Ryan McKenna Finds His Groove In AFL
The Orioles geared most of their focus at the Winter Meetings toward finalizing a deal with Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde to become the 20th manager in club history. However, they also checked on available outfielders on the trade and free agent markets while hoping that their minor league depth at the position eventually yields another starter or spare part.
Ryan McKenna is doing his part to gain the attention of the new executives and manager. That includes his selection to the Arizona Fall League’s top prospects team.
With only one half-season above Class A, McKenna won't likely break camp with the Orioles in 2019, but the 21-year-old could climb another rung up the ladder and enter the picture for a big league callup.
The AFL honored McKenna after he slashed .344/.474/.590 with six doubles, three triples, one home run and nine RBIs in 17 games. His 1.064 OPS ranked second in the league.
"Playing among the best competition, I’ve always had confidence in myself as a player and know I’m capable of playing at that level,” McKenna said. "I’m just glad I had that opportunity.”
McKenna was the only AFL player with two four-hit games. He produced five multi-hit games.
The Orioles promoted McKenna to Double-A Bowie after he hit .377/.467/.556 in 67 games at high Class A Frederick. The Eastern League was more challenging for McKenna, who hit .239/.341/.338 in 60 games with the Baysox—but he regained his stroke in Arizona.
"Obviously, you learn when you play at a higher level, and I took some things I learned at Bowie,” said McKenna, a 2015 fourth-round pick out of high school in Dover, N.H.
Trey Mancini and Cedric Mullins could comprise two-thirds of the Baltimore outfield on Opening Day, though new manager Hyde might have other ideas. A veteran could be signed to play right field with free agent Adam Jones not expected to return.
Austin Hays, one of the system's top position prospects, is recovering from knee surgery and might need to begin the season at Bowie or Triple-A Norfolk.
Nine Players Who Are Unlikely Opening Day Roster Additions
Baseball is filled with unique stories and unlikely big leaguers. Here are nine players J.J. Cooper is thrilled to see get their day in the sun, for a variety of reasons.
— The Orioles used the first overall pick in the Rule 5 draft to select shortstop Richie Martin from the Athletics. Martin was the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft and is a plus defender who had a breakout season at the plate. He hit .300/.368/.439 at Double-A Midland with 29 doubles, eight triples, six home runs and 25 stolen bases in 118 games.
— The Orioles found a second shortstop in the Rule 5 draft by acquiring Drew Jackson from the Phillies for international bonus pool money. He hit .251/.356/.447 with 15 home runs and 22 stolen bases at Double-A Tulsa in 2018.