2019 RECORD: 54-108
MANAGER: MIKE ELIAS
FIVE YEAR WINNING TREND:
The Orioles remain in a re-build mode following another 100+ losing season. They have little salary to spend on free agents or the ability to acquire top talent outside the amateur draft. Another season in the basement of the American League East is probable. Losing more than last year’s 108 games is likely after trading pitcher Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Villar.
Baltimore fans must realize there is no quick fix to this franchise.
The starters posted a robust 5.57 ERA in 2019, the worst in baseball…again. John Means is their best starter going 12-11 with an ERA of 3.60 as a rookie. Means was a total surprise after making the team out of spring training. Means was the fifth Baltimore rookie to make the All-Star team and the first since catcher Andy Etchebarren in 1966.
Alex Cobb is expected to be the number two starter following an injury filled 2019. Asher Wojciechowski was picked up from Cleveland on July 1 and is projected to be the third starter this season.
Baltimore used 18 pitchers as starters in 2019. Others who will audition for the opening day roster include Kohl Stewart, Minnesota’s top draft pick in 2013, David Hess, Keegan Aikin, Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker. Bailey and Rucker were selected in the Rule 5 draft from Houston and the Cubs respectively.
Like the starting pitching, the bullpen was a disaster in 2019. They couldn’t hold a lead or keep deficits close and ended up being responsible for 126 of the major league – record 305 home runs given up by the pitching staff. Mychal Givens had a career – high 4.57 ERA despite a career – best 33.1% strikeout rate. Givens is expected to be trade bait before the season begins. Hunter Harvey is returning from Tommy John surgery and has the potential to be a strong closer. Dillon Tate has an excellent arm and should be strong in relief. Others expected to come out of the bullpen include Miguel Castro, Richard Bleier, Paul Fry, Tanner Scott and Shawn Armstrong, who was acquired from Seattle.
When Baltimore traded Jonathan Villar, the weekend the Orioles dramatically. Villar played in all 162 games, sharing second base with Hanser Alberto and shortstop Richie Martin. Alberto hit .398 against lefties which ranks second in major league baseball. He is expected to become the full – time second baseman. Martin made the big jump from Double-A to the majors and struggled hitting just .208. Stevie Wilkerson is a utility player who can handle any infield position, play outfield and even pitch in emergencies. Former Colorado Rockie Pat Valaika will also compete at second base and shortstop.
Alberto and Rio Ruiz did most of the work at third base last season. Ryan Mountcastle is one of the organizations top prospects and has been moved from shortstop to third base. He can also play in left field. Chris Davis has three years remaining on his franchise – record $161 million contract which has proven to be one of the team’s biggest mistakes. Davis hit just .179 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI. Moving Davis will be difficult to do because of that huge contract. Trey Mancini is expected to take over at first base on a full – time basis. Mancini is a converted outfielder who hit 35 home runs and drove in 97 in 2019.
Renato Nunez had 31 home runs and 90 RBI but isn’t strong on defense.
Baltimore expected Cedric Mullins to be the future in centerfield. He was the opening day starter in 2019, but after going 6 – 64 he was optioned to the minors and never returned. He will be back in camp competing for a starting spot with Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Dwight Smith Jr., and DJ Stewart. Stewart may not be ready for opening day after undergoing ankle surgery in the off-season. Hays became the first major league rookie to record five or more RBI, a stolen base and an outfield assist since RBI’s became an official stat in 1920.
Baltimore spent most of the 2019 season using Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco behind the plate. Severino was acquired from Washington and hit a career-high .249 with 13 doubles and 13 home runs for the Orioles. Severino was a liability on defense with 10 passed balls. Sisco struggled hitting major league pitching and remains below average on defense. Baltimore will look to Austin Wynns to provide more competition at this position.
Nunez is better suited as a designated hitter that he is as an infielder. If he produces like he did in 2019 the Orioles will gladly give him the DH role full-time. Davis will also get some at-bats as the DH. Mountcastle, Mullins, Smith and Mason Williams could be extra outfielders, and Wilkerson will be a utility player. Ruiz will be on the bench when he’s not starting at third base. Valaika will also be a utility option.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
305…. Home runs allowed by Baltimore pitching, a major league record.
10….. Consecutive games that Baltimore hit at least two homeruns to set a major-league record.
8….. Number of Baltimore players who made their major-league debut in 2019.
1.93…. Relief pitcher Mychal Givens’ ERA in the eighth inning.
6.69….. Givens’ ERA in the ninth-inning.
4….. Position players used as pitchers last season.
7…… Number of times that a position player pitched last season.
.429….. Batting average against relief pitcher Miguel Castro with the bases loaded.
.398…..Hanser Alberto’s batting average against left-handed pitching, second-highest in the majors.
2…… Number of Tommy John surgery is for left-hander Josh Rogers, the second coming in July.
58….. Baltimore used 58 players during the season, the most in club history.
38……. Baltimore used a club – record 38 pitchers in 2019
35/38….. Mancini joined Colorado’s Trevor Story as the only players with 35 home runs and 38 doubles.
WHAT THE SCOUTS ARE SAYING:
Baltimore has a huge hill to climb in order to compete with New York, Boston, and Tampa Bay. Many feel they are headed in the right direction, but it’s going to be slow and painful. They rebuilt their front office, changed scouting and player development, but when making those changes it could take years to make an impact at the top level. Finding Means last season was a real key. That’s why they are excited to find other players that can produce like he did in 2019. Look for Austin Hays to get a chance to prove himself after showing big power in the minors. Oriole fans can count on Trey Mancini and Hanser Alberto, but overall it’s going to be very ugly this season. They have no other alternatives but to work on the organization’s infrastructure, build the farm system and wait.
There a lot of work to be done before Baltimore can be taken seriously in the American League East. Their payroll could be the lowest in major league baseball and they will vie for the top draft pick again this season. Management is hoping that a data driven approach is the way to go in Baltimore. They are hoping Houston will be there model. Fans have stopped coming to Camden Yards because of the losing, but the front office is confident better times are ahead.
TOP 10 PROSPECTS:
C Adley Rutschman
LHP DJ Hall
RHP Grayson Rodriguez
INF/OF Ryan Mountcastle
OF Yusniel Diaz
SS Gunnar Henderson
LHP Keegan Akin
RHP Dean Kremer
RHP Michael Baumann
LHP Zac Lowther
PREDICTION: 5TH IN AL EAST