The Aegis
Harford County

IronBirds begin 2015 season next week with new manager and unknown roster

In just another week, the Aberdeen IronBirds will open their 14th season and, like a number of seasons before, the 'Birds will begin at home in the confines of Ripken Stadium. The 2015 season opener is set for 7:35 p.m. June 19 versus the Hudson Valley Renegades.

The IronBirds will battle the Renegades in three straight games before heading out on a six-game road trip to Vermont and Lowell.


A few changes to the Aberdeen club include a new manager and new media/radio personality. Luis Pujols comes to the Aberdeen bench from a year at Frederick, where the Keys posted a 65-72 mark.

Pujols also managed Delamarva in the Orioles organization in 2013. The Shorebirds finished 54-82. Prior to the Orioles, Pujols had managing roles with the Tigers and Astros. In 2002, Pujols managed the Detroit Tigers to a 55-106 record. At AA Erie the season before, Pujols posted a career best season of 84-58.


Pujols also managed Corpus Christi, Houston's AA team in 2008 and 2009, when their records were 55-85 and 61-79, respectively. Joining Pujols on the bench are hitting coach Scott Thomas and pitching coach Justin Lord.

Taking over the media/radio duties is Daniel Kurish, who has previous experience with the York Revolution and Lynchburg Hillcats.

Who will take the field next Friday remains a question, but the annual Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft supplies a few answers. The draft started Monday and through Tuesday, Baltimore had drafted 11 players. Time will tell if any of them will play in Aberdeen.

Leading the draft class was outfielder D.J. Stewart, a 6'-0", 230-pound junior from Florida State University.

Scouting information on Stewart says he has one of the best bats in the 2015 college class. He was named the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore. He was also an all-state running back at The Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.). Stewart has close to average speed, has good instincts as a runner and defender, though a below-average arm limits him to left field.

The Orioles also drafted shortstop Ryan Mountcastle (6-3, 185) in the first round. A recently graduated senior from Hagerty High School in Florida, Mountcastle stands out most for his hitting ability. His tremendous bat speed leads to elite exit velocity when he squares up balls, giving him above-average power. Defensively, Mountcastle isn't as advanced. A shortstop in high school, he saw plenty of action at third base on the showcase circuit.

The first pitcher selected by the Orioles was right-hander Jonathan Hughes (6-2, 184), who they picked in the third round. Hughes, a senior from Flowery Branch High School in Georgia, will show a 94-96 mph fastball early in games, before settling in at 89-93 mph with some cut and sink. His low-80s slider is his No. 2 option and features good tilt at times. His upper-70s curveball is effective when he stays on top of it and he also exhibits some feel for a changeup with fading action.

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The Orioles also went for a pitcher in round four, drafting left-hander Garrett Cleavinger (6-1, 220), a junior from the University of Oregon. At his best, Cleavinger has a plus fastball from the left side, one that will touch 96 mph on occasion. He'll more typically sit in the 89-92 mph range, leaving some wondering if he has the capacity to hit the mid-90s with more consistency in the pro game. His curve is fringy at times, better when he stays on top of it. He has a quick arm and his delivery does add some deception. The effort in that delivery does make it a bit more difficult for him to find the strike zone more consistently.


Rounding out the Orioles top five picks is center fielder Ryan McKenna (5-9, 175), an senior from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Hampshire. McKenna definitely has some tools to help him make an impact. He can really hit, with a line-drive approach and more power to come as he matures. He has very good speed from the right side of the plate and is a threat on the basepaths. That speed gives him the chance to stay in center field and he has more than enough arm for the position. He's strong, stocky and athletic.

Additional picks through Tuesday were left fielder Jason Heinrich; right-hand pitcher Jay Flaa; right-hand pitcher Gray Fenter; first baseman Seamus Curran; center fielder Jaylen Ferguson; and left-hand pitcher Reid Love.

The final 30 picks were drafted Wednesday. Of the 30, 10 are right-hand pitchers; five are left-hand pitchers; four are catchers; four are outfielders; six are infielders and one is utility.

Other notable draftees

North Harford alum and University of Maryland closer Kevin Mooney was a 15th round selection of the Washington Nationals.

Two former Oahu, Hawaii, stars from the 2005 Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen were selected. Outfielder Kewby Meyer, a senior at the University of Nevada, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 37th round. Teammate Timmy Arakawa, a senior second baseman at Oklahoma State University, was selected in the 23rd round by the Anaheim Angels.