Tag Archives: 2016 MLB Draft

SS Chris Clare Holding His Own with High-A Frederick Keys (from @BabyBirdland)

Chris Clare

Frederick Keys (A-High) SS Chris Clare has improved in 2018 by most every measurable over his 2017 “audition”; he is showing that he is both comfortable in and belongs in the Carolina League.

The Baltimore Orioles drafted Clare out of High Point University (North Carolina) in the 21st round of the 2016 MLB draft. Upon signing he was assigned to the Aberdeen Ironbirds (A-Short) as most collegiate players are. He began the 2017 season in Delmarva (A-Low) where he earned a spot on the South Atlantic League’s North Division All-Star team.

Clare was promoted to Frederick on July 20th and finished out the season with the Keys. His numbers with the Keys were more than respectable: .260/ .364/ .323 slash line with 19 runs scored, 9 RBI, 2 doubles, 2 homeruns, 19 walks, 26 strikeouts and 3 stolen bases in 4 attempts over 42 games (127 at-bats).

The 2018 season marked a return to Frederick for the 23 year-old middle infielder. Overall, his stats are showing improvement. As of June 11th Clare is slashing .233/ .383/ .331 with 27 runs scored, 19 RBI, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homeruns, 37 walks, 33 strikeouts and 5 stolen bases in 6 attempts over 53 games (163 at-bats). Aside from his batting average, everything has improved and increased in almost the same sample size.

So far this season, Clare has produced 7 multi-hit games and 3 multi-RBI games. His longest hitting streak lasted 6 games in May (5/5-5/10). During that streak he hit .476/ .542/ .810 with 6 runs scored, 4 doubles, 1 homerun and 7 RBI.

I attribute Clare’s improvements to both the added experience facing Carolina League pitching and a better knowledge of the strike zone. This season he has lowered his strikeout % by 0.6% and has increased his walk % by 6% over his 2017 Keys’ rate. What is interesting is that he has increased his ground out to fly out ratio while increasing his extra-base hits. I would say that the balls he is driving he is driving well.

Defensively, Clare is certainly holding his own. He has handled 187 chances with 69 put outs, 109 assists and 9 errors for a .952 fielding percentage. He has helped turn 28 double plays as well.

Clare is hitting .220 with runners in scoring position as well as .289 with runners in scoring position and two outs. No hit with runners in scoring position was as noteworthy as Monday’s was. His walk-off single with one out in the 10th inning scored T.J. Nichting from second base for a 1-0 win over the Lynchburg Hill Cats. That RBI gave both Zach Muckenhirn his first victory of the year and the Keys their first walk-off victory in extra innings of the year.

The early indications are that 2018 is shaping up to be a solid and successful season for Clare. I like the way his numbers are trending and hope to see more of the same. A few more seasons like this and he may put his name in the Orioles’ future middle infield conversation.

The often maligned Orioles’ minor league system has a lot of good players who do not garner much publicity but who are worthy of fans’ time and interest; fans just have to know where to look. The Frederick Keys are a good place to look and Chris Clare is proof positive of that.

** To read more from Josh Michael (founder/editor Baby Birdland), Nick Stevens and myself about all levels of the Baltimore Orioles minor leagues please visit Baby Birdland **

 

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LHP Zach Muckenhirn Continues to Impress After Promotion to Frederick Keys (from @BabyBirdland)

Muckinhirn

Flying under the radar, Baltimore Orioles’ LHP prospect Zach Muckenhirn is showing that for him a promotion is just a change of uniform.

Muckinhirn, the Orioles’ 11th round draft pick in 2016 out of the University of North Dakota, began the 2018 season with the Delmarva Shorebirds (A-Low).  Pitching in multiple roles for the Shorebirds, he entered games in any situation from the sixth through the ninth inning and produced a record of 1-0 with 3 saves; he was credited with two holds as well.  Muckenhirn appeared in 12 games and over a span of 17.0 innings pitched to a 2.12 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP, 27 strikeouts and 6 walks.  He induced almost 1.5 groundouts for every fly out and limited South Atlantic League batters to a .172 batting average.

Those numbers earned Muckenhirn a promotion to Frederick (A-High) along with RHP Michael Baumann and LHP Travis Seabrooke on May 18th.  Since the promotion he has appeared in 3 games for the Keys and despite an 0-1 record he has struck out 11, walked 1 and given up 5 hits in 6.2 innings of work.  He is pitching to a 2.70 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP while holding Carolina League batters to a .200 batting average in his small sample size.

On the season, Muckenhirn is throwing 70% of his pitches for strikes and most of those strikes are missing bats; his strikeouts per nine innings sits at 14.5.  A deeper look into his numbers shows why he has been so successful.   For the year he is allowing an overall slash line of .180/ .245/ .247 with left-handed batters hitting .206/ .243/ .235 and right-handed batters hitting .164/ .246/ .255 off of him.  When runners are on base Muckenhirn is allowing a batting average of .125 and he is stranding 71% of those runners.  He simply is stopping the opponents.

Muckenhirn is a valuable asset in the bullpen and will fit right in with the Keys.  He looks to be one of several shutdown relievers that the Keys have.  Projected originally as a back of the rotation starter, Muckenhirn may be evolving into the type of reliever that is all the rage in Major League Baseball, one capable of pitching in multiple situations.

Pitchers who just do their job do not always get the publicity and the lack of buzz surrounding Muckenhirn’s efforts this season seems to prove that.  Look to hear more buzz about this 23-year-old southpaw if he continues down the path he has carved for himself so far in 2018; this could very well be his breakout season.

 

** To read more from Josh Michael (founder/editor Baby Birdland), Nick Stevens and myself about all levels of the Baltimore Orioles minor leagues please visit Baby Birdland **

Despite Converting to 2B, Preston Palmeiro is Performing Well at the Plate (from @BabyBirdland)

Palmeiro

Baltimore Orioles infield prospect Preston Palmeiro has made the unusual conversion from corner-infielder (1B) to middle-infielder (2B) this season and it seems to be working out well.

Palmeiro, the Orioles 2016 7th round draft pick out of North Carolina State University, is currently having the best offensive season of his short career.

Presently slashing .291/ .348/ .485 (as of Monday’s game) with 24 RBI and 6 homeruns, Palmeiro is hitting 33 points above his best season (2016) and 30 points higher than his career average. Through 42 games for the Frederick Keys (A-High) he has 18 extra-base hits (including the 6 homeruns) with 14 walks and 33 strikeouts. Palmeiro currently is riding a 13-game hitting streak, tying the longest streak of his career, which represents the longest active streak in the Carolina League this season.

Palmeiro leads the Keys in homeruns, RBI and total bases and is in the top-5 in the rest of the offensive categories. His bat is a major component of the Keys’ lineup.

Long viewed as a 1B/DH, Palmeiro has made a seemingly seamless transition to second base. His current fielding percentage is .964 with 52 putouts, 81 assists, 21 double plays turned and 5 errors in 138 chances.

The Orioles have a plethora of 1B/DH type players so second base may represent Palmeiro’s quickest path to the Major Leagues. The early returns show the move to be a good one as Palmeiro has not lost a step offensively and has presented himself well defensively. In fact, he has shown a marked improvement in his offensive numbers and those improvements certainly are a welcome by-product of the position change.

I hope to see Palmeiro maintain his current pace and take his place among the middle-infield prospects for the Orioles.

Should Palmeiro continue to produce at the plate while displaying a solid glove at second base, he may find himself moving up the ladder sooner rather than later. You have to admire a player who changes positions defensively while improving as a hitter.

** To read more from Josh Michael (founder/editor Baby Birdland), Nick Stevens and myself about all levels of the Baltimore Orioles minor leagues please visit Baby Birdland **

LHP Tyler Erwin Quietly Dominating Out of High-A Frederick Keys’ Bullpen (from @BabyBirdland)

Tyler Erwin 3

photo courtesy of Shelli Erwin

Class A-High Frederick Keys’ LHP Tyler Erwin is quietly putting together a dominant season out of the bullpen in 2018.

Erwin was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 23rd round of the 2016 MLB Draft (691 overall) out of New Mexico State University. As with most college draft picks, he was assigned to the Aberdeen Ironbirds (Class A-Short) where he appeared in 13 games, all out of the bullpen. He finished the 2016 season with a 2-1 record, a 3.22 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP and failed to convert his one and only save opportunity.

The 2017 season found Erwin in Delmarva (Class A-Low) where he appeared in 26 games for the Shorebirds, again, all out of the bullpen. He pitched 47.0 innings to a 2-2 record with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. Additionally, he did convert his only save opportunity.

The improvement Erwin made from 2016 to 2017 in no way could have predicted what he has done so far in 2018. Pitching in the Carolina League, he has a 0-1 record (as of 5/11), has gone 2 for 4 in save opportunities and has a 0.47 ERA in 19.1 innings over 11 appearances; Erwin has allowed just 1 earned run and 2 overall. His WHIP is 0.78 as he has allowed just 7 hits while walking 8. Erwin has struck out 25 batters and has limited them to a .113 batting average against. I find it simply amazing that a season’s performance like this is not being talked about more.

Maybe it’s the fact that he’s not a closer, maybe it’s the fact that he was a low draft pick, or maybe it’s the fact that he is 8.2 innings shy of being among the league leaders but regardless of the reason, it flabbergasts me that there is not more buzz surrounding a pitcher like Erwin. He is shutting down the opposition when he pitches and I am sure he is the type of pitcher every team needs. I have no doubt that Frederick appreciates his performance.

Erwin has faced the minimum number of batters in 4 of his 11 appearances and in fact, pitched a clean inning in his last appearance. He has not allowed a run in his last nine appearances and struck out a season high 6 batters against the Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland) on May 7th , a game in which he earned his second save of the year.

Erwin is currently averaging just fewer than 4 batters faced per inning pitched, has a strike out per nine innings pitched rate of 11.6 and is getting 3.13 strikeouts per walk given up. To top it off, he’s equally stingy to left-handed batters as he is to right-handed ones: their batting averages against him are .125 and .105 respectively.

With numbers like this there is no reason that Erwin shouldn’t be talked about more. Orioles’ fans do yourself a favor and watch this 23-year-old southpaw; his performance deserves your attention. While Erwin may be the best-kept secret in the organization right now, I assure you he will not be for long.

Update:  After writing this, Erwin appeared in Saturday’s (5/12) game against the Potomac Nationals and gave up 2 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 2 in 0.2 innings: his ERA rose to 0.90 after that appearance.

Update II:  Fellow Baby Birdland contributing writer Nick Stevens provided this video post of Erwin pitching on his Twitter feed.  VIDEO

** To read more from Josh Michael (founder/editor Baby Birdland), Nick Stevens and myself about all levels of the Baltimore Orioles minor leagues please visit Baby Birdland **

 

 

 

Baltimore Orioles’ Prospect, LHP Keegan Akin Has Pitched Well Thus Far in 2018 (from @BabyBirdland)

Keegan Akin

Bowie Baysox (Class-AA) LHP Keegan Akin struggled in his first start of the season.  I was there on that chilly Saturday and wrote this about that start.

Since then, Akin has been nothing short of stellar.  Akin has had three starts since that 2018 debut and in those games has thrown 17.0 innings to a 2-1 record.  He had a 2.12 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and struck out 13 while walking 6 during that time.  Additionally, Akin held Eastern League hitters to a .238/ .300/ .302 slash line in those three games; he allowed just 2 extra-base hits as well.

Akin’s latest game (April 25th vs. Richmond) was a gem.  He threw 6 scoreless innings that day while allowing three hits; he struck out 5 and walked 2 as well.  He has been so dominant lately that he has allowed just one lone run in his past 12 innings pitched.

On the season Akin is 2-2 in 4 starts (21.0 innings) with a 3.43 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and .241 batting average against.  He has struck out 19 and walked 9 while allowing 6 extra-base hits (2 homeruns).

Akin, the Baltimore Orioles second round draft pick in 2016, is living up to the expectations that accompanied his selection.  He is pounding the zone and throwing strikes.  He is throwing strikes at a rate of 63% and his strikeouts per 9 innings pitched are 8.1; Akin is striking out slightly over 2 (2.11) batters for every walk issued.

Akin’s best pitches are his fastball and his slider and he is using them quite effectively.  His fastball sits in the low to mid 90 mph range and I have seen him make hitters look foolish with his curveball.

There is so much to like about this 23 year-old southpaw; he is a power pitcher who throws strikes and limits base runners.  Akin has the profile of a pitcher who will have success at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  I don’t see him there this year but at the very least, with continued dominance in the Eastern League, Akin could make the move to Norfolk (Class-AAA), possibly at the All-Star break.

Akin is back on track after that first start this season and I see absolutely no reason for him to get off track.  As I have gone on record as saying, he is the real deal.  He will keep his name in future pitching option conversations for the Orioles and should make his OPACY debut in the next few years, that is, as long as he continues pitching like he has so far.  I see nothing that indicates he won’t.  Good things are ahead for Akin and the Orioles.

 

** To read more from Josh Michael (founder/editor Baby Birdland), Nick Stevens and myself about all levels of the Baltimore Orioles minor leagues please visit Baby Birdland **

A Scouting Report on LHP Keegan Akin, Cold Weather Not His Friend (from @BabyBirdland)

Keegan Akin

The Bowie Baysox (Class-AA) lost to the Harrisburg Senators (Washington) by a score of 4-0 on Saturday. The main story line of the day was the silent bats of the Baysox; Bowie managed just 5 hits on the day and none of them were for extra bases.

I had the distinct privilege of reporting on the game from the press box for Baby Birdland. My main purpose yesterday was to provide the readers of Baby Birdland a scouting report on the Baltimore Orioles’ 2016 second round draft pick, LHP Keegan Akin.

Akin got the start on Saturday and faced 19 Harrisburg batters over 4.0 innings. His line on the day was 4 earned runs surrendered on 4 hits while giving up 1 homerun: he walked 3 and struck out 6 on the day. Akin gave up 3 consecutive 2 out doubles in the first inning and an opposite-field homerun to the number 9 hitter in the second inning; that was the extent of the Senators’ scoring. His third and fourth innings were relatively uneventful. In four innings of work, Akin threw 85 pitches, 52 of which were strikes.

The game time temperature was a brisk 44 degrees and I think that affected Akin. He stepped off the mound multiple times during his four innings of work and seemed to be always rubbing the baseball. Akin never really looked comfortable today and I think the cold may have contributed to that discomfort. In my opinion, he could not get a feel for the baseball early in the game due to the cold temperatures.

Akin did reach 93 mph on the stadium radar gun a few times but for the most part his fastball stayed in the 89-91 mph range. His curve ball was quite effective as it sat in the 78-80 mph range.

Akin missed his spots today and was all over the strike zone at times. His only clean inning was the third when he induced groundouts to second base and third base while ending the frame on a swinging strike out.

It was good to see Akin grind through the four innings today and it was especially good to see him settle down in the third and fourth innings. I am fairly confident that the cold played games with Akin’s grip and feel for the ball today and that he will bounce back in his next start.

Despite today’s difficulties, this 6’0”, 2225 lb. southpaw is the real deal. He is motivated to prove that he is healthy and worthy of the expectations that accompany a second round draft pick; I am not betting against him.

I look forward to Akin’s next start to see him get back on track.

** To read more from Josh Michael (founder/editor Baby Birdland), Nick Stevens and myself about all levels of the Baltimore Orioles minor leagues please visit Baby Birdland **

 

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