Is there possibly a better way to celebrate Josh Bell's graduation to Baltimore than with a "Who's Hot and Who's Not" feature?
I think not.
But it wasn't just Bell having a great two-week period. Nathan Moreau tossed a nine-inning no-hitter in his first High-A start for Frederick and Bowie's Zach Britton was named Eastern League pitcher of the week AND promoted to the Triple-A.
The O's also saw several of their wounded return to duty, including L.J. Hoes and Tyler Townsend.
Let's get to it.
The man, the myth, the legend.
Josh Bell cemented his rapid ascension to the big leagues with a ten-game chunk that saw him rap six doubles and knock two home runs, while driving in 11 runs.
After a dreadful start to the season, Bell has been one of the most consistent bats the Orioles have. He hit .282 with 10 doubles, three home runs and 15 RBI in May, and then hit .272 with nine doubles, five home runs and 19 RBI in June.
And he erased any questions the O's may have had about making him the first choice should an injury arise, when he bashed two homers and drove in six two nights ago.
Don't be fooled, Bell will most likely never be a high average guy, but his power is scary real. He could be looking at a Carlos Pena-type career: home runs in bunches, strikeouts in truckloads.
What happened to Nolan Reimold?
What happened to the guy who hit .394 at AAA Norfolk last season with nine home runs and 27 RBI in only 31 games? Where is that man?
Judging from his performance in late 2009 and all of 2010, you might as well call it Reimold's Heel. After tearing his Achilles tendon last season, Reimold hasn't hit for power, and sure as heck hasn't hit for average.
After 29 games in which Reimold struggled immensely, the O's put him out of his misery and sent him to Norfolk to regain his stroke and learn a new position: first base.
The change of scenery hasn't done much. In 39 games, Reimold is hitting .210. He has four home runs in 138 at-bats and only 12 RBI. He also has as many strikeouts as base hits.
Reimold doesn't exactly qualify as a "prospect" but he definitely does as a disappointment.
No hitter has been as hot over the past two weeks as Ryan Adams.
A .415 average. Seventeen hits, six doubles, two home runs, seven RBI, and seven runs scored. And a 12-game hit streak to boot.
Adams has been quite a lightning rod in the organization. He's been sent home from full-season ball for maturity issues, and has been quite an enigma when he's on the field. He's made his mark mostly as an errors machine, with 98 career errors in just four seasons prior to 2010, including a whopping 52 in 2008 alone.
This season Adams has been much better, making only 13 errors in 72 games, putting him on pace for nearly half of his 2008 number.
His bat has been great, too. He's ridden his hot streak and jacked his average up to .286. His 24 doubles lead the Eastern League and he's on pace to set a career high in RBI. He's also shown that his plate discipline has improved, with his 26 walks only 11 away from a new career mark as well.
Adams teased the O's in 2008, with a .308 average and 11 home runs at Delmarva, so be cautious of his great season to date, but if he keeps producing, he could become a solid second-baseman for the big league club.
The past week and a half haven't been as kind to Miclat.
After a hot start at Frederick (.311 with 19 RBI and eight steals), the O's bumped the soon-to-be 23-year-old shortstop to double-A, where he has found the going much tougher.
A .179 average and only five base hits are all Miclat has to show for his efforts in seven contests. He only has two RBI and has yet to record an extra-base hit. He's struck out almost twice as many times as he's reached base via hit.
On the bright side, it's only been seven games. And Miclat has yet to make an error after recording 13 with the Keys.
Britton is on the mound as I type, making his triple-A debut for Norfolk.
Needless to say, there wasn't much left for him to accomplish at double-A. In his last two starts he pitched 14 innings, allowing only one earned run, while striking out 13.
Britton leaves Bowie as one of the hottest pitchers in the Eastern League. His last ten starts saw him go 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA. He only surrendered 46 hits in that time, a span of 62 innings. He also struck out 49, and cut his walks down.
On the season, he has been one of the toughest pitchers to hit in double-A. His 2.48 ERA ranked third in the circuit, while his seven wins were fourth best. And leaving the league in the top 10 in strikeouts with 68 is quite impressive for a groundball pitcher.
The way Britton is rolling along is very Brad Bergesen-like; he could easily find his way to the majors if he puts up some good starts before September.
You kind of get the impression that the O's have been aggressive with him in order to find out what they have in him this season.
Caleb Joseph is another name who had a fantastic 2009 season, only to see his stock dip due to a horrendous 2010.
After proving the O's right by tearing up the Carolina League in '09, Joseph made the natural progression to double-A, where he has appeared to be in over his head, especially these past two weeks.
Since June 19th, Joseph has only managed seven base knocks (.189 average) only three of which have gone for extra bases. He's hit one home run, giving him six on the year.
On the season, Joseph is hitting .242 with only nine doubles. He does have 32 RBI, and a very impressive walk number (23 to only 30 strikeouts) so it looks like it's only a matter of time before he gets hot.
I just hope it's sooner rather than later.
It looks as if Steve Johnson has plowed straight into a wall.
Eight consecutive starts with two or more earned runs. Five out of his last seven starts have seen him surrender at least five runs. Seriously, there has to be something wrong with Johnson, right?
In June alone, Johnson has been dreadful. He's given up 24 runs in 24.2 innings over five starts. He's allowed TEN home runs!!! And it hasn't helped that he's compounded his issues by walking 14. Somehow, even though his ERA for the month was 8.76, he managed to earn two wins. Go figure.
On the year, Johnson is only 3-5, though his ERA sits at 5.82. He's somehow given up 18 home runs on the year, second in ALL OF MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. (Even more impressively, Gaby Hernandez has surrendered 25.)
Johnson never has been a pitcher who relied on heat, but he's gonna need something more than what he's putting up now to get much further than double-A.
Obviously you have to make the list if you throw a no-hitter, right?
Unless you're Edwin Jackson or A.J. Burnett, and it's ugly as hell.
Luckily for Moreau, his game was a true gem. Nine innings, zero hits, zero walks, six strikeouts. Only two errors, one from his own hand, kept him from perfection.
It's not as if Moreau was a nobody before this start though. You could make an argument that he was one of the hottest pitchers in the organization over the last month. After a failed bullpen experiment in which Moreau pitched to an ERA of nearly 5.00, the Shorebirds re-inserted him in the rotation, where from May 18th on, he went 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA.
In that timespan, hitters only managed a .182 average against him.
While a 23-year-old making his first start in High-A ball doesn't necessarily qualify as "prospect-worthy" news, it is encouraging to see some guys in the lower levels step up now that most of the O's pitching depth is in Baltimore or in the higher levels of the minors.
Maybe it's because the Orioles added another seven shortstops to their collection in the draft, but no matter the reason, Garabez Rosa is in a serious funk.
Since the June 7th draft, Rosa has only notched 11 base bits, with only two of them going for extra bases. In his past ten games, he's hitting a paltry .162 with one double, two RBI, one walk, and 10 strikeouts.
Maybe Rosa is running out of juice. He does have a very lean build (6-2 166 lbs), and his performance as the season wears on is getting worse.
After getting off to a scorching hot start in April (.333 average with 12 doubles), Rosa's numbers dropped to .261 in May with only five doubles, to finally a June that saw him hit .186 with seven RBI and 22 strikeouts in 86 at-bats.
There's not much not to like about the way Frederick is playing ball these days.
The Keys went 16-10 in June, locking up a playoff berth with a first-place finish in the first-half.
Around the diamond, the Keys are looking real good (not to mention healthy). Joe Mahoney has been a revelation this season as a run producer. He has a team-leading 49 RBI. His nine home runs are tied for the team lead, and his 18 doubles also pace the squad. He's also the only player hitting over .300.
At second, L.J. Hoes has rejoined the Keys, after missing more than a month. He's notched five hits in his first five games, has two doubles, two RBI, and a stolen base.
At shortstop, the Keys welcomed back Pedro Florimon, who was clearly over-matched at AA Bowie. After hitting under .200 with the Baysox, Florimon has gotten back on track, notching five hits in his first four games back with the club.
At third, Buck Britton has been doing his best to make O's fans forget all about Billy Rowell. Britton has channeled his every-other day playing time into a .371 average over his last 10 games.
And the outfield has featured the perfect blend of speed and power, with Kyle Hudson and Xavier Avery combining for 39 stolen bases to off-set team HR leader Ronnie Welty's nine homers and 42 RBI.
Frederick is one of few teams in the minors who can pull off bringing a former first-round pick (Rowell) off their bench.
You know the O's have to be stoked that they were able to draft, sign, and then watch fourth-round pick Trent Mummey notch 21 at-bats at short-season Aberdeen already.
Mummey had one heck of a season for Auburn. He hit a very impressive 17 home runs and drove in 54 runs, scoring 46 of his own. He also managed to steal eight bases and put together solid plate numbers of 15 walks and 18 strikeouts.
Mind you, he did that all in only 36 games.
What might Mummey's numbers have looked like if he played in all 64 like his teammate and fellow fourth-round pick Hunter Morris? Maybe something like this: 27 doubles, 30 home runs, 96 RBI, 82 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, and a .366 average.
Thirty home runs would have led the nation, as would 96 RBI, and 82 runs would have been a top-10 number.
And oh yeah, did I mention Mummey was Auburn's everyday center fielder?
Mummey has used the momentum gathered this season and turned it into a .333 start with two doubles, two RBI, three walks and a stolen base in his first five games with the Ironbirds.