There is a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the 2020 Orioles season. I get it, the team has been terrible the last two seasons (last year on purpose) and they have done very little this offseason to make you think 2020 will be different. However, I disagree with those who are already at the point where they don’t want to watch Orioles baseball before it has even started.
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There is no doubt that the 2020 Orioles are likely to struggle to win 65 games and even that may be out of reach. However, this year is different than last year in many ways. While I was hoping to see Mancini and Givens dealt this offseason, it appears they will start the 2020 season with the Orioles. If they can both have good first halves, their trade values should be pretty solid. For Givens, I think teams just need to see him back on track and for Mancini, I think teams just need to see him back up his 2019 season with another very good season. The prospect of them being solid assets come July is exciting for me.
Let’s face it though, the part of this season that is really exciting is the infusion of young players we should see as the season goes on. The bullpen is already going to be the strength of the team and that is helped out by younger players like Hunter Harvey, Dillon Tate and Tanner Scott. However, it doesn’t stop there. The OF has a lot of younger talent, all of whom could be pieces for this team down the road. Austin Hays, if he can make it through March healthy, will be the everyday CFer. He is a guy who has always had everyday player ability but hasn’t been able to stay healthy to put in enough time to prove it. He was a monster in a SSS at the end of last year and showed that he could handle CF. We will see, over a larger sample size, if that is going to remain the case but I think he stands a reasonable chance to be a guy who, at the very least, isn’t going to hurt you out there. Anthony Santander had a very solid season last year. He displayed good power and a decent hit tool at times. He now needs to work on his plate discipline and walk more. I don’t think he is a regular but he can be a valuable player and be a good platoon guy who can give you 300-400 good at bats in a season. DJ Stewart, who is recovering from ankle surgery, is another guy to keep an eye on. The plate discipline has always been there but he also started to show some power last year. Like Hays, injuries have been an issue and sustaining his play has been stalled at times. In the minors, Yusniel Diaz should force his way up here soon enough. Mike Elias has spoken glowingly about him this offseason and said he likely ends up in AAA last year if not for his leg injury. Of course, this seems to be a theme with Orioles OF prospects…injuries. Diaz has to stay healthy but if he does, he is a guy to watch. I am personally very down on Ryan McKenna because I don’t think he will ever hit enough to justify a ML spot but the defense is apparently legit and if he can show that he can give you at least a 700 OPS, he may be able to find his way onto a roster as a 4th or 5th OFer.
The IF isn’t as promising. We will hopefully see Mountcastle come up in mid to late April. The Orioles should save that extra year of service time and really, giving him some more time to improve his defense isn’t the worst thing. Mountcastle is, IMO, a younger version of Mancini but if he can be an 800+ OPS guy at his age and his salary, that makes him very valuable to any team. The rest of the IF doesn’t have much promise to it. Hanser Alberto will take over second base. Coupled with new SS, Jose Iglesias, they form one of the best defensive MI in baseball, at least according to OAA. Alberto also had an excellent 2019 with the bat, especially against lefties. We will see if he can come anywhere close to that output in 2020 but he should get several hundred at bats to prove it one way or another, assuming the defense stays good. Behind the plate, the Orioles have Chance Sisco and Pedro Severino. Severino is easily the best defensive catcher out of the 2 but Sisco does have solid offensive upside. He showed flashes at times last year. He probably won’t stick at C long term but if he can hit, you will find some place for him.
Pitching has obviously been the biggest issue for the team. The starters ERA has been closer to 6 than 5 and they can’t seem to find answers. Unlike years past, I think the upside is higher in 2020. While I don’t think Means duplicates what he did last year (he had shaky peripherals), I do think he can at least be a guy who keeps you in most games. Alex Cobb, if he can ever stay healthy, should be a decent starter for the O’s. While I wouldn’t expect great numbers, a sub 4.5 ERA and getting into the 6th or 7th inning on most nights should happen. I suspect the Orioles will sign another vet starter, like Andrew Cashner, to be that other guy who should eat some innings. After that, you have the intriguing rule 5 pick in Brandon Bailey, a pitcher from Houston that Elias knows well. There is also young talent that can be up here on Opening Day or soon after. Guys like Keegin Akin, Dean Kremer, Bruce Zimmerman, Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann, and Alex Wells could provide the Orioles and their fans some long term excitement for the future. Even a guy like Kohl Stewart seems to be better depth than we saw last year. These aren’t guys projected as front-of-the-rotation types. Some of the aforementioned are viewed as fringe. But they’ve done enough in the Minors to believe there is some upside. There should be opportunities for them to arrive, and then we will see who takes advantage.
And for me, that is the key to 2020 and why I look more forward to it than most. They should have talent ready to come up, as opposed to cannon fodder. Sure, it’s possible none of these guys amount to anything but there is a chance and they give you reason to watch. Whether you hate tanking or want them to spend more money or whatever, this team is going NOWHERE anytime soon unless the existing talent within the organization provides you good value. Without that, the team is going nowhere. That would be the case if you spend 50M or 130M. 2019 didn’t allow us to see much of these types of guys. They just weren’t ready yet. 2020 should be different. Combine them with watching Adley Rutschman grow, along with the other top prospects like DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez and there is a lot to be excited about in 2020.
Pitchers and catchers reported today. This is always an exciting day to be a baseball fan. For O’s fans, the word excitement hasn’t been used that much the last few years. I think this year will be different, even if the win/loss column doesn’t reflect it.
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