2019 Baltimore Orioles: Things I’m Interested In (Part 1)
FanFest has passed, and Spring Training is weeks away. The 2019 season is approaching. Coming off 115 losses, and in Year 1 of a rebuilding project; Oriole fans seemingly fall into two different camps regarding this forthcoming year.
Camp A are those still shell-shocked from the horror of last year, where the O’s season was effectively over by Tax Day. Most of them are probably encouraged by the transitions from Duquette & Showalter to Elias & Hyde. What many of them are struggling with though is the idea of entering a year (and likely several years) where the Orioles can not contend.
Camp B are those excited to begin this journey. Alright, begin the journey is a corny narrative but the idea remains. It’s those of us who understand the on-field product isn’t going to look particularly good anytime soon; but are still going to enjoy the process.
There are a million distractions for people today, and attention spans are reduced. I don’t blame any fan who has the mindset of, “Wake me up when the O’s are again relevant.”
The reason I’m in Camp B is that I think watching the house be built can be entertaining.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
For me, 2019 will be enjoyable.
Last year was miserable. Not just because the on-field product was unbelievably horrible; but because there wasn’t much to watch.
Who was going to be moved and what returns came back? That was it.
This year we get to watch players get opportunities to show they can be contributors on the next good team.
We can spend more time following the Minors and Draft with detail / interest.
I think there is a reasonable argument the Orioles can put a decent (at-least entertaining) product on the field by mid-season.
I think there is more usable talent here and near than people realize.
This will be a 3 Part series were I discuss some of the things I’m specifically interested in this year.
Part 1: The Younger Players On The Likely OD Roster
Part 2: The Players On The Verge Of Joining
Part 3: Vet & Young Vet Players With The Potential To Be Moved During ’19, The June Draft & International FA, & When 2019 Ends
As of today, the 40 man roster is comprised of:
Catcher: Chance Sisco, Austin Wynns (2)
Infield: Chris Davis, Jonathan Villar, Richie Martin, Renato Nunez, Rio Ruiz, Steve Wilkerson, Hanser Alberto, Drew Jackson (8)
Outfield: DJ Stewart, Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, Joey Rickard, Anthony Santander (6)
DH: Mark Trumbo (1)
Pitchers: Alex Cobb, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Luis Ortiz, David Hess, Yefry Ramirez, Josh Rogers, Dillon Tate, Hunter Harvey, Mychal Givens, Tanner Scott, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Branden Kline, Cody Carroll, Paul Fry, Mike Wright, Jimmy Yacabonis, Evan Phillips, John Means, Donnie Hart, Pedro Araujo, Austin Brice (23)
Here in Part 1, I’m going to give brief thoughts on a handful of younger guys who figure to on the 25 man roster which comes North for Opening Day.
Sisco: The young catcher turns 24 next Month. Nobody has a real handle on what he is. 2019 will go a long way in determining his future. Will his defense be good enough to stay behind the plate? His calling card coming up was his bat. In ’18 he had just 160 plate appearances and he struggled. Everyone believed his bat was going to play in the Majors. If so, we should see significant improvement from him this year. He’s never going to be Pudge Rodriguez defensively. He has to hit. If he shows to be competitive offensively, and isn’t a defensive liability; that’s a win. You keep him behind the plate until he shows he can’t stay there.
Martin: I get it, he’s a Rule 5 kid who hasn’t had an at-bat above AA – but he’s pretty damn interesting. A former 1st round pick, people have always believed in his glove, and his offense showed gains last year after he got contacts. Right now, the O’s can plug him in at SS, and get a chance to evaluate him. If the commentary about his defense proves accurate, the O’s might have a viable starting infielder at minimal cost for several years. I’m not expecting much from him offensively in ’19, you just want to see him not be overwhelmed. (And if he does struggle offensively, can he avoid taking those struggles into the field?)
Stewart: Can’t say I have a ton of confidence in Stewart becoming a successful regular. Prior to his ML promotion last year, Stewart posted a .716 OPS in 421 ab’s with Norfolk. Yeah, the Tides park is not a hitters haven, but that’s still not particularly inspiring. He’s got some pop, he’ll take a walk, and he’s a better athlete than you’d think. Even if I question DJ’s chances of becoming a successful regular, he’s got enough going for him that he’ll be interesting to watch. He should begin ’19 as a starter at one of the of the OF corners (Mancini the opposite). You give him regular ab’s and playing time, and see if he takes advantage. You aren’t relying on him to be part of your future. If he produces, and can be, that’s a bonus. If he its, I can envision a scenario where Trumbo is traded during the year, and Stewart takes over at DH.
Mullins: He might have split issues (struggled mightily vs. Lefties in ’18, but the sample size of 45 ab’s is obviously limited), and there are questions regarding his defense (the advanced metrics HATED him in ’18); but he’ll be just 24 all of this ’19 season, and there is some promise there. I’m not sure he’s anything more than a 4th OF, but he gets this season to show he can be more than that. I’ll be pleased if we end the year believing in the glove. He tore things up at Bowie last year, was solid at Norfolk, and not embarrassed in the Majors. I thought he brought some intensity to the O’s in his 45 games in the bigs last Summer. Very curious to see what he looks like over the course of a full season.
Scott: You’ll have to be a fellow baseball nerd to care about a reliever on a team most people will pick to lose 100 games. If you are like me though, and you’ll be watching the Orioles on a nightly basis, Scott epitomizes what this ’19 season should be about. Scott has legitimate talent (76 k’s in 53.1 ip). He could be Nuke LaLoosh (Bull Durham), or Brad Pennington; or he could be Andrew Miller. How often can he be consistent with his mechanics? How does he respond to new coaching? Can he improve his control? Will he be able to make adjustments vs. RHH? The other thing to watch will be how he does in higher leverage situations this year.
Mancini: Still just entering his 3rd year, and I’m not going to be including him on my Part 3 listing of Vets & Young Vets who could be moved during the year, so I guess he belongs here. I think we have a pretty good handle of who he is. The first half of ’18 was rough, possibly because he wasn’t physically right. In the 2nd half he looked like the player we saw in ’17. A hitter capable of making adjustments. A guy that regularly had productive ab’s. Think he gives good effort in the OF, but his skill set is limited. His arm remains better than I anticipated when he was first moved out there. He’ll start ’19 on an OF corner, but if Davis struggles again, he could end the year at 1st. He could also be at DH if Stewart isn’t doing enough to stay in the lineup, and Trumbo is moved.
Who else is young, somewhat interesting, and likely to be on the Opening Day roster?
Wynns? No. Has a chance to settle in as a backup catcher for several years, but is significantly older than you’d think.
Rickard? No. He’s 28 in May, he’s not a kid. His ceiling is a 4th or 5th OF. I will say I was pleased by what Joey did last year. He had a very solid 2nd half, and hit LHP well. He’s also become a pretty good OF. (He’s always had that reputation, but when he first joined the O’s in the Majors he often took some poor routes to the ball.)
Wilkerson? No. Really like the glove, but he’s 27, and his ceiling is UTI guy. I might enjoy watching his defense this year, but it would be a stretch to say I find him interesting.
Nunez? I guess he could qualify. He’s just 25 April 4th. He showed some pop lat year, and he’s going to get time until Mountcastle earns his way up (and the O’s have gained an additional year of control with him). His UZR/150 at 3rd was strong too this past year. At the plate he had some reverse splits. I go into the season believing he’s a guy the O’s are going to look to improve on; but he’s got enough going for him to be watchable. At worst he should be a serviceable placeholder. And there is at-least a sliver of a chance he can be more than that.
Ruiz? He’s another placeholder type that should be usable. Had some decent AAA numbers. Lefty bat. Has shown some plate-discipline. Elias believes there is some untapped power.
If you are looking for others who are young / at-least somewhat interesting / and figure to be part of the OD roster – you have to look at the arms.
I have some varying levels of interest in Tate, Kline, Carroll, Phillips, and Rogers. While I think it’s possible they could be on the OD roster, I think it’s more likely they’ll be heading back to the Minors to start the year.
I’m on the fence about Ortiz’s chances of breaking camp with the O’s right now. I think I’ll include him in the Part 2 listing of players on the verge of joining.
Castro? Could qualify. He’s still young enough. He has some arm talent. But I thought he took a step back last year, and because of that, my interest is diminished. Maybe a new coaching staff will help.
Wright? No. He just turned 29.
Hess? His future is probably in the bullpen, but he has a chance to break camp in the O’s rotation. He had 19 starts for the Birds last year, and he’s 25. His slider looked pretty good at the end of last year, and his last 10 starts were significantly better than his first 9. I don’t think he has starting ceiling beyond being a 5th starter, but that is a possibility. I thought his stuff looked better at times vs. what I expecting. Obviously you would think the stuff would move up another tick if he was ultimately a reliever.
Ramirez? There is some ability there. Like Hess, I don’t have much / any confidence in him being a reliable SP. But I see enough with the arm, to think he could provide something of value out of the pen. Also like Hess, he’s got a chance to break camp in the O’s rotation.
In Part 2, we’ll look at the players on the verge of forcing their way onto the Major League roster.
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.
You can reach him via email at [email protected].