Things I Want To See From The Orioles In 2018
One thing I always want to see from the teams I follow is a clear direction. Fence riding drives me nuts, and becomes hard to support.
The Baltimore Orioles are perennially the ultimate fence riders.
You want to try and contend? Go sign Alex Cobb, and Greg Holland and improve your chances.
The Orioles leadership has been on record several times this off-season saying rebuilding isn’t fun, or something they want to do.
You know what it isn’t fun? Being in baseball purgatory.
Where you don’t have a roster likely good enough to be a true contender, nor are you doing everything possible to obtain assets under long-term team control (putting you in the best position possible to contend going forward).
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
The 2018 Orioles are built where if things (multiple things) break right; they could possibly gain a Wild Card for the third time since 2012.
Entry to the post-season, where anything could happen once there.
There is enough talent on the roster that a Wild Card is plausible. There are enough questions on the roster to believe a Division Title is out of reach.
The frustration is that the O’s aren’t doing everything they can to improve their chances now, nor are they prudently preparing for their future.
Based on that as a starting point, here are things I want to see from the Birds in 2018:
- Let The Results On The Field Dictate Next Moves
There is a tough early schedule, and frankly a difficult schedule overall. The O’s start their season, with the initial 17 games being 3 vs. Minnesota, 3 at Houston, 4 vs. the Yankees in New York, 3 vs. Toronto, and 4 at Boston.
If the O’s were totally buried early, at-least that would make their decision making process that much more obvious.
What you don’t want to see is the O’s approaching the Non-Waiver Deadline (July 31st) and it being unclear what you are as a team.
If you have to squint to see a possible path to contention at that point; then you aren’t a contender, and the Front Office / Ownership should act accordingly.
My expectation is that if they get to that point within shouting distance of the 2nd Wild Card, they won’t be making moves which break-up the existing core.
- Bundy and Gausman Make A Leap
In ’16 and ’17, Gausman had strong 2nd halves. Now you need him to be productive over the course of an entire year. We could talk about his secondaries, or his fastball command as reasons for his inconsistency.
How about this? It’s a new year, and Gausman gets another opportunity to define who he is.
He’s 27 years old, and he’s made 106 Major League starts.
The ability is evident to anyone. Is he going to utilize his ML experience and break through as the front-end starter he should be, or will he stay a middling starter who never reaches his potential?
In 2012, Bundy was one of the premiere prospects in the game.
Over the ’13-’15 seasons, Bundy threw a combined 63.1 innings in the Minors.
When you look at things through that prism; Bundy making 42 Major League starts over ’16 and ’17 is a major accomplishment.
When Bundy took the ball for the O’s in ’17, he generally gave the O’s an opportunity to win.
In ’18, the question is does he stay what he was in ’17? A reliable, legitimate Major League starter; or does he have another gear he can reach?
Regardless of what happens around them with the rest of the roster, you’ll feel a lot better about the O’s past 2018 if you have that much more confidence in this duo.
- An Extension For Schoop
It would be a great sign to the fans, and the players in the locker-room if the Orioles came to an extension agreement with Schoop.
He’s a productive home-grown talent who won’t turn 27 until this 2018 season ends.
In a lot of circles, you see people anticipating regression from Schoop this year.
It’s also possible that 2017 is the new baseline for his expected offensive production.
You’d want to get an extension done with the idea that he is somewhere between his 2016 and 2017 levels. Year over year, Schoop improved his BB%, his Average, and his Slugging %.
He’s always going to a free swinger. His on-base % is always going to be dependent on his average. The fact that he has continually improved his BB% is encouraging though.
His power is profound.
He’s not a great defensive 2nd baseman, but he’s not a liability either. He’s right with Cano as having the strongest arm at 2nd base in the game. He’s excellent around the bag. He’s got livable range.
I think he’ll be able to stay at 2nd for several years. If you needed to move him to 3rd at some point, I think he’d be adequate there as well. The arm will certainly play.
Signing Schoop tells fans, and the lockeroom that there will be life after Machado.
- Sisco, Hays, Mountcastle, Harvey End ’18 As Obvious ’19 Pieces
Sisco and Hays figure to start ’18 in the Minors. They need to go kick ass at AAA and earn their promotions.
Mountcastle’s recent injury is unfortunate. Hopefully it’s not an injury that impacts his entire year.
He’s going to earn his way to the Majors through his bat. You want to hear that his defense (wherever he plays this year) is improving,and that he’s working hard with the glove. You also want to see that he takes Buck Showalter’s commentary to heart and improves his plate discipline.
It’s great to see Harvey back pitching again. MASN’s Roch Kubatko has mentioned numerous times this Winter that the O’s brain trust has toyed with the idea of getting Harvey to the Majors very quickly.
That tells us that everyone seeing him internally, is still very excited by the arm talent.
Harvey missed all of ’15. He threw a total of 12.2 innings in ’16, and 18.2 innings ’17.
He’s never pitched above the Sally League.
I completely trust Kubatko’s reporting here though, and I don’t anticipate the O’s being overly cautious with Harvey. Harvey will ascend as quickly as he performs.
It’s possible we see Harvey in Baltimore this Summer, operating in a similar fashion to how the O’s utilized Bundy in ’16 (the difference being that Harvey’s early innings this year would be in the Minors vs. out of the O’s pen like Dylan provided to start ’16).
Most importantly, you just want to see Harvey stay healthy, and regularly take the ball at whatever level he’s at. If he does that, 2018 is a win for him.
You want to enter the 2018 off-season with Sisco, and Hays having Catcher and RF locked down for ’19. It will soften the blow of losing Machado, if Mountcastle looks ready to take over 3rd.
- Givens In More High Leverage Situations
When Britton returns, and combines with Givens, Brach, and O’Day – the O’s have a group which should continue to be one of the better bullpens in the game. For the O’s to potentially be a WC team this year, the group obviously has to collectively perform.
Past a healthy Britton, I think the O’s second best reliever is Givens. It’s not hard for me to envision Givens being the O’s 2019 closer.
I want to see Showalter commit to throwing Givens into the deep end this year, and we will see if he sinks or swims.
- Speaking Of Britton
I think Britton is going to be back before June. If the O’s have tanked, that will give the Orioles plenty of time to showcase him to other teams prior to the Non-Waiver Deadline and see what value he’d bring back.
I’m not opposed to trading Britton. (As I said above, surely wouldn’t expect a trade if the O’s are within shouting distance of the Wild Card.)
I’m also not opposed to extending him. I think he has multiple dominant years ahead of him.
If the injury issues of ’17, and his current Achillies has lowered his price point; I’d be absolutely fine with the O’s taking advantage of that and finding a deal which works for both sides.
When it was announced yesterday that Trumbo would be starting the year on the DL, there were numerous comments that the O’s might be better off.
I think that is an overly harsh commentary on the slugger.
People are down on Mark because he’s a below average RF, had a miserable 2017 with the bat, and the 3 year $37.5M contract he signed after ’16.
It’s not his fault he’s been told to stand in RF. His best position is 1st, but obviously that’s not available to him in an O’s uniform.
2016 saw him produce at a rate above his career averages.
2017 saw him produce at a rate below his career averages.
In 2018, RF figures to be manned by Rasmus (and later Hays).
So, when Trumbo returns to the O’s lineup, he can be judged solely on his bat. I’m expecting production at his career levels, or essentially the mid-point of the highs and lows we’ve seen from him the last two years.
I’m hoping he finds his power stroke, and starts again delivering Trumbombs out to the seats in LF.
If that happens, the O’s should probably be able to find a taker for the remainder of his contract if they are inclined to move him.
- Mancini Avoids Year 2 Jinx
Mancini exceeded my expectations for him in ’17. We know Norfolk’s stadium is pitcher friendly, but he didn’t light AAA on fire. He was more productive with the O’s than he was with the Tides.
It should be noted that he had a .892 OPS prior to the All-Star break, and a .766 OPS after.
It should also be noted that he’s been described as one of the hardest workers on the team.
Besides what he showed with the bat last year, I was pleased with his gains in LF. He ended the year looking pretty comfortable at the position.
If he replicates his ’17 season, you’d have to be very comfortable with him going forward as long-term piece.
- Santander, Mullins, Stewart, Scott, Sedlock, Akin, Hall
I think I’m higher on Santander than most. After his 40 some days with the O’s to start the year, I’m interested to see what he does at Bowie (my guess) over the remainder of the year. Figure he only plays sporadically with the O’s the first six weeks, but I think it’s possible we end 2018 believing he can be part of the O’s in ’19.
Mullins is growing on me. I’ve looked at him mostly as a 4th OF type, but I’m now buying that he could potentially be the O’s next CF. For that to happen, he’s got to earn it. He jumped from Delmarva in ’16 to Bowie in ’17, and held his own over 76 games. He has to stay in the line up in ’18, and show gains with his plate discipline, and the reports on his defense. He apparently has a below average arm, so he better be able to go and get the ball in-terms of his range, and he needs to consistently find the cut. The system will look that much stronger if you end ’18 thinking he has a chance to be a starting caliber player in the Majors.
Stewart was on the verge of completely flaming out as a prospect, but to his credit rebounded with a strong offensive season at Bowie last year. He’s still adjusting to changing the stance he used as college hitter, which led him to being a 1st round selection for the O’s in ’15. Depending on injuries in-front of him, and what he’s doing in the Minors – he could see his first taste of the Majors at some point this year.
Scott has been spending his Spring learning from Britton. That’s encouraging. Everyone believes in his ability. Everyone questions if he can regularly find the plate. It’s not out of the realm of possibility he breaks camp as part of the O’s bullpen. The more likely outcome is he heads back to the Minors and is a candidate for promotion in the near-term.
Sedlock was the O’s 1st round selection in ’16. As an advanced college arm, the hope at the time of his selection was that he was would be pushing for a rotation spot in the Majors this Spring. After a disaster of ’17, that wasn’t an option. He apparently was never right physically last year. He’s apparently healthy now. So you throw out the results of ’17, and start over. Go perform. If he performs this year, and ends the season doing well at Bowie; he’ll be an option to join the Birds at some point in ’19.
Akin was the O’s 2nd round selection in ’16, and like Sedlock – an advanced college arm. He improved as the year progressed, but his overall numbers for the year at Frederick were meh. The O’s drafted him not for his ceiling, but because he was a guy they projected to move quickly. He can only move quickly if he performs, and we’re going to need to see more out of him this year to believe in him.
Hall, the O’s 2017 1st selection in ’17, and is expected to begin at Delmarva. Stay healthy, and take the ball.
- Confidence In Tim Beckham
The former 1st overall draft selection made quite the impression upon joining the O’s last August. For a Month, he played at a high that few ever reach. What got less attention though, was that he was just dreadful in September.
The O’s control his contract through ’20. All reports this Spring have been positive about transition to 3rd. It’s a good bet that next Spring he is asked to move back to SS.
If he matches his overall 2017 numbers, he’ll look like another piece of the puzzle for these next few years. It would also look reasonable at that point to consider an extension.
- A Proper Send-Off For Jones
Jones is Free Agent after this ’18 season, and turns 33 in August. He’s been an Oriole since 2008.
It’s possible that the O’s and Jones could come together on an agreement which keeps Jones in Baltimore for the remainder of his playing career.
Right now the expectation should be that Jones is about to embark on his last year in an O’s uniform. The 5x All-Star, and 4x Gold Glove player has had a strong career.
I think he has to be best remembered here for committing to the O’s and Baltimore with the extension he signed during the 2012 season; and for being the leader of the Birds for years.
No player is perfect, and Jones has always been more of consistently solid / very good vs. great; but his value to this organization has exceeded what he’s done between the lines.
One could point to his low career on-base %’s, and the metrics which for the most part shown Jones to be overrated as a defensive CF and nit-pick at his legacy as a player.
I think that misses the overall point about Jones though.
He’s been a steadying-influence for years. He loves playing the game, and he embodies the lunch-pail work-ethic this team has had since Showalter took over as Manager.
It’s possible that the wheels come off on this season, and things get ugly quick. If that happens, hopefully Jones will remove his No Trade Clause and approve a trade to a contender.
The O’s would owe him that in-my-opinion.
It’s also possible that the O’s hang around as a Wild Card contender. If that happens, I hope that if they look to augment the roster; they look for difference making talent.
I could also argue that if this is going to be the last year for Jones (and other members who can depart after ’18) – and you are trying to contend this year – that’s another reason to go and get deals done with Cobb, and Holland. Give this group the best chance you can.
Regardless, Jones has carved out a niche as one of the O’s All-Time greats. He should be recognized as such this year, and receive the love and adoration of an appreciative fan-base.