Listen to Podcast w/Keys Broadcasters Recapping Season and Player Performances
FREDERICK, MD - Although the 2019 season was not what the Frederick Keys envisioned from a win/loss standpoint, individual success defined the year. The team featured nine midseason all-stars and a dozen promotions. Some of those players who were called up are now assisting the Double-A Bowie Baysox on their run to an Eastern League Championship.
The Keys break camp roster included four of the Orioles top 30 prospects according to Baseball America. This group was headlined by DL Hall , who posted a 2.10 ERA in 22 games in 2018 for Low-A Delmarva. A pitching staff that was impressive on paper, it was a unit that was also asked to use pitches and attack hitters differently than before. With inexperience and new thinking factored in, Frederick arms tallied a 5.14 ERA and walked 5.4 per nine innings in April.
As some of the new pitchers tried to make adjustments, returner, Cody Sedlock thrived over the season's first month. In four outings he posted a 2.49 ERA and allowed two runs or less in all of these outings. This included a career-high nine strikeouts in his first start of the year against Fayetteville.
Sedlock's first start and Mike Baumann's first outing (5 IP, 0R, 10 SO) would be two highlights in a frustrating first homestand where the Keys went 1-6. The low point came during Baumann's outing, when the Keys saw 11 straight Fayetteville runs eliminate an 8-0 lead.
A roadtrip to Salem and Myrtle Beach helped the orange and black regroup. Going 4-2 on the trip, the Keys offense came to life averaging 6.3 runs, while the pitching staff ended with a 3.56 ERA.
Individually, Mason McCoy hit .407 (11-for-27) to spark the offense while he hit safely in a career-best 11 games. The Keys leading hitter in April, the former Iowa product was promoted to Double-A on May 6 after posting a .378/.421/.500 slash line with a .921 OPS. This productivity continued in the Eastern League, with McCoy garnering midseason EL All-Star honors.
After maintaining their momentum against Salem at home, the Keys moved within a game of .500 heading into a six-game roadtrip to Fayetteville and Winston-Salem. This trip would not be kind, with setbacks in five of the six games.
With the Keys hosting the Carolina League All-Star Classic (presented by Visit Frederick) in June, the team spent plenty of time at Nymeo Field in May. Frederick responded in a big way to this home cooking, going 12-5 in games at Nymeo Field and 17-10 overall for the month. This proved to be Frederick's best month of the year, while the orange and black finished third in the circuit in ERA (3.13), third in batting average (.257) and tied for third in home runs (19).
Frederick won each home series it played in May, with wins in five of six home games from May 7-11. This included consecutive walk-off wins in a doubleheader against Fayetteville on May 11.
A pitching clinic took place in Lynchburg from May 3-4, with the duo of David Lebron and Sedlock guiding the Keys to consecutive 5-0 wins. These types of performances became more commonplace in May for the starting rotation which registered a 2.56 ERA. Over a 32-game stretch from April 26-June 1, the orange and black trimmed their starters' ERA for the year from 6.48 to 3.70.
Offensively, Willy Yahn turned in four games of three or more RBIs in May. He finished with 18 total in 24 games to go with his first five home runs as a professional (he did not hit a home run in his first two minor league seasons). One of the feel-good stories of the first half, Yahn would eventually be named a midseason all-star.
Entering June 1 two games over (.500) the Keys entered the month in sole possession of second place in the CL North, trailing the first place Wilmington Blue Rocks by six games with 17 left to play in the first half. With a trip to Carolina and Down East coming up, the Keys would need to keep pace with the red-hot Blue Rocks who were winners of eight out of 11 games.
Things did not go according to plan. One of the Carolina League's top home run hitting teams, the Mudcats bashed seven over a three-game span to broom the Keys. Suddenly 8.5 games behind Wilmington with 12 games left to play, Frederick would go into a Wednesday off-day knowing that a steep hill was ahead. Down East enjoyed the second-best record in the MiLB (41-18) and featured one of the best pitching staffs' in the minors (2.79 ERA).
Wood Ducks pitching was at its finest over the four games, while a walk-off double by Ryan Dorow officially kicked the Keys from playoff contention in game two. Dropping all seven games on the trip, the team's struggles continued at home and then on the last roadtrip. Losing 14 of 15 to end the first half, the Keys went into the all-star break with a 29-40 record.
Even though the on-field results were not the best, the Keys still featured a season-high nine all-stars on the midseason CL North team. This group included Sedlock, Baumann, Lebron, Yahn, Steven Klimek , Zach Jarrett , Cole Billingsley . All would perform well in the midsummer classic, with the pitchers combining on 4.1 scoreless innings and Yahn and Billingsley getting critical hits in the CL North's 8-5 victory. Nearly 7,000 fans attend the all-star game at Nymeo Field, the first hosted by the Keys since 2005.
Coming out of the break, the Keys saw Baumann, Billingsley, Yahn and Klimek earn Double-A call-ups. Even without these players, the orange and black snapped a franchise-high 15-game road losing streak on June 23 in Wilmington.
The Keys started July with a 5-6 record. From there, Frederick dropped a season-high nine straight games. The third losing streak of eight or more games since June, the Keys major issue was run support. Starting on June 1-July 9, the offense managed just 2.78 runs and scored two runs or less 20 times in a 37-game stretch. This was a problem in the second half, with the Keys ranking at the bottom of the league in runs scored, run differential, RBIs and extra-base hits.
Upon returning home, the Keys claimed two out of three against Carolina. This included 4.1 shutout innings of one-hit relief by Hall, while Jomar Reyes posted his best stretch of offense all season. Named Carolina League Player of the Week, Reyes would finish the month hitting .379/.404/.558 with a .962 OPS with 11 extra-base hits. After becoming the Keys all-time leader in games played on the final day of the first half, Reyes would receive a much-anticipated call-up to Double-A on
Although Hall's relief outing was quite a performance over the homestand, Brenan Hanifee stole the spotlight on the mound. Throwing a nine-inning, complete game shutout, the 21-year-old accomplished the feat on just 91 pitches. To go with it being the first nine-inning complete game by a Frederick pitcher since 2013, Hanifee earned Carolina League Pitcher of the Week recognition.
A myriad of rainouts as well as a power outage gave the Keys a mini respite during a trip to Lynchburg and Potomac. This was followed by a 2-4 homestand, but the month ended on a high note with a three-game sweep of Myrtle Beach-which also doubled as Frederick's first true sweep of the season (the Keys had a two-game and one-game sweep previously).
In this series, starting pitch reined supreme with the trio of Cameron Bishop , Blaine Knight and Hall allowing just three runs in 18 innings (1.50 ERA) to go with 20 strikeouts. Knight and Hall each added quality starts, with the latter striking out 10 over six innings of one-run baseball. July was the best month for Hall, who tallied a 1.77 ERA and held opponents to a .145 average to go with 28 strikeouts in 20.1 innings. Bishop's 3.22 ERA also was his best of any month during the season.
Thanks to a win in the series finale in Down East, the Keys posted their first winning roadtrip of the second half and just the team's third overall of the season. Frederick would play 17 of their last 28 games at home, with 11 coming against Potomac. After dropping two of three to the Nationals over a six-game homestand, the Keys would suffer a similar fate against Down East.
One highlight of the Wood Ducks series was six innings of shutout baseball by Ofelky Peralta in the Keys victory on August 9. The hard throwing right-hander turned in three consecutive starts of six scoreless innings in August. It marked the first time Peralta had posted three straight quality outings in his pro career. He ended the month with a 3.62 ERA.
The Keys ended the season by dropping seven of their final nine sets of the year, though the team managed a split against the first half CL South champs, Down East, in the team's last road series of the year. Jarrett earned CL Postseason All-Star accolades, as the orange and black concluded the year with a 53-84 mark and a 24-44 figure in the second half.
Attendance-wise, the Keys ranked second in the league despite losing 10 openings, second-most in the CL. Overall, 263,528 came through the gates in 2019, marking the eighth straight season where the club ranked first or second in the league in attendance. Frederick also led in average attendance (4,392).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.