There’s excitement building around the Orioles’ key prospects who are expected to play a key role in the renaissance of the franchise.
Starting pitcher Keegan Akin will be the first of those players with an opportunity to shine after being promoted Aug. 8.
“I would say I was blindsided,” Akin said on a Zoom conference with reporters. “I had a little heads up from [director of pitching] Chris Holt, but I didn’t want to look too far into it. You see guys kind of get a heads up, I guess, and nothing ever comes from it. So I just kind of took that with a grain of salt and went from there.”
Several other top prospects are aiming to play for the Orioles this season after a successful stint in the minors. Many fans have been clamoring for the team to promote infielder/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle, who homered off Akin last week at the alternate camp in Bowie, Md.
Other top prospects who could get a look in the near-term include Dean Kremer, Michael Baumann, Bruce Zimmermann, Brian Gonzalez and outfielder Yusniel Diaz.
“We do have game reports and we do have stats and we do have video,” O’s manager Brandon Hyde said. “So, I know on a daily basis what happens each day there. We do get reports every morning. We are keeping stats there and we do have video on everything. So, we are very aware of what’s going on at our secondary site.”
Akin, 25, went 6-7 with a 4.73 ERA with a 1.513 WHIP over 24 starts at Triple-A Norfolk last season. The lefty had 131 strikeouts but 61 walks, which impeded his promotion to Baltimore in 2019.
The Orioles kept Akin on a consistent schedule as starting pitcher in Bowie this summer, so he should have little trouble getting acclimated to the rotation if needed.
“Obviously, it’s a little different from years past with everything going on, but the focus was come into the alternative site at Bowie and get on my five-day rotation as a starter and slowly build up,” Akin said. “I faced some of the hitters down there and basically get going and get after it and get things working.”
Who is likely next?
Mountcastle appears to be the obvious decision, especially with Chris Davis’ continued struggles (.125 average, 1 RBI in 32 at-bats) and DJ Stewart was sent back to the team’s alternate campsite in Bowie Aug. 5. Mountcastle has been working out mostly as a left fielder at Bowie.
Last season, Mountcastle was named the Orioles’ Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year and was named the International League MVP at Triple-A Norfolk. In 127 games with the Tides, he slashed .312/.344/.527 (162-for-520) with 35 doubles, one triple, 25 home runs, 81 runs and 83 RBIs.
“We’ve said this a lot — there are two big areas that we want him to focus on,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said of Mountcastle. “One is learning to play left field. We’ve been really impressed with how much better he’s gotten very quickly, given the fact that he was basically dropped into left field midway last year for the first time in his life, but he’s still got a ways to go there, and that’s a big focus of his work down in Bowie.”