Ryan McKenna Takes Huge Step Forward
Outfielder Ryan McKenna, a fourth-round pick in 2015 out of high school in New Hampshire, would be the runaway winner if the Orioles chose their minor league player of the year in June.
In his first 67 games at high Class A Frederick, McKenna hit .377/.467/.556 with 18 doubles, two triples and eight home runs. He turned 21 in February and he’s doing more than just scratching the surface of his talents. He’s leaving deep gouges.
"His approach at the plate has jumped leaps and bounds,” farm director Brian Graham said. "And by that I mean his pitch recognition, his understanding of the strike zone, working the count, his ability to use the whole field. It’s a much calmer approach. McKenna has taken every bit of instruction and run with it.
"Plus, he’s very talented. Fast-twitch muscles. He's a strong kid, he’s athletic, he can run.”
The organization has debated the wisdom of promoting McKenna to Double-A Bowie. Should they challenge him or let him blow up in the Carolina League while continuing his development?
"There’s merit to both approaches,” Graham said. "Leaving him there and letting him lock in and just have a great year is a thought, and moving him up is a thought.”
BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD
The roster at low Class A Delmarva is loaded with pitching talent, and a few prospects already have moved up to Frederick.
Righthander Michael Baumann, 22, was destined to reach the Carolina League this year after going 5-0, 1.42 with 47 strikeouts in seven starts and 38 innings with the Shorebirds. He held opponents to a .180 average. The climb to the next level didn’t faze Baumann, a 2017 third-round pick out of Jacksonville.
In his first six starts with the Keys, he won all four decisions while posting a 2.34 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 34.2 innings.
"Baumann’s record is pretty special,” Graham said. "His ability to win games and his ERA and hits (allowed)—what Baumann’s done has been really good. I think we were all hopeful that Baumann and (Zac) Lowther, (Matthias) Dietz, (Brenan) Hanifee, D.L. Hall, the whole group of pitchers who started down there in Delmarva would make strides and improve and work their way into the positions that they’re in.”
Ryan McKenna Inches Closer To Baltimore
McKenna profiles as a leadoff type who can run and defend center field. The Orioles viewed his upside as too valuable to risk losing in the Rule 5 draft.
** Bowie outfielder Austin Hays, the Orioles’ minor league player of the year in 2017, remains in a walking boot after sustaining an ankle injury. He appeared in 43 games and is batting .224/.259/.374, a startling slip after earning a callup to the majors in September.
** The Orioles outrighted lefthander D.J. Snelten to Norfolk after claiming him on waivers from the Giants on June 4. In his first four appearances with the Tides, Snelten allowed five earned runs (eight total) and 11 hits in five innings and opponents hit .407 against him.