Baltimore Orioles: Hanifee and Grenier Highlight Trip To Frederick Keys

Omaha, NE - JUNE 28: Infielder Cadyn Grenier #2 of the Oregon State Beavers makes a throw to first for and out in the fourth inning against the Arkansas Razorbacks during game three of the College World Series Championship Series on June 28, 2018 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Omaha, NE - JUNE 28: Infielder Cadyn Grenier #2 of the Oregon State Beavers makes a throw to first for and out in the fourth inning against the Arkansas Razorbacks during game three of the College World Series Championship Series on June 28, 2018 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) /

Top Baltimore Orioles prospects were on display in Frederick last night as the minor league season winds down.

The Frederick Keys may own the second-worst record in the Carolina League at 47-69, but Saturday Night at Harry Grove Stadium was full of excitement as the Baltimore Orioles High-A affiliate battled the Down East Wood Ducks, the Carolina League affiliate of the Texas Rangers and top team in the standings with a 79-39 overall record.

More than 8,200 fans packed the stands to meet Leslie David Baker, aka Stanley Hudson from The Office, grab their Dylan Bundy Dundie bobblehead (which might be one of my favorite in my massive collection), and take in a post-game firework show. It was the first time I’ve been to a Frederick Keys game as a fan and not a member of the press and the night did not disappoint. But let’s talk about the product on the field.

Personally, the evening was made a bit more special as RHP Brenan Hanifee, the 18th-ranked prospect in the Baltimore Orioles system, climbed the mound for Frederick. Having followed Hanifee very closely since his high school days right down the road, it’s been exciting to watch him turn heads and open the eyes of those who follow the Orioles farm system.

Listed at 6’5″ and 215 pounds, the 21-year-old RHP went five innings against the top-ranked Wood Ducks, allowing one earned run on five hits with three walks, no strikeouts, and a pick-off. Two errors off the glove of shortstop Cadyn Grenier and a tight strike zone to start the game didn’t help Hanifee’s cause, but when he found himself in a tight spot, Hanifee relied on his superb ability to induce a groundball and get himself out of the jam.

Those groundballs came early and often, starting in the top of the first inning. After allowing a leadoff single to Bubba Thompson, the 2017 first-round pick of the Rangers and 8th-ranked prospect, Hanifee produced three-straight ground balls to get out of the frame unharmed.

His second inning of work began with one of Grenier’s two errors, followed by a single and a walk to load the bases with no outs. Just one run (unearned) crossed the plate thanks to a groundball double-play and an easy fly ball out to center field.

The only earned run given up came from a home run off the bat of Curtis Terry, this after Hanifee led off the inning with a walk, pick-off, and finely fielded bunt attempt. Ahead 0-1 in the count and with two outs in his pocket, the solo shot was one of the few miscues of the evening against a very good Down East lineup.

Overall, Hanifee is 8-9 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.39 WHIP across 21 appearances and 112 innings. His strikeouts are down (13%) and his walks are up (10%), but he’s held hitters to a .257 average and owns a 0.76 HR/9 IP mark, both slight upticks from his dominant campaigns with the Aberdeen Ironbirds and Delmarva Shorebirds, but aren’t noticeably large increases for a young pitcher trying to get a feel for all three of his pitches against older competition in a hitter-friendly ballpark.

His height, athleticism, high baseball IQ, and big sinking fastball should all help Hanifee reach the majors in the coming years, giving the Orioles something they are in desperate need of, a pitcher who can actually keep the ball on the ground.

With the Frederick Keys not streaming their games on MiLB.TV and not featuring the star prospect power up and down the roster like Double-A Bowie or the electric lineup and rotation of the dominating Shorebirds, the Keys have been often over-looked this season outside of starts from DL Hall, but the Frederick lineup does have a few intriguing pieces and they were on display Saturday night.

Grenier, the 21st-ranked prospect of the Orioles, is known for his glove and defensive abilities and showed off the good and bad last night. Outside of his two errors, Grenier flashed his extensive range to snag a groundball and use his cannon to nab the runner at first from deep in the hole. At the plate, the 22-year-old went 2-3 with a line drive rocket up the middle and an opposite-field triple off the right field wall, later scoring on a Sean Miller RBI-single.

Grenier has played in 19 games since being called up to Frederick, slashing .197/.310/.344 with six extra-base hits. The average may be unimpressive since his call-up, but he’s currently riding a five-game hitting streak. This after slashing .253/.360/.399 with 28 extra-base hits (seven home runs) in 82 games with the Delmarva Shorebirds. While his strikeout rate is hovering around 30% in his short career in the Orioles organization, Grenier has the speed, athleticism, and glove to work his way up through the system. He’s worth keeping an eye on next season which is going to be key in determining his future with the franchise.

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Lastly, outfield prospect Robert Neustrom may have been bumped from the O’s Top 30 list on MLB Pipeline after the 2019 draft, but the former Iowa Hawkeye is still worthy of your attention. I highlighted both Neustrom and Bowie Baysox shortstop and fellow former Hawkeye Mason McCoy earlier this year as two guys to watch over the next few seasons and Neustrom is beginning his climb up the ladder.

A fifth-round pick back in 2018, Neustrom began the year in Delmarva (.364 OBP, 5 HR, 13 2B, 47 games) and now finds himself in Frederick after missing time due to injury and a quick rehab stint in Aberdeen. Through 16 games with the Keys, the 22-year-old lefty is attempting to settle in, logging 16 hits in 16 games, including three doubles and a home run. Seeing Neustrom in person for the first time, he’s a big lefty who clearly has a lot of power potential in his bat. He went 2-4 last night, ripping a hard groundball past a diving second baseman for one of his hits.

Players like Neustrom are the ones who keep me addicted to minor league baseball. There’s clearly potential there, despite not finding his name on every Top 30 prospect list. The Keys roster is full of players like this, hopefully featuring a diamond (or two) in the rough. With the minor league season ending in three weeks, there’s still time to catch the future of the franchise down on the farm, a must-do that I can’t stress enough.

Next. Watch Adley Rutschman Hit A Walk-Off. dark

The Keys will look to take the series today against the Down East Wood Dukes with David Lebron (2-4, 3.72 ERA) climbing the mound.