The Orioles are protecting four prospects by placing them on the 40-man roster today prior to the Rule 5 draft that’s held this year on Dec. 12 in San Diego.
The roster grew to 39 players with the additions of infielder/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle, pitchers Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, and outfielder Ryan McKenna. The Orioles selected the Mountcastle, Akin and Kremer contracts from Triple-A Norfolk and the McKenna contract from Double-A Bowie.
Mountcastle was an easy decision. Though only 22, he slashed .312/.344/.527 with 35 doubles, 25 home runs and 83 RBIs in 127 games with Norfolk and was named the International League’s Most Valuable Player.
He led the league with 162 hits,
The Orioles chose Mountcastle as their top minor league player for 2019, but didn’t include him on their expanded September roster. They’d like to see a reduction in strikeouts and an increase in walks, and also are determining which position is the most ideal fit.
Mountcastle made the switch this year from third base to first base and left field, the latter bringing praise from Tides manager Gary Kendall.
Akin, 24, is viewed within the organization as a likely addition to the Orioles rotation at some point during the summer. The second-round pick in 2016 out of Western Michigan University went 6-7 with a 4.73 ERA, 1.513 WHIP and 131 strikeouts in 112 1/3 innings with Norfolk.
The 61 walks were cited as a reason for excluding Akin from the September roster.
The third slam dunk to join the 40-man roster today was Kremer, 23, who came to the Orioles in the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers at the 2018 deadline. He led the minor leagues in strikeouts that year and was 9-4 this summer with a 2.98 ERA and 1.128 WHIP in 15 starts with Bowie before his promotion to Norfolk.
Though Kremer had a difficult transition to the International League, posting an 8.84 ERA and 1.759 WHIP in four starts, he made an impressive showing in his six appearances in the Arizona Fall League. Kremer had a 2.37 ERA and 0.895 WHIP with 23 strikeouts in 19 innings with the Surprise Saguaros prior to the championship game, where he tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
McKenna, 22, appeared in 135 games with Bowie and slashed .232/.321/.365 with 26 doubles, six triples, nine home runs and 54 RBIs. He also stole 25 bases.
A scout from outside the organization noted how McKenna played “a big league center field.”
The Orioles know the heightened risk of losing unprotected players based on the roster increase from 25 to 26 and more teams slipping into rebuild mode. But they’ve chosen to gamble with Sedlock, 24, who posted a combined 2.84 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and .202 average-against with Single-A Frederick and Bowie.
They’re also banking on teams passing on Fenter, 23, because he’d be making the leap from the low Single-A South Atlantic League to the majors.