Our currently projected 26 Man Opening Day Roster is:
Catcher (2): Pedro Severino, and Chance Sisco
First Base (1): Trey Mancini
Second Base (1): Yolmer Sanchez
Shortstop (1): Freddy Galvis
Third Base (2): Maikel Franco, Rio Ruiz
Outfield / DH (4): Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, Ryan Mountcastle
Utility (2): Pat Valaika, Ramon Urias
Starting Pitchers (5): John Means, Dean Kremer, Matt Harvey, Jorge Lopez, Bruce Zimmermann
Bullpen (8): Tanner Scott, Dillon Tate, Shawn Armstrong, Paul Fry, Cesar Valdez, Travis Lakins, Cole Sulser, Tyler Wells
Quite possible Orioles GM Mike Elias, and Manager Brandon Hyde feel differently; and the Opening Day roster ends up with a name or two different from what is shown above. We’ll see in a couple of days.
Based on the roster projection above, here are my expectations by position.
EDIT March 27th: The Orioles have traded for P Adam Plutko, and DFA’d Sanchez.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Catcher – Obviously Severino and Sisco are keeping the spot warm, until Adley Rutschman ascends to the Majors. My expectation remains that it would be very surprising if Rutschman is not the Orioles starting catcher by May ’22. It shouldn’t shock anyone if Rutschman actually joins the O’s in late in ’21, but obviously there are multiple things at-play there (his play in the Minors, and service time games). As is, the Orioles have two useful catchers in Severino and Sisco. Expectation wise, you have to expect that Severino and Sisco will truly share the position. Hyde figures to keep both fresh, and ride the hot hand. Even when including his time in the Minors, the most games Severino has every played in a season was his 96 games with the Orioles in ’19. In 465 ab’s as an Oriole, Severino has 18 homers, and 18 doubles. He had a .249 batting average, and .321 on-base % in ’19, and a .250 batting average, and .322 on-base % in ’20. He’s not devoid of ability defensively, but his play behind the plate can be sloppy at times. Sisco carried a .741 OPS last year, despite his .214 batting average. When he’s going well, you’d like to see him and his ability to get on-base near the top of the order. In 1,931 career Minor League ab’s, he had a cumulative .305 batting average. In 443 Major League ab’s, he has a a cumulative .205 batting average. I would anticipate his average ticking up this season, but also don’t expect him to become the de facto starter because of his limitations as a catcher. Every Oriole fan is rightly looking forward to the Rutschman era, but the O’s do have an existing useful duo. The pitch framing marks for both are poor, and depending on how much stock you put in those numbers; that will impact your thinking in what the O’s have with the duo. My opinion is that they have enough offensive ability, that the position is not a complete blackhole.
First Base – Mancini is healthy, so the expectation should be that he will be productive. In ’19, Mancini posted a 3.7 fWAR, and that was with him being graded harshly for his 718.2 innings in RF. If he’s just average defensively at 1st, he will be looked at as better overall. In ’19, Mancini had a .373 wOBA, which would have tied him for 6th overall among 1st baseman in ’20. His career .346 wOBA would have been good for 11th overall among 1st baseman. The Orioles may well trade him, but if Mancini spends the entire ’21 season in Baltimore; the expectation should be the Orioles will have an upper 1/3rd 1st baseman. Looking at the projection systems, they are calling on him to play 127-131 games. Obviously him missing all of ’20 is having impact there. The more likely scenario in my opinion is that he plays 150+ games.
Second Base – Over ’17-’19, Sanchez averaged 148 games per year with the White Sox. The former Gold Glover has always graded well by the defensive metrics (UZR / 150, DRS) available to the public at 2nd Base. Orioles Asst. GM Sig Mejdal has told us previously that we can ignore those metrics, as they aren’t a great barometer. Presumably whatever the Orioles are using internally, also points to Sanchez being a capable fielder at 2nd. Offensively, what stands out to me looking at Sanchez’s ’17-’19 seasons, is that his slugging % collapsed in ’19. He went from a .732 OPS in ’17, to a .638 OPS in ’19, and the drop was all slugging (.413 to .321). If he’s really good defensively, and he’s not an automatic out at the plate; he might keep Jahmai Jones waiting at Norfolk. Reasonably, I think we can expect if Jones is productive at AAA, he’s going to replace Sanchez at some point during this ’21 season.
Shortstop – Nobody is going to be overly excited by Freddy Galvis, but the 31 year old is going to acquit himself just fine. He’s going to make the routine plays at SS, and his track-record shows he’s likely to stay in the lineup. Offensively he’s going to post a poor on-base %, and couple that with some slugging ability. He’s not a long-term answer, but he’s absolutely fine for this ’21 season.
Third Base – Franco and Ruiz aren’t going to be a traditional platoon, as their career splits don’t justify that. Maybe Ruiz moves around some, and is available for depth should Franco be lost to injury. By all accounts Franco is capable defensively at 3rd. Ruiz struggled defensively throwing wise late last year, but I think his shoulder injury was impacting him there. Ruiz is not Machado at the hot corner, but a healthy Ruiz is a quality defensive 3rd baseman. After averaging 153 games played over ’16 and ’17, Franco averaged 127 games over ’18, and ’19. He did play all 60 games for Kansas City last year. Franco had a .780 OPS in ’18, .705 in ’19, and a .778 mark in ’20. Which Franco do you get in ’21? Like Sanchez and Galvis; he’s not a long-term answer. Like Sanchez and Galvis, Franco can absolutely be serviceable this year.
OF / DH –
Austin Hays – I completely buy into the ability, but he has to show he can stay in the lineup over the course of a season. Myself, I prefer the idea of Hays as the everyday CF, vs. having him on the corners. But as the team is comprised to start the year (with Stewart likely heading to the DL); I’m anticipating Hays beginning the year in LF (with maybe the incorrect belief that the Orioles like Santander better in RF than in LF). If Hays stays healthy, I have no doubt he’ll be productive. He’s a quality OF at any of the three positions. If you look at the projection systems, they all generally like him. They also see him being limited to 113-121 games. In ’17, Hays played 148 combined games at Frederick, Bowie, and with the Orioles. In ’18, he played in just 75 games. In ’19, 87 games. In ’20, just 33 of the 60 games. If you get him in the lineup for 150+ games in ’21, I think he’ll be regarded as one of the better young OF’s in the American League. If he’s limited to 115 games or less, the feeling will be talent be damned – he’s not dependable.
Cedric Mullins – While I feel better about Hays’ chances to be a long-term answer in CF, I am going into this ’21 season excited to see more of Mullins. Hyde is absolutely right, when he said Mullins deserved Gold Glove consideration last year. He really made a difference with his ability to mind the gaps. Also, we had long heard that his arm was a liability, but it seemed adequate enough last year. Mullins giving up switch-hitting makes him more interesting to me. ’19 was a disaster for Mullins as he was handed the ML job, and struggled over 64 ab’s. For me, I was less concerned over him struggling over 64 ab’s, and more concerned that the struggles continued once sent to the Minors. I think Mullins deserves a lot of credit for putting ’19 in the rearview, making adjustments, and taking advantage of another opportunity in ’20. Even with a plus glove, his offensive output in ’20 was more 4th OF vs. everyday starter. Can he build on that? Is there further output there? Does giving up hitting from the right-side help him reach another gear?
Anthony Santander – Santander is coming off a year where he slashed .261 / .315 / .575, and was a Gold Glove finalist in RF. He’s also just 26 all of ’21, and he’s also under team control through ’24. He can absolutely be a part of the Orioles core going forward. In the same light, it’s 100% fair to point out he slashed the above in just 37 games in ’20, and it completely remains to be seen in what exactly do the Orioles have here? His ISO was .314 last year. Can he do that over the course of a full season? Only two RF’s had a higher ISO over the full ’19 season. Is he an ancillary piece the Orioles may consider moving this year? Is he on the verge of stardom? Somewhere in-between?
Ryan Mountcastle – Mountcastle enters ’21, as one of the likely candidates to become the American League Rookie of the Year. If he were to get that hardware, he’d be the O’s first winner since Gregg Olson in ’89. If Stewart was healthy right now, I’d have Stewart at DH, Mountcastle in LF, and Hays in CF. With Stewart on the DL, I’m anticipating Hays in LF, Mullins in CF, and Mountcastle at DH. Either way, I’m expecting Yusniel Diaz to take over LF sooner than later this year. But no matter how things break with Hays, Mullins, Diaz, Stewart, Mancini (traded or not); what won’t change is that Mountcastle is going to find his way into the Orioles lineup every night. With this being his first full year in the bigs, and with the plate discipline questions he had in the Minors; I’m sure there will be struggles at times this year. That should be expected. Overall though, he’s going to hit. Really like his willingness to go to right. Really love his ability to do so with power. Get him some starts in LF. Get him some starts at 1st. But mainly just pencil him in as your DH, and let him rake.
Utility – Valaika is an ideal UTI type. Yeah, he’s a below average SS, but he can play there in a pinch. Nice and versatile, and he has pop. No particular insight on Urias. Orioles seem to like him well enough among their UTI options. If it’s not him, maybe they go with Wilkerson? I’d think the Orioles would like to play Martin everyday at AAA. If it’s Urias, he had some production in the Mexican League in ’17, and in AAA with the St. Louis’ organization in ’19.
John Means – The Orioles Opening Day starter turns 28 on April 24th. Over these last two years, he’s made 37 starts. In ’20, his K% went up, and his BB% went down. His velocity also went up (not just with his fastball). His changeup is excellent. As ’21 begins, there is some thought he could be a legitimate front-end starter. If he doesn’t reach those heights, I think the minimal expectations are that he would look like a solid starter in any teams’ rotation. BSL’s Gary Armida suggested the other day he’s a possible trade candidate, and it’s hard to disagree with the logic – but I don’t think he has to be moved. If you think like I do that the ’22 Orioles can be competitive, and the ’23 Orioles can be legitimately good; then you could look at Means being a piece going forward (he’s under team control through ’24). That said, he’s that much older than the coming core, and if he has a big first half; it would be interesting to see what other teams would offer. Beyond thinking about potential trades, I’m just interested to see if there is higher ceiling there.
Dean Kremer – Kremer is an example of why I don’t think the ’21 Orioles are going to be a dumpster fire. They aren’t good enough to be good. They aren’t good enough to finish .500. But they’ve got enough pieces where they won’t completely roll over for teams, and Kremer is an example of that. There is real pitchability there. Question in my head right now, is he ready to stand up for 30 starts and 160+ innings? Kremer is probably getting the second start of the year. Do I expect him to pitch like a league average second starter? No. I do think he is going to end this year looking like a legitimate ML starter though. He seems like a cerebral guy. Look to see what adjustments he makes start-to-start, month-to-month. Way too many walks in his brief four starts with the O’s last Summer. If he’s going to be productive, obviously that has to change.
Matt Harvey – The Orioles took a flyer on Harvey, and Harvey earned his way onto the O’s Opening Day roster. Harvey turns 32 tomorrow. Since the signings of Harvey and Hernandez; Harvey has been the one that intrigued me more. Mainly because Harvey still throws hard. Nobody is expecting 2015 Matt Harvey. ’19 with the Angels was rough. ’20 with the Royals was rougher. What’s the chance he can find the form he had with the Reds in ’18? (7–7 with a 4.50 ERA in 24 starts, and 111 strikeouts in 128 innings.) You can delve deeper into those ’18 numbers and not be overly excited, but if he can approximate that, that can help. If he implodes, and it looks like ’19 and ’20 again; no harm, no foul.
Jorge Lopez – Lopez was once a pretty well regarded prospect. A 2nd round selection of the Brewers in 2011, he appeared in the All-Star Futures Game in 2014. I don’t see him lasting very long in the Orioles ’21 rotation, but he could stick in the ‘pen. He throws hard (94.4 average 4 seam FB velocity), and had 123.2 innings with the Royals in ’19.
Zimmermann – The Ellicott City native is in great position to make the roster after a strong Spring Training. With Akin being sent down, he figures to be part of the rotation. When Oriole fans talk about the Kremer, Akin, Baumann, Lowther, Kevin Smith, and Alex Wells group / tier of guys that Zimmermann is a part of; Zimmermann tends to be forgotten about a bit. Zimmermann had a quality ’19 splitting time between AA and AAA. When he got the Majors last Summer, his stuff was a bit better than I anticipated. Look it was 7 innings, and there isn’t anything that should be really read into that. I’m just saying stuff wise, he was further ahead than I expected. He might be passed in the near-future in-terms of starting potential with the Birds, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help the roster.
EDIT: I had Keegan Akin in my projected rotation, but the Orioles have sent him down tonight. Akin had 35 k’s in his 25.2 innings with the Birds last Summer. His BB% in the Majors in ’20, was also lower than his rates at AAA in ’19, and AA in ’18. I haven’t fully bought into Akin being a piece, but I’m fully bought into the idea that he could be. In my opinion, there is nothing left for him to prove in the Minors, and I’d like to be handing him the ball every five days, and giving him the chance to show he belongs. If he goes down to the Minors for a couple of starts to find himself and get right, I guess that’s fine.
Armstrong, Fry, Valdez, Lakins, Sulser – These are mainly a group of JAG’s (Just A Guys), but there is actually some to like with each. Armstrong in particular has some legitimate ability. Valdez has the deadfish change. Sulser put up big k numbers in Minors, and was battling foot issues when we saw him last year.
Tate – Tate turns 27 May 1st, and between his age, and no longer being a starting prospect; the shine is off him a bit. But as I think about this ’21 season, watching Tate is one of things I’m looking forward to watching. I think he’s found himself a bit as a reliever, and I’m interested to see how he progresses. His stuff certainly plays in the ‘pen. It will be fun to see how Hyde uses him, and the comfort level Hyde shows in utilizing Tate in higher leverage situations. Can Tate give you 60 appearances and 75-80 innings?
Scott – Scott has steadily improved during his time with the Orioles. He’s got the wipeout ability, and his BB% dropped from 15.6% in ’19 to 11.6% in ’20. He held LHH to a .571 OPS, and a .154 BAA, and he held RHH to a .458 OPS, and a .176 BAA. He’s under contract through ’24. The question for ’21, is just how good is he?
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.