This has been a very up and down season for the Baltimore Orioles. They have played better than their record indicates but, as Bill Parcels used to say, you are what your record says you are and the Orioles record says they are a middle of the road, 500 baseball team. We can discuss whose fault that is, whether the off-season was the issue or whatever other reason(s) you want to discuss but, for the purposes of this post, I am looking past that and looking towards the future.
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The Orioles long term outlook is very murky. We have the makings of a very good infield with Schoop and Machado. Schoop has All-Star potential written all over him. His power and defense combo is very rare for the position and for a guy who turns just 24 in October, he has a lot of upside left to reach. Machado is already one of MLB’s top 10 players and top 10 may even be slighting him. He is currently 9th in fWAR. That number is down a bit with his recent slump. He was up to 5th. He is an elite defender and the bat is catching up with the defense. You also have Hardy signed for 2 more years. I think this contract has a potential to be a huge problem for us but for right now, if he continues to play that elite defense, he will be fine. It won’t be a great contract but it will be an okay one and he does provide that elite defense at an important position.
The O’s also seem to have a found a very solid catcher. Now, we need to see how Caleb Joseph will do over a full season as an everyday play but the early returns are good. Also, while he isn’t terribly young (he’s 29 already), he should be able to hold down the position for at least 2 or 3 more years unless Chance Sisco (we will get back to him later) can keep hitting at a high rate and his defense behind the plate improves.
Baltimore also, of course, has Adam Jones in CF. Jones, who isn’t a Free Agent until after 2018, has seemingly gotten better with age. The defense is better(likely do to positioning and just being smarter) and the hitting, while still frustrating at times, has been consistent and we essentially know what we are going to get from him. That is a very good start for a baseball team. You have a lot of up the middle ability and a potentially all time great at third base.
When looking at the rest of the team, a few things stick out to me. First of all, is the importance of Kevin Gausman. Now, I am in agreement with anyone who still has questions about this kid. However, he is growing as a pitcher and the questions are dwindling. I am in agreement that he needs to improve either his slider or his curve to take his game to that next level; but I think he will as long as the Orioles stop jerking him around. I am finally confident that they are done doing that. Will he be an ace? Will he be a top of the rotation starter? Will he be a middle to back end guy? That, i am not sure about yet. A lot of that will have to do with what he does with his secondary pitches. Either way, whatever he becomes, he will be valuable at the salary he will be making. It is just a matter of how valuable will he be?
The second thing that jumps out to me are some of the bullpen pieces. First of all, Britton has become an elite level closer. The peripherals are much stronger than last year. He really only gets beat because teams get lucky hits, as has been seen recently. While he will get expensive, starting in 2016, if he remains at this current level of production, the cost won’t be that big of a deal. Also, we have seen what Mychal Givens could potentially give us. He has an insane 9:1 K to BB ratio early in his career. He has shown he can go multiple innings, has great stuff and a very deceptive windup. We also have a big arm like Michael Wright to turn to. A guy who can bring it in the high 90s and a guy who a lot of scouts have thought has a lot of upside as a back end BP arm. The Orioles have spent picks over the last few years on starting pitchers who profile more as relievers and hopefully they will continue to develop those guys and turn them into good relief pitchers. The O’s have spent entirely too much on middling, just okay relievers over the years and that needs to stop. They need to put money into other areas.
But, once you get past that, what does this team/organization have going for it? We entered this season, cautiously optimistic about Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, two of the elite pitching prospects in the sport, when they are healthy. Well, Bundy could possibly never pitch again and while we heard good news about Harvey today(he threw off the mound and will pitch in the Arizona Fall League), we still don’t know what to expect from him, not to mention he will be on an innings limit and won’t really be a factor in Baltimore for at least two more years.
We have seen Jomar Reyes have some injuries but show a lot of promise, at a very young age, in Delmarva. He is perhaps our best prospect due to that age and what he has shown this year but he is also a wild card because of how far away he is. I mentioned Sisco earlier. He was promoted to Bowie recently and has an OPS over 950 there in limited time. While I wouldn’t expect that to continue, he has always had the hit tool. The question has been can he stay behind the plate and if not, where does he go? Cisco has a chance to be a factor in Baltimore as early as some time next season because of this recent promotion. Adding another young legit bat would be huge for this team. Trey Mancini is having a monster year in AA, playing in a traditionally pitcher’s league. He was a college kid who is a little old for AA but he is doing what he needs to do. Will he be a factor? The O’s have another first base prospect in Christian Walker who started off slow in AAA but has gotten better. Some think he can be Lyle Overbay. A gap to gap hitting first baseman with a solid BA/OBP slash line but one where the slugging won’t be great. I am okay with that at a cheap salary but once he gets expensive (ie, hits those arbitration years), he would need to be re-evaluated.
The Orioles 2015 first round pick, DJ Stewart, has shown some okay promise in some of his stats but overall, his initial foray into professional baseball has been a disappointment. You would expect better production from a college player playing at Aberdeen. That being said, it is a small sample size and I don’t want to be too hard on him yet. But he is very important for this organization because no matter how much they want to sell us on Dariel Alvarez, the OF depth for the Orioles is horrendous. There are some interesting guys like Josh Hart but we have a while to go for them.
There are some intriguing names down in the system but most of them are either too far away or hurt for us to really be able to rely on them anytime soon.
We have discussed many times all of the players who are free agents after this season. The problem isn’t that guys could leave, its who do you replace them with? I think there is a chance we can get by if we lost O’Day. Yes, he is really good but I think the bullpen will remain strong without him. I also don’t think we will miss Wieters because of the earlier points made on Joseph and what his production has been like.
We also stand to lose role player type guys but they are always replaceable. Yes, they can pop and have a big year like Pearce did last year but generally speaking, they are replaceable pieces.
The pieces that could be tough to replace are Chen and Davis. We just don’t have the starting pitching, after what happened to Hunter and Bundy, in the system to replace the solid production Chen has given us. Davis, who is obviously incredibly up and down, is a big bat in an era where there is little power in the game. He is a great athlete and isn’t overly old at this point. But, he is also potentially looking at a major 9 figure deal for 6+ years and I am not sure you can do that. Now, I know what you are saying. We lost Cruz last year, didn’t replace him and look at what he is doing and what we are doing. That point is valid but its not the right point to me. The right point is, are the Orioles willing to make the moves it takes to replace that production? The Orioles get above average production from areas that many teams don’t, so if you have a lighter hitting first baseman, it is livable. However, you can’t have a light hitting first baseman, no corner OF talent and have 15-20% of your payroll tied up into Jimenez and Hardy performing at replacement level (or slightly above) production between the two of them. Something will have to give.
And then, you have to question who is making the decisions. We all know about the Duquette to Toronto stuff from this past off-season. Does that creep up again? If it doesn’t, is Duquette willing to make the right moves to get this organization more talent? Did he learn from his mistakes in 2015?
The core of this team is there. This is a core that you can win with. I don’t have any doubt about that. However, I think you have to add 2-3 more guys to that core(one of them could be bringing back Davis if you get the good Davis) and then supplement that core properly. Can this team do that? Can you do that with Peter Angelos as your owner?
Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570. Co-Host of The Warehouse: https://anchor.fm/the-warehouse Co-Host of Sports Tonight: https://anchor.fm/sports-tonight