Orioles Start from Scratch

The Orioles had a nice run in the AL east in the even numbered years from 2012 to 2016, winning the AL East once and capturing two wild card appearances. Most experts did not expect an Oriole playoff run in those years but they surprised using defense and power bats to make the playoffs. For the 2018 season the Orioles expected to make the playoffs. They finished with a franchise record number of losses instead.

Their farm systems have not been bad over the years, appearing in the top ten from 2008 to 2010 and also in 2014. Some of the players that graduated to the major leagues were Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta and from 2014 Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gaussman, Eduardo Rodriguez and Jonathan Schoop. Manny Machado made his Top100 appearance in 2011. Last year the Top 100 prospects from the Orioles were Ryan Mountcastle, Chance Sisco and Austin Hays. They later traded for the Dodgers Yusniel Diaz and the Brewers Luis Ortiz.

The outfield appears to be the Orioles strength. It starts with the Cuban Yusniel Diaz, who was one of the players the Orioles acquired for Manny Machado. The Dodgers signed him for $15.5 million in their multiple attempts to sign Cuban prospects for bucket loads of cash to build their farm system. Diaz struggled at Bowie and did not look like the super star that hit .314 at Tulsa. He seemed disinterested in playing out the season, or perhaps that is his style of play. It would be nice if someone could light a fire under him to get him motivated. He has the arm for right field and rumor has it that he has the bat, but myworld did not see much of it in 2019 at Bowie.

Austin Hays was one of the surprise prospects from 2017 who took a stumble last year. The third round 2016 pick slugged 33 homeruns in 2017 and was expected to win the right field job in 2018. A poor spring and injuries limited him to 75 games last year. He seemed to recover his batting stroke toward the end of the season last year and with an outfield absent of talent could make the Orioles roster in 2019. While he can play center he is built more for right, lacking the real burner speed to cover a lot of ground.

D.J. Stewart was a first round pick in 2015. Myworld thought he was a bust but he did get a major league promotion last year. His defense and arm limit him to left field but he has not shown the power or the consistent stroke to justify his poor glove. Last year he hit only .235 with 12 homeruns, slugging only .387. The Orioles must see something in him that escapes my eyes.

Ryan McKenna did an Austin Hays impression last year, coming out of nowhere as a 2015 fourth round pick to hit .377 with a .556 slugging in High A. Next year should prove whether that was a mirage. When promoted to Bowie the bat seemed light as he hit just .239 with a .338 slugging. He showed solid defense in center getting great jumps on balls, but like Hays and Diaz he lacks burner speed. It would be better if he could hit .377 to justify having him play center rather than .250 with just slightly above average centerfield capabilities.

Don’t know where Ryan Mountcastle will play on defense. Last year he played third but his lob throws to first will not hack it in the major leagues. His best position may be DH but a move to first, second or left field are in his future. Fortunately for Ryan he has the bat to stay in a lineup with a potential for 20 plus homeruns a year and hitting in the neighborhood of .300 or plus.

The Orioles have always had trouble keeping pitchers healthy to meet their full potential. Their first round pick in 2013 Hunter Harvey is exhibit A. The son of Bryan has had trouble staying healthy, plagued by arm problems that have limited him to just less than 20 innings from 2015 to 2017. Myworld witnessed his last start of his 2019 season where he got lit up for nine runs in just two innings. At least in 2018 he pitched 32 innings. Hunter still has the stuff with a fastball that can hit the mid-90s with a plus curveball. Whether he can avoid arm injuries is the million dollar question.

D.L. Hall and Grayson Rodriguez are the Orioles next shiny ornaments and the hope is to keep them healthy. Hall was drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft. The lefthander has a nice fastball that touches the mid-90s. Last year he finished with a 2.10 ERA in 20 starts with an opponent average of just .203. That is a big improvement over his 2017 struggles (6.97 ERA). Finding the strike zone will improve his numbers. Rodriguez is a big, burly righthander at 6′5″ with the potential to fill the top of a rotation. His fastball hits consistently in the low to mid-90s and his slider produces a lot of ground balls. In eight starts he finished with a 1.40 ERA, preventing any hitter from carrying a ball over the fence.

Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate were trade acquisitions that were both first round picks by the Rangers. Tate was the fourth pick in 2015 and acquired from the Yankees for Zach Britton. The Yankees had acquired him from the Rangers for Carlos Beltran. Tate has fallen short of expectations for a fourth pick in the draft. Injuries have shortened a number of his seasons but he still has a hard fastball that hits the mid-90s with a plus slider and good command to fit in a rotation. He just needs to stay healthy for a full season. His seven starts at Bowie were disappointing with a 5.75 ERA and a .302 opposition average.

Ortiz was the star of the United States 18 and under team five years ago. The Orioles snagged him from the Brewers in the Jonathan Schoop trade. Conditioning has been his biggest challenge. His fastball is hard, hitting the mid-90s with a solid slider. He will not fill the box scores with strikeouts, giving up hard contact a little too often. Because he pitched at AAA last year he could fit in the Orioles rotation in 2019. Last year he made his major league debut and it was not pretty with a 15.43 ERA and a .500 opposition average in 2.1 innings.

Myworld likes Keegan Akin. The lefthander seemed to consistently hit 95 with his fastball and threw quality outings in most of his 25 starts. There was a lot of soft contact when he pitched (.225 opposition average) and a fair share of swings and misses. He will be a solid middle of the rotation starter.

The Australian Alex Wells was a big surprise. His brother pitches for the Twins. Alex does not have overpowering stuff but as a lefthander he commands his pitches well. He started out the season strong but faltered towards the end of the season, finishing with a 3.47 ERA and a .270 opposition average. His best bet is to be a situational lefty or pitch at the back end of a rotation.

Dean Kremer was another acquisition from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade. Myworld didn’t expect a lot from him being a 14th round pick in 2016, but he shined at Bowie, flashing above the mid-90s to produce a 2.58 ERA and .228 opposition average in eight starts. By mid 2019 he should be in the Orioles starting rotation.

With the worst record in baseball the Orioles used the first pick of the 2015 Rule V draft to select Richie Martin. The reports are that his glove work is not as stellar as it was when he was drafted in the first round by the Athletics in 2015, but at that time he failed to hit. Last year he found his bat hitting .300 with 25 stolen bases. Myworld expects him to compete for the starting shortstop job for the Orioles in 2019.

Myworld is not as high on shortstop Adam Hall, a second round pick in 2017. He did hit .293 last year at Aberdeen but there are questions about his bat. His speed allowed him to steal 22 bases but at best he is a number nine hitter who does not provide the spectacular defense to justify leaving his bat in the lineup. Perhaps with time that will change.

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