The 2019 Baltimore Orioles might as well have the team motto of “we aren’t trying to win”. To many, including myself, that’s okay. I believe Elias and his group could have done more to make the team more competitive but overall, I am okay with where things are for the organization as of right now. However, even in poor seasons, there will always be some silver linings and potential things for the organization to build on. The minors are producing some excellent results, both individually and team wise but I am not going to discuss that in this article. I am going to be concentrating on the major league roster and looking at some of the players who could be part of this team for the next several years. Many of these players are early in their respective careers and there is a lot of small sample size going on but still, there are encouraging signs for some players.

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Trey Mancini is having a very nice offensive season. His OPS is currently 880, which is well above his career best, set a few years ago. His walk rate is the highest of his career. His K rate is the lowest of his career. His ISO is at .245, which is .71 higher than last year. His wRC+ is 128, which is in the top 20 in the AL. His wOBA is also top 20 in the AL. He is 21st in BA and 30th in OBP. He is 8th in the AL in slugging and 15th in homers. Safe to say, he is having a top 20 offensive season in the AL this year. Considering the poor year, he had at the plate last year, he has really solidified himself as one of the better all-around hitters in the AL this season. He has made himself a great trade asset or he has shown the team that he has a chance to be a potential core piece moving forward.

Renato Nunez was a highly regarded Int’L FA. The A’s gave him over 2 million dollars but he never quite lived up to the hype. With the Orioles now, he is getting a chance to play almost every day and now, the team seems committed to giving him a chance to earn his third base job back. Scouts are mixed on Nunez defensively at third but UZR and UZR/150 liked him at third last year, albeit in only 540 innings. At the very least, he has earned the chance to win that job. He dealt with an arm injury earlier this year and it prevented him from being at third but now, he appears to be healed and is ready to take that job from Rio Ruiz who, while decent with the glove, fails to carry much value overall. The reason the Orioles want Nunez to be at third (and succeed obviously) is because of the power bat he brings to the lineup. Nunez is currently 7th in the AL in homers, 21st in slugging and 9th in ISO. He is also in the top 35 in wOBA and wRC+. He is also 36th in doubles and considering he has 30-75 less at bats compared to many of the hitters in front of him, his numbers are pretty good comparatively speaking. If he is able to play an adequate third base, he will start living up to the hype that caused the A’s to shell out 2+M for a 16 y/o. Also, his BB rate is rising and he has a decent split between his BA and OBP. If he can improve his contact rate more and get that BA up into the 260-270 range, he could be become a very good asset and core piece.

Anthony Santander was a Rule 5 pick who came here with the reputation of having a good bat and a poor glove. He had a shoulder injury before the O’s got him and spent a lot of time on the DL in his first season in Baltimore. Last year, the O’s had to hide him for the beginning part of the season because of the amount of time he needed to accrue on the Major League roster before he would have had to have been offered back to Cleveland. While holding him here, Santander was one of the worst players in the league. His sub 550 OPS and mediocre defense wasn’t exactly the stuff stars are made of. However, he went to the Minors and was called up earlier this year. So far, it appears that whatever work he put in has paid off. He is batting just under 300 and has an OPS of 833. He has 14 extra base hits in 164 plate appearances. That is a pace of 51 extra base hits over the course of a 600 PA season. That make him a mid 20s homer and doubles guy. In a small sample size of defense in RF, UZR and UZR/150 like his defense but those same stats hate his defense in LF. Bottom line is he would be on this team for his bat and if he can continue to be a power bat that brings a good BA/OBP to the table, he can be a solid role player and perhaps starting DH for this team. Chances are he would be more of a 350-450 at bat platoon guy but for someone who isn’t making much money, he would provide very good value for that. All contending teams have cheap role players that they can lean on to play 3-4 times a week and, if they have injuries, step in and play every day for a few weeks. SanTanDare could be a player like that for the Os.

In June, the Orioles drafted Adley Rutschman with the #1 pick. When that happened, it seemed to start a clock for Chance Sisco and that clock was either going to be set to trade or a change of position. As of now, he remains at C and has turned himself around. After a very disappointing 2018 and a bad start to this year, Sisco rebounded in AAA and has not stopped since he came to Baltimore. With an OPS of 885, an OBP over 360 and a slugging over 500, Sisco is looking like one of the better offensive catchers in baseball. Of course, it is a small sample size of plate appearances at this level thus far but he has almost always been a player that had a good bat. He is showing more power this year than he has shown, which is a good sign and perhaps one that says if you move him to another position, his bat could play there as well. His defense remains a question mark behind the plate but as long as he continues to hit, he will be an asset up here, whether as a Baltimore Oriole or as a piece in a trade.

John Means has gone from not being a Top 30 prospect in our system to being an All-Star. His ERA is Top 10 in the AL amongst starters with 80 or more IP. He is missing bats although his K rate is just okay. His BB rate and his K/BB ratio are very good. His HR rate is high, much like seemingly every pitcher in MLB this year. Some of the peripheral stats say he has been lucky (see his 4.37 FIP and 5.35 xFIP) and I am not convinced he is anything more than a mid-rotation guy and probably not quite that but if he can give you 140-160 innings of 4.50 ERA baseball, that is pretty valuable, especially at 500K a year. It will be interesting to see how he ends the year as teams start to see him multiple times.

An under the radar pickup for the pen this year was Shawn Armstrong. Armstrong was a guy I had wanted the O’s to trade for several years back. He had good minor league stats and looked to be a guy that could be a solid ML arm. He hasn’t shown that yet in his career but he is showing some signs here in Baltimore. His ERA is only 4.15 as an Oriole but most of that damage was done in two outings, where he gave up 7 runs in 3 innings. He has a 2.70 ERA in his other outings. His K rate is 11.28 as an Oriole. He misses bats at a rate of well over 20% (using swingstr% on BR) but he has to throw more strikes. His BB rate is close to 5 as an Oriole. He has also given up 4 homers but I am less concerned about that as I am the walk rate. He has only given up 21 hits and it’s not like he has a stellar defense behind him either. He has the chance, if he can throw more strikes and get his walk rate closer to 3, to be a very solid reliever IMO. He won’t make much money for a while, so to be able to have him cheap and providing good production out of the pen would be huge for this team. With Givens likely gone before the deadline passes next week, Armstrong could be given more high leverage situations. It will be interesting to see how he handles those and if he can be part of the bullpen going forward.

In a season like this, the silver linings will be few and far between but if the Orioles are able to come away from this season with some solid long-term pieces, it will make you feel better about where the team is going forward and perhaps, they can be building blocks to get us into contention quicker than most anticipate.

Rob Shields
Rob Shields

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

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