and August, when you can just sit them and save a year

      • Jbigle1

        September 27, 2019 at 2:39 pm

        Where do you have Diaz being signed in July? Everything I’ve seen has Diaz signed in November of 2015. Connoly’s Piece in the athletic states that he was 18 on June 5, 2015 (which was the year he was signed, though he wasn’t signed by that date) and that was the reason it did not count as a year of service time.

        I’m not familiar with what Dan is referring to. I don’t want to give you conflicting information on it though. Maybe Paul or Rich would be the guy to get a clearer answer on the subject.

        My comment was misleading though. My understanding was that if you were signed after the DSL season had ended it obviously did not count as a season. The deal did not need to be a “future services” contract if the DSL League has ended.

        https://www.thecubreporter.com/book/export/html/3558

        Diaz should not be rule 5 eligible this spring. Though Fangraphs and Roster resource have him listed as rule 5 eligible. That should not be the case.

        It is my understanding that you can also sign a rule 4 draft player to a “future services” contract as well. As to why teams don’t, I’m not sure I guess they see the value in getting the player into the system and starting the developmental process immediately. Rather than having a high schooler sit around til next spring.

    • ClayDal

      September 27, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      Thanks for the info. I thought the Dodgers signed him in July 2015, but it was November. But from what I understand, it’s the 5th Rule 5 draft after signing that a player needs to be protected. Since the Rule 5 draft is in December, the 2015 draft would have counted. I guess we will find out when the Orioles make their list. They won’t protect him if they don’t have to

  7. OriolesNumber1Fan

    September 27, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Great article Dean!!! From a former player and scout I can appreciate all that you’ve written on all the baby birds. One other note on Keegan Akin I think also hurt him was the use of the major league baseball at Triple-A which takes getting use to. Hopefully, he gets use to that as well in his second year there with a promotion on the horizon! Thanks, again for the great article.

  8. Hallbe62

    September 27, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    I’d love to see those Hall boys make it big for the O’s

  9. Jbigle1

    September 27, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    I would imagine the O’s do not put Fenter on the 40 man. May have been part of the strategy to not promote him to Frederick at mid season as well. A 23 year old in the SALLY league is damn old. His numbers are impressive but you’re nearly 24. The average age down there I believe is a shade over 21. We should be able to leave him off the offseason and be alright there.

    I would imagine the locks To be added are Mountcastle, Diaz, Kremer, Akin, and Sedlock. I would think Cumberland also gets added.

    • ft

      September 27, 2019 at 4:29 pm

      Fenter’s an interesting case. They might leave him unprotected because the odds of him being taken are low. He is old for the league, but he did lose the year to injury. Now, not to compare Fenter to this guy, but there was a certain 24 year old pitcher who dominated the SALLY back in 2012 after losing a season to injury. Avg age of pitchers that year was 21.6. Would have been easy to write off a 9th round draft pick who’s still in low A at 24. This guy didn’t make his MLB debut until he was 26 (also pretty old, just like a soon to be ROY runner-up, John Means). Of course, that guy went on to win the 2014 NL ROY, and will soon get his 2nd CYA. I guess the Mets are probably glad they kept Jacob deGrom.

  10. ButchBird59

    September 27, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    “I’m happy to report that I’ll be returning to BaltimoreBaseball.com for the 2020 season. Look for the Dean Jones Report on the final Monday of every month.”
    🙂 !!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!

    Another honorable mention to my favorite Bull out there, the Awesome Aussie, Alex Wells!

  11. 5brooks5

    September 27, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Dean, thanks for the great info as usual. And a big smile that your input will again be on the site next year. I really enjoy your insight. On a more personal note, thank you for your comments and advice to this site’s creator about jobs and such. As his father that means the world to me. Thank you, and by the way, your boys are too cute!!!

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