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…
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); .154, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs, 1 2B in 12 games (Delmarva)
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
Statistics: .312, 25 HRs, 83 RBIs, 35 2Bs, 81 runs in 127 games
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
Statistics: 4-5, 3.46 ERA, 116 Ks, 54 BBs, 1.33 WHIP in 80 2/3 innings
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
Statistics: 10-4, 2.68 ERA, 129 Ks, 36 BBs, 0.99 WHIP in 94 innings
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
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)
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
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)
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
Statistics: 13-7, 2.55 ERA, 154 Ks, 63 BBs, 1.11 WHIP in 148 innings
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
Statistics: .259, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 5 2Bs, 21 runs in 29 games
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
Statistics: 6-7, 4.73 ERA, 131 Ks, 61 BBs, 1.51 WHIP in 112 1/3 innings
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
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)
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
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)
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
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)
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.
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.
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.