Underachieving Oriole prospects key reason for 1st-half underperformance - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Underachieving Oriole prospects key reason for 1st-half underperformance

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Whenever the Orioles lose a few games in succession, there are comments that the team is tanking so it can secure a high draft pick in the 2022 draft.

Obviously, the Orioles aren’t a contender. They’re not spending much money on free agents. But that’s not the principal reason the team will be entering the second half of the season with a 28-61 record.

Perhaps the signing of some medium-priced free agents to short-term contracts could have boosted the record somewhat, and the signings of right-handed pitcher Matt Harvey and third baseman Maikel Franco haven’t worked out well. But before he injured his right quadriceps, Freddy Galvis had been a solid shortstop.

However, a far more important reason for their record is that several players they’ve been counting on to be key contributors have disappointed.

Let’s start with the starting rotation.

After Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer pitched well at the end of the 2020 season, the Orioles hoped that they’d show they could be bona fide starters in 2021.

Akin had such a rocky spring training that he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. Since he’s been back with the Orioles, he’s been 0-4 with a 7.54 ERA.

After the left-hander allowed four runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings in relief on July 10th, manager Brandon Hyde was asked if Akin would be better off as a reliever.

Hyde could only chuckle and demonstrate his patience with the questioner, as he reminded everyone that he has enough trouble finding legitimate starters before removing them from the rotation—even if Akin’s future might eventually be in the bullpen.


Kremer had a meltdown on June 24th against Toronto in Buffalo when he faced eight batters, retired just one, and walked five. He allowed six runs and was sent to Triple-A Norfolk.

On Tuesday night, Kremer had a decent outing for the Tides, allowing three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven without a walk.

After Kremer was sent down, Hyde said that he wanted the right-hander to stay in Triple-A for an extended period. His 0-7 record and 7.25 ERA in the majors baffles the Orioles.

If Akin and Kremer didn’t have ERAs of more than seven runs per nine innings, the team’s record would be better. It doesn’t help that John Means and Bruce Zimmermann are on the 10-day injured list, though Means is expected back next week and Zimmermann could return by the end of the month.

The Orioles also have given Zac Lowther some looks, but he has a 10.80 ERA in five games.

Akin, Kremer and Lowther were considered top pitching prospects when the season began.

The Orioles ran out of patience with catcher Chance Sisco, who batted .154 in 23 games before they put him on waivers. The 2013 second-round pick had every opportunity to prove himself and establish himself as a backup to Adley Rutschman when he joins the Orioles.

With injuries to Austin Hays and Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart, their top draft pick in 2015, has gotten far more playing time in the outfield this season than in any of his three previous partial seasons.

Stewart hasn’t delivered. He’ll begin second-half play with a .204 average, though he continues to draw walks and has a .311 on-base percentage. His play in the outfield also has been erratic at best.

Like Akin, Kremer and Lowther, Stewart will get more chances in the second half to prove himself.

Because the Orioles are a non-contender, they’re allowing these players opportunities, and their disappointing numbers are much more of a contributing factor to the record than the team’s inactivity in the free-agent market.

Notes: The Orioles placed right-handed pitcher Jorge López on the bereavement list on Wednesday. … Over the weekend, the Orioles acquired right-handed pitcher Hugo Beltran from the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations and assigned him to the Dominican Summer League. … According to his Twitter account, catcher Creed Willens, the Orioles’ eighth-round draft choice, will forgo a scholarship to Texas Christian University and sign with the team. … The Orioles signed three undrafted free agents: right-handed pitchers Carson Carter, from Oklahoma, and Daniel Federman, from Miami, and catcher Logan Michaels, from Virginia.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. In The Triangle

    July 15, 2021 at 7:43 am

    “Underachieving Oriole prospects…”

    Thanks Dan. I think of you during every game…

    • Buzz1979

      July 15, 2021 at 11:14 am

      Excellent! 2021, the year Kremer, Akin, Stewart and Louthet went from prospect to suspect! Akin needs to get in shape, and I don’t mean pear shape!

    • Buzz1979

      July 15, 2021 at 9:02 pm

      Photo at top of page looks like a young Kurt Russell with long hair!

    • Orioleschatter

      July 16, 2021 at 9:46 am

      Please deliver Mike Elias back to whence he came. Analytical Eggheads Anonymous.

  2. Balt mp

    July 15, 2021 at 7:49 am

    Never have I seen two pitchers that can’t throw strikes . Now there are a lot of variables here . How much work was put in during the off season ? One would think they would learn from Means and Zimmerman and workout during the off seasons . Then there is how much do they throw between starts ? Maybe they should do like DeGrom and throw 2 sides but as DeGrom said one is really a soft toss to work on his control . Then there is the manager . Lastly how much does an atrocious defense play in all of this ? You have a barely mediocre third baseman, no real second baseman and when Severino is behind the plate a mediocre catcher at best . The outfield with Mullins and Hays can go get it but when Santander is out and Stewart plays whichever side he plays on becomes very weak .

    This appears to be a case of with about 5 exceptions of not very good talent backed up by horrid fundamentals.

    The one question I’d really like Rich to get an answer to is who really calls the game behind the plate . I ask this because it looks to me as if Kramer is not using all his pitches or using them in a correct sequences. Akin just appears flat out of shape and by his own admission trains in a barn in Michigan.

    Man alive if I was this close to being a mlb I’d be working my but off every day to get better especially in the winter maybe they’re just lazy.

  3. millboy

    July 15, 2021 at 7:49 am

    Thanks Rich…when these top prospects underperformed, it then showed how barren the farm system was behind them

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 16, 2021 at 7:55 am

      Thank you, millboy.

  4. CalsPals

    July 15, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Interesting take on the Angels draft, 20 rounds, 20 pitchers, someone’s gotta pan out there, only saw one grade on O’s picks, wasn’t for the whole draft, just their first pick, C, just as far from the bottom as the top, average, they do not need average picks anymore…go O’s…

    • Orial

      July 15, 2021 at 8:46 am

      Yes. Saw a C+ grade(majority were A’s and B’s). Grade held down by their 1sr pick of Cowser. If anything Elias is not the gun toting,free swinging,Maverick type. Signabilty over talent is his motto. Cowser was a solid risk free move but Lawlar definitely has the higher side. It’s that lack of gambling/conservative approach that has become Elias trademark. The up side–his picks,though a level lower,have a chance to be here in 2023 instead of 2025(high schoolers).

  5. Beeb

    July 15, 2021 at 7:54 am

    Good assessment! I think this is a microcosm of the bigger future picture. It’s why I think there will be new ownership in 3 years. (I actually lean toward 2 depending on life events). And then this management group will be gone a year after.
    This brain trust does not scout and draft from organizations like Baseball Factory. There is too much of an attitude of knowing more than everyone else. At some point…you have to prove it. As shown in your writing…this year does not prove such amazing knowledge above everyone else.

  6. Orial

    July 15, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Excellent assessment Rich. Those 3 underachieving arms are a major cause. I’m still baffled at how nothing(with the exception of Means)has panned out pitching wise. Is that even possible? We heard that(underachieving/not panning out) during the Duquette regime and even now with Elias and his whole new approach. What is the common denominator? So much hinges on Rodriguez,Hall succeeding. If they too falter we’re gonna need a Senate hearing to figure out what’s going on. Stewart getting a lengthy look in the second half. Oh boy. He can thank Diaz hitting .196 at Norfolk for that. Also running out of time–Santander. Talk about someone’s who becoming a “load”. Bring on the second half–for what it’s worth.

  7. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 15, 2021 at 8:51 am

    After reading such a well concieved piece, I can’t believe I ever thought there was even a possibility the team was tanking. What was thinking?

    Sorry, Rich…that’s a cheap shot.

    Of course managment isn’t tanking anyore. It’s just that ownership seems to be incapable of adding talent over the past couple of years. And when they do (Iglesias), they trade them away. Alex Cobb … pshaaw….who needs him? I can’t believe Harvey hasn’t worked out?

    And who needs a new stud all-star quality catcher? Hes soooooo young, why start the clock now?

    But then again, seems like I’m harping on the same old thing. Sorry.

    All that being said …yes Rich…the team has underperfored this season. They should be better than they are now. You make VERY good points, and I’m very dissapointed in them this year. Maybe next ‘eh?

    • CalsPals

      July 15, 2021 at 8:59 am

      Agree Boog, seems many here keep harping on the same things, starting to get old, like me…lol…go O’s…

  8. Bhoffman1

    July 15, 2021 at 9:35 am

    Right on Rich except the medium priced free agents signed Harvey and Franco hadn’t show much the last few years and nobody but us probably would have signed them. Galvis was decent. Yes the prospects have not worked out but they needed a couple of more reliable veterans in the rotation not just cast offs. Or maybe it’s just the spell of Camden Yards that Wiley pitches a no
    hitter and Gausman is a all star two of our cast offs. Has for DJ he has shown he doesn’t belong in the field and we already have a DH, problem his replacement Diaz another prospect who is failing

  9. Orioles20

    July 15, 2021 at 10:06 am

    Kremer has been a victim of bad defense here and in Norfolk. His last start in Norfolk was the best he’s had in awhile. Maybe he’s starting to figure it out. We’re we really expecting to get anything out of Harvey. The only reason he’s still pitching is he can’t swallow his pride and know it’s over. Diaz to me is the real disappointment here. You acquired has the centerpiece of a trade of a star player and you’ve done nothing. How much longer do we give him to get it going. Stewart is another disappointment as well. He’s so unathletic and unplayable in the outfield. He doesn’t hit at all except a week power barrage then comes back down to earth.

    • jimcarter

      July 15, 2021 at 12:40 pm

      Is there supposed to be the sarcastic smiley face here? Let’s see…2.5 homers per 9 along with 4.3 free passes. Those numbers can’t be defended, by the guys on the field or in writing.

  10. willmiranda

    July 15, 2021 at 10:28 am

    I’m glad, Rich, that you have shifted from calling players underperforming to disappointing. These players and others often mentioned have not been underperforming because they have never, ever performed over any length of time. Yet they are disappointing to those who fantasized that they had great talent, the only evidence for which was faith in the words of management. i am disappointed, though, that you focus blame for the whole train wreck on three starting pitchers when starting pitching was clearly a huge question mark at the beginning of the season. Aside from a handful of players –and no non-players in the organization– there’s a lot of blame to go around, although most of it results from simple lack of physical or mental ability. And it is not enough to say they are non-contenders. Too often, they are not even competitive. Before the season began I recall reading that even if the record did not improve, the team would be noticeably better on the field. There’s still half a season to try to make that happen.

  11. Ekim

    July 15, 2021 at 11:01 am

    After reading the very confirming piece by Rich about the failures of our so called “future” I can’t help but reiterate my very strong belief that a major part of the problem is the coaching. All of the named players have had to have exhibited some level of talent to have achieved reaching this level of play. They certainly didn’t “fake it” because too many eyes have seen what they can do. The regression of the pitchers is unbelievable! I’m a “pitching centric” fan and have focused my attention on the pitching stats for all the O’s minor league teams going back over 15 years so I’m super disappointed with what has happened. However, I posted a warning about Akin when he arrived and that projection has proven to be right. I took special interest in both Lowther and Wells when they were at Bowie. Last night Lowther reached a low point with a line of 1/3 of an inning, 5 runs (all earned) on 4 hits, 2 BB’s and 2 HR’s. Something is definitely wrong… look at the coaching! Just saying…

    • Phil770

      July 15, 2021 at 12:14 pm

      Right, it’s never the player.

    • CalbuytheOs

      July 16, 2021 at 8:28 pm

      Phil770- When your team is dead last in pitching at the AS break and they’ve brought up loser after loser, it’s the coaching.

  12. jimmyv

    July 15, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I have been thinking for several years now that the O’s have lost their bearings on pitcher development — and the success found by Kevin Gausman, among others, only heightens my fear that we don’t know what we’re doing to or with these guys. Until I see otherwise, that’s my conclusion. Anyone have similar ideas?

    • CalsPals

      July 15, 2021 at 11:44 am

      Totally agree, a good starter to All-Star, SF knows how to win almost in any given year…go O’s…

    • ClayDal

      July 15, 2021 at 11:54 am

      In reference to Gausman, he was traded in 2018, before the current regime was hired. Same with Arrieta. And before he went to SF, Atlanta and Cincinnati let Gausman go. Since last year’s minor league season was wiped out, this is only the second full year the current staff has had to work with the pitchers. Time will tell

      • jimmyv

        July 15, 2021 at 12:34 pm

        Yes, I understand that Gausman and Arrieta took a bit more time to fully develop, but we were already heavily into their development years with nothing to show and then pretty much gave them away shortly before hitting paydirt with them. Poor evaluations or poor development — or both. New regime isn’t looking all that great with pushing guys over the top yet. I hope it gets done and soon.

    • CalsPals

      July 15, 2021 at 11:59 am

      All-Star & Cy Young after O’s let them go…go O’s…

    • Bhoffman1

      July 15, 2021 at 2:54 pm

      Right on Cals all star and cy young among many others yet some of the guys here still think it has nothing to with coaching and development by our organization. Obviously this is one stat that we lead Major League Baseball in.

  13. dlgruber1

    July 15, 2021 at 11:50 am

    Rich, while those you highlighted in the article have obviously underperformed, it’s my belief that EVERY player on the team, with the exception of Mullins and Mancini, have as well. While RM has steadily improved after a very poor start he’s still not lived up to expectations of him. Hays injuries have slowed him, again. Severino has taken a step backwards. Santander appeared on the verge of stardom and, like Hays, injuries have slowed him. Even Valaika hasn’t been nearly as good as he was last season. I even include Means. Tho he’s obviously pitched great, he’s missed over a month after going on the 10 day IL. Tanner Scott looked like he was gonna become an elite reliever, that hasn’t happened. The league figured out Valdez. You can literally go down the entire roster and, whether it’s been injuries or simply poor play, it’s remarkable how, with the exception of Mullins, not one player has improved. I included Mancini because I didn’t expect him to perform as well as he has.

    • Buzz1979

      July 15, 2021 at 12:44 pm

      Knight up, Valdez rwleased.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 16, 2021 at 7:57 am

      Dave, I may have underperformed, too!

    • dlgruber1

      July 16, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      Rich, if the O’s players did their job as well as you do yours, they’d have the best record in baseball.

  14. jimcarter

    July 15, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    The team underachieves because of the poor talent evaluators under current management and past. Duquette was Mr. Lightning in a bottle and that hasn’t changed (see Matt Harvey). The Orioles are the league leaders in positive, small sample sizes. A guy has a good 3 week stretch and suddenly he’s a savior. Management should lock up Mancini (but not until he’s 45) and Mullins. I’d take offers on Means. If I’m not getting top 10 prospects back, then I’d consider extending him too. On the international front, they need to compete for the big fish, in addition to their current, belated efforts. Oh…and please quit recycling the same players year after year (Stevie). Take a chance on a fresh face!

  15. Orial

    July 15, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    We’ve been hearing for years(Leo Mazzone era,etc.)that it’s “bad coaching” then we had years of “it’s poor developement”. We’ve gone through at least 10 coaches(a guess),two different regimes with their own philosophies. So what is it? What does SF do that the O’s don’t do( except play in Grand Canyon instead of a bandbox)? Coaches,development,regimes, philosophy,players,humidity,conditioning,drafting,ball park?

    • dlgruber1

      July 15, 2021 at 2:00 pm

      Orial, I’ve similarly commented in the past that you gave to go back to Mussina, THIRTY YEARS AGO, to find the last truly great O’s pitcher they developed. The only constant in all that time is OPACY. I love that gorgeous ballpark but, to me anyways, that can’t be a coincidence.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 15, 2021 at 3:46 pm

        Pitchers like Mussina are born. They’re not ‘developed’ … whatever the heck that means. I assume it means ‘coached up’.

    • CalsPals

      July 15, 2021 at 5:41 pm

      Mussina had his best statistical yrs with the O’s…go O’s…

  16. Mikepete73

    July 15, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    blame get put on these young guys and I want to know where is the blame on the coaching. I don’t believe kremer akin and lowther all just got bad over the winter. lowther just went .1 of an inning in his last outing in aaa. the pitching coaches need to be looked at and find out what’s going on. this is the same organization not coaches but organization that when we drafted bundy he had an incredible cutter and was told to never use it. that’s fine in minors to work on other pitches but they didn’t let him use it in the majors for some reason I will never understand. I think that’s a big reason he never became the guy he looked like before the orioles got their hands on him. lowther kremer and akin aren’t just bad this year its like they don’t know how to pitch anymore. Coaching needs to be looked into.

  17. Nellie

    July 15, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    We cleaned house once. Should we do it again after less than 3 years? If so, why? And, if so, what type of leadership should replace them? Be realistic. And please give examples for your reasoning.

  18. jimpalmer65

    July 15, 2021 at 7:32 pm

    Good article Rich, The underperforming three starters and DJ Stewart are one of the causes for the record. It would be nice to see Hays and Santander stay healthy for a full season or at least for 142 games would be nice.

  19. Nellie

    July 15, 2021 at 8:20 pm

    I’m waiting.

  20. Buzz1979

    July 15, 2021 at 9:00 pm

    The Keegster needs “plate discipline!”

  21. WorldlyView

    July 16, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    VERY big questions are raised by Rich’s pointing out the less than stellar performances this year by most of our top prospects. This reality is a demonstration of why the law of averages is an excellent starting point for making guesses about the future. Statistically speaking, a VERY small percentage of the hundreds of players who sign professional contracts every year do really well in the Big Leagues, their performances in the minors or school notwithstanding. Hence it is not surprising that our current cohort of top prospects has not yet set the world on fire and may never do so. Bottom line, VERY big questions arise. Should we accept the urging of the unshakeable optimists to remain content, patient, and silent because a long-term building process takes time, a lot of time? Should we accept the claims of the gullible who unquestionably accept as gospel that Elias has a superb plan and he is destined to repeat his success in Houston? And what about the upbeat hopes expressed by some on this site that by 2023, the O’s turnaround will be there for all to see? A leap within 2 years from AA level experience to above average MLB performance is a VERY big long-shot. For the umpteenth time, I would be delighted if my pessimism is proven wrong. But I have seen VERY little so far to convince me to join the happy crowd.

    • CalsPals

      July 16, 2021 at 8:35 pm

      Well said WV…go O’s…

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