Facebook

Bird Feed

Who (Else) Could be on the Move for the Birds?

Mychal Givens on the mound looking in.

A Quantitative Analysis of the Birds Before the Trade Deadline

We’re now past the halfway point of the 2019 MLB Season and trade rumors are already swirling. I don’t expect Mike Elias to be as active as Dan Duquette was at this time last year, but I do expect two or maybe even three Orioles to be dealt. I’ll take a look at eight potential trade candidates and show where they rank in advanced statistics. Front Offices value the advanced data much more in the modern day, along with contract controllability.

 

Mychal Givens

Mychal Givens is the strangest of cases among Oriole trade candidates. He’s having a career-high strikeout year (so is the rest of the MLB, it seems), but has had several disastrous outings that have ballooned his ERA. But looking at the graphic, Givens is ranking above the 50th percentile in eight advanced statistical categories. Most notably, Givens ranks in 94th percentile in K%, 82nd percentile in xBA (expected Batting Average), and 76th percentile in Fastball spin rate. This should suggest to a rival GM that Givens will improve.

Where Givens has suffered this season, is when he’s made mistakes with locating pitches. His command hasn’t been where it typically should be. This is evident but looking at a deeper dive into the numbers, Givens ranks in the bottom 6% in the league in Barrel % (barrels are measured in exit velocity combined with launch angle). Last year, Givens had just a 3.9% barrel rate, which ranked him in the top 8% in the league. If Givens can locate, he would almost assuredly have much better success.

One major pro for Givens is his contract status. He is under team control until 2021, meaning a team could be champing at the bit knowing he would help them for another two+ seasons. I’m higher on Givens than most Oriole fans for the simple fact that much of his peripheral stats are favorable and his control makes him attractive to teams, when he hasn’t even hit his age 30 season yet. The most comparable trade would be one that occurred just last year when the Indians agreed to part with Francisco Mejia for relievers Adam Cimber and Brad Hand. Now, I’m not saying Givens would command a prospect of the ilk of Mejia, probably not anything close, but it’s a trade we can look to where high-end relievers were valued for their controllability.

 

Trey Mancini

Trey is clearly having his breakout year as an Oriole. Although he’s slowed down of late, he still ranks around the 80th percentile in xBA, xwOBA (Expected Weighted On-Base Average), and xSLG (Expected Slugging Percentage). His ISO power ranks 57th in league, which isn’t great, but is a career high for him. Mancini’s defensive peripherals aren’t favorable, but he does have some versatility. I don’t think there’s much defensive value there, but rival evaluators may feel comfortable enough to stick him in the outfield.

Like Givens, Mancini’s greatest value is in his control. Compared to Givens, Mancini even has an extra year of control through 2022. All things considered, Mancini should warrant a Top 100 Prospect in return. Mancini is likely entering his prime now at age 27, and for three more years of control, I’d imagine his value will never be higher.

On the flip side, the Orioles could choose to extend Mancini, but you run the risk of not being competitive until Mancini is on the wrong side of 30.

 

Dylan Bundy

For someone who doesn’t throw very hard, Dylan Bundy has elite level spin rate on his fastball. Bundy ranks in the 88th percentile, better than pitchers like Walker Buehler and Lance Lynn who are both having exceptional statistical seasons. For as many home runs as Bundy allows, he doesn’t rank low in hard hit rate and hitters are barreling him up at a fairly average rate. So as you can see, he is as perplexing as Givens. His recent injury might sail his hope of being traded at the July 31st deadline, but a club may take a flier knowing he would be under control for another two years.

Bundy is someone I’d be curious seeing working in the pen exclusively. Through the first two times through the order, Bundy is allowing a .248 average. The third time through the order, Bundy is allowing a .306 average with a .906 OPS. This is pretty telling that he loses gas rather quickly and might be best served in a two inning role or so.

 

Andrew Cashner

(ed note: Matt submitted this blog on Saturday, before the Cashner trade was reported.)

Andrew Cashner has been a consistent, reliable starter for the Orioles…a ‘horse’ if you will. Teams are always looking for that kind of guy on the trade market. His advanced stats all reflect poorly. Cashner is also a drastic pitch-to-contact pitcher, relying on ground balls for success. The biggest difference this year is his WHIP. The 1.19 WHIP mark is his lowest since 2014 and he’s pace to walk the fewest number of batters since that 2014 season. Yes, he’s a free agent at the end of the season, but he’s relatively cheap. I could see a team like the Red Sox (ed. note – good call!) picking up Cashner as a player who won’t command a massive prospect package in return. In fact, the Red Sox minor league system is fairly barren, so they won’t have much to offer if they seek Matthew Boyd or someone else of a higher caliber.

I do expect Cashner to be traded even with his threat of retirement if he were to be traded. The Orioles should approach a trade with Cashner as the Phillies did when they dealt Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon was on the downside of his career, but the Nationals had a big need to shore up their bullpen. The Nats parted with a relatively unknown prospect by the name of Nick Pivetta, who is now a part of the Phillies rotation. I’m sure Sig Mejdal and company can do some advanced work on a prospect yet to be seen as upper echelon, but who has the chance to develop based on their analytical performance.

 

Jonathan Villar

The thought in the back of the head of Dan Duquette when he acquired Jonathan Villar as part of the Jonathan Schoop trade had to be that he could flip Villar at some point. After all, Villar still has team control through next year. As you can see by his advanced stats, Villar’s only elite number is his sprint speed, in which he ranks in the 72nd percentile. The trade value comes from Villar’s speed. He does possess a little bit of pop, but is inconsistent offensively and can never seem to put together two good halves of a season.

He has defensive versatility in the infield and could be a pinch runner late in games if necessary. I think Villar has much more value than a Terrance Gore or even a Quintin Berry, but those types of players are invaluable come playoff time. Villar also makes his fair share of gaffes on the basepaths, which may give other GMs pause, but at the end of the day, I feel pretty certain that Villar gets traded at the deadline.

 

Pedro Severino

Pedro Severino arguably had All-Star caliber numbers in the 1st half, partly because AL catcher isn’t strong and partly because he appears to be coming into his own offensively. He’s increased his OPS from last year by over .300 points and showing power. Severino’s xBA ranks in the 85th percentile and he has strong numbers in both xwOBA and xSLG.

Whether or not he gets dealt will likely rely on two things: Strong trade offers (the obvious one) and whether the Orioles think Chance Sisco can take over at catcher full time. Severino provides value to the young Orioles pitchers who are still in development. Sevy works well with them, and that could be a valuable part of the rebuild until Adley Rutschman is ready to take over. It’s eye-opening to see Severino’s framing is ranked poorly and pop time is fairly average. Jesus Sucre could fill that veteran catcher role easily, but the Orioles may have something in Severino and may choose to let him develop a track record before dealing him to maximize the return.

 

Hanser Alberto

If there ever was Orioles Magic, it exists in Hanser Alberto. He perhaps has been the luckiest hitter in all of Major League Baseball. His exit velocity ranks in the 2nd percentile and hard hit % ranks in the 1st percentile! You won’t see anyone still hitting over .300 in baseball with those marks. Alberto has almost 300 plate appearances, so it’s certainly a long fluke. Our own Aidan Griesser wrote that Alberto should be the leadoff hitter of the future, and every day Alberto somehow proves me wrong. He truly is a statistical anomaly, which is why I really believe his trade value will never be higher. Even if the O’s can flip him for a fringe prospect, I’d consider that a win. Or, maybe they choose to hold onto Alberto. There’s no reason to deal him for peanuts if he could somewhat stabilize the infield. I really don’t think there will be all that much interest, but Alberto was third in the AL Batting Crown just a week and half ago, so who knows.

I don’t think this trade deadline will be as compelling as last year’s, but it will be interesting to see how Mike Elias handles his first one as the guy in charge. The Orioles Farm System is certainly on the come-up and if Elias’ goal of increasing the level of talent throughout the organization is to come to fruition, this could be a great way to keep the momentum going.

[All statistics and graphics via BaseballSavant.com]

Read Full Article

2019 Orioles Now Shooting for 54.5 Wins

2019 Orioles

The writing was on the wall long ago. Every Orioles fan knew that 2019 was going to be a trying season as the club enters a long, arduous rebuild. But as the All-Star break comes and goes, Baltimore’s position in the standings is even bleaker than most expected.

Before accentuating the positives, let’s recap the bad.

At roughly the midway point of the year, the Orioles own a league-worst 27-62 record (.303 win percentage) and a -165 run differential.

The updated win total projection for Baltimore has been set at 54.5, down from 60.5 on Opening Day. And if the Orioles are going to reach 55 wins, they will need to significantly pick up the pace. If they maintain their current .303 win percentage, they won’t even hit 50 wins. To get to 55 wins, they will need a .384 win percentage over the final 73 games of the year.

Yes, everyone and their pet budgie expected the Orioles to be weak in 2019. But they weren’t supposed to be this much worse than the other weak teams.

No other team in baseball has fewer than 30 wins, and only one other squad has a run differential lower than 90 (Detroit at -157). That means Baltimore has played at least 67 runs worse than 28 other teams, including the likes of Miami and Kansas City.

When this team has lost, it has tended to lose big. According to this site, 28% of MLB games are decided by just one run. Yet, only 10 of Baltimore’s 62 losses (or 16.1%) have been by a single run.

Run prevention has been a slightly bigger issue than run creation. Baltimore is dead-last in the majors in runs allowed (6.07 RPG), while sitting fifth-worst in runs scored (4.20 RPG).

Now for the good news.

The Orioles showed some spunk heading into the All-Star break. They went 5-5 in their last ten, including a pair of 13-0 shutouts over a surging Cleveland team.

In a slightly bigger sample size of their last 13 games, they have lowered their runs-against average to just 4.85. That would be 15th in the majors for the season.

The lineup has showed some pop, with Trey Mancini slugging .468, Renato Nunez mashing 20 homers, and rookie Dwight Smith Jr. coming up clutch with 44 RBIs. If the pitching staff can get the runs – in particular home runs – under control, Baltimore should have a better second-half than first.

The Orioles are on pace to allow 309 home runs this year, which would set a new MLB record by 51 homers, leaving the 2016 Reds (258) in the dust.

 

2019 Orioles

Photo courtesy of Seat Geek

 

Playing in hitter-friendly Camden Yards, Oriole pitchers are usually near the bottom of the league in home runs allowed, but this year is out of control. Baltimore finished dead-last in 2018, as well, but at a (let’s call it) miniscule number of 234.

The more-aerodynamic ball that’s being used this year accounts for some of the increase, but certainly not all of it.

The team’s recent decrease in runs-against has, not coincidentally, coincided with allowing fewer home runs. Over their last nine games, the O’s surrendered only five homers. They have only given up multiple home runs in three of their last 13 games, which is pretty good for a team averaging 1.9 homers against per game.

Playing .384 baseball for the rest of the year is not a tall order. In 2014, 2015, and 2017, there wasn’t a single team in the majors that played worse than .384 for the full season. Unless the pitching staff, as a whole, continues to be historically bad, there is enough talent in the lineup to stay competitive. And regressing at least slightly closer to the mean seems likely for the Baltimore hurlers.

Read Full Article

Seven Predictions for the Second Half

Renato Nunez swings.

The All-Star break has come to an end and it’s time for real Major League Baseball games to start back up. With that said, I’d like to have a little fun with some bold – and some not so bold – predictions for the Baltimore Orioles for the remainder of the 2019 campaign.

I’m curious to see which of these you agree with and the ones that will cause you to question my intelligence as a writer. Both reactions will be welcomed. Let’s get started.

1. The Orioles will trade away five players later this month

I figured I’d tackle this one first since it will be the longest of the seven points I address, plus we are less than three weeks from the July 31 trade deadline. Remember when this was referred to as the non-waiver trade deadline, and teams could still pull off waiver trades in August? In case you didn’t see the news prior to the season, August trades are now a thing of the past and teams must complete all trades by the July 31 deadline.

This change could make things a tad more difficult for contenders if an important player gets injured in August and the team can’t do anything about it aside from promoting a minor leaguer earlier than the club wants to. So I think it’s possible we see contending clubs not only adding star players later this month, but also trading for depth.

The five players I’m predicting the Orioles trade away are infielder Jonathan Villar, outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., catcher Pedro Severino, and right-handed pitchers Andrew Cashner and Mychal Givens,

Villar has compiled 1.1 fWAR and is slashing .259/.326/.421 with 10 home runs and 17 steals so far this season. His bat, speed and ability to play both second base and shortstop could be seen as valuable to some clubs. With a year and a half until he hits free agency, now may be the time for the Orioles to pull the trigger on dealing him and ultimately receiving more in the Jonathan Schoop trade from last year.

Don’t expect much in return for Smith, as he’s been worth -0.4 fWAR and hitting .241/.295/.430 this season, but his 11 homers and streaky success could be intriguing to clubs looking for a low-risk, low-cost outfielder. This depends on how the O’s view him long-term, but I think it’s possible the emergence of Anthony Santander could push Smith out of the outfield mix. 

Severino may be the biggest surprise to you that I’ve included. Heck, I’m surprised that I’m including him. But I have to be bold somewhere, right? As mentioned before, contending clubs may be inclined to make deals at the deadline that they wouldn’t normally make due to the abolishment of August trades. Severino has been a huge surprise for the O’s, slashing .272/.339/.479 with nine longballs, solid defense and 0.8 fWAR. He may be turning a corner, or this could be a prolonged hot streak that the Orioles could sell high on. Teams may want reinforcements at catcher and the O’s may look to give Chance Sisco more starts behind the dish. I’m sure Severino has been a good mentor for Sisco, but the club has a polished veteran defensive catcher in Triple-A Norfolk with Jesus Sucre.

Cashner should be the least surprising of the bunch here. He’s in a contract year and has had a very good season for the Orioles. In 17 starts, he has a 3.83 ERA and 4.25 FIP with 1.8 fWAR. He has a 3.42 ERA and 3.62 FIP in his last 12 outings, as well as a 1.41 ERA and 2.55 FIP in his last five. Having this type of season pitching in a bat-heavy division and one of the more hitter-friendly parks in baseball is quite admirable, and the 32-year-old could be a solid fit in another club’s middle or back of the rotation. Once the likes of Marcus Stroman, Matthew Boyd and Madison Bumgarner are off the board (possibly Noah Syndergaard as well), I think teams will push heavily for Cashner.

Finally let’s talk about Givens. Yes, the 29-year-old is having the worst season of his career. He currently has a 4.76 ERA and 4.88 FIP over 34 innings this season, but his strikeout numbers are the best of his career with 12.97 strikeouts per nine innings. His previous highest strikeout rate was 11.57 in 2016. Prior to last season’s deadline, the Indians and Pirates were among teams interested in the right-hander. Teams could be calling about him again this season despite the down year. Two reasons why: The market is always busy for pitching help, and Givens has pitched much better as of late. Since May 31, Givens has a 2.61 ERA and 3.10 FIP while striking out 15.74 batters per nine innings. If he keeps this up prior to July 31, the Orioles could be receiving many calls on the reliever.

Earlier this month, I predicted potential landing spots for these players. You can view them here.

OK, the rest of these will be much shorter. I promise. Bear with me.

2. Stewart will return with a bang

During spring training, the Orioles optioned outfielder DJ Stewart to Triple-A Norfolk. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has made it clear that he wants prospects to have extended success at each level prior to promotion, and Stewart didn’t exactly have a good full season in Norfolk in 2018, slashing .235/.329/.387 with 12 homers in 116 games.

However, the former first-round pick turned it around this year in Norfolk, batting .318/.429/.591 with eight home runs in 44 games. Fans begged on social media for him to be recalled, and the Orioles did so on May 28. He would only play seven games with the big league club, though, as he landed on the injured list with a sprained ankle after colliding with infielder Hanser Alberto while tracking a fly ball in foul territory on June 5 in Texas.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Stewart has been transferred from Double-A Bowie to Norfolk as his major league rehab assignment continues. When his rehab reaches its conclusion, the Orioles will have to decide whether or not to add him back on the 25-man roster or option him to keep him in Norfolk. Santander has played well in Stewart’s absence and figures to stay with the Orioles going forward. Maybe this is where my earlier prediction of trading Smith comes into play.

I think they’ll find a spot on the roster and in the lineup for Stewart once he is healthy, and he’ll give the Orioles reason to trust their decision of promoting him in May. He has a job to fight for and keep, and I predict he’ll play like every at-bat is on the line.

3. A prospect in Norfolk will break into the big leagues

The Orioles have used endless amounts of players this season. The Norfolk shuttle has been gassed up and running all season long to keep the Orioles roster shuffling. Because of that, there will be multiple players making their way from Norfolk to Baltimore in the second half of the season. But I have one notable prospect in mind who I think fans will be intrigued to see at the big league level.

I know of one who you are thinking of, and that’s not who it is.

All right, it’s right-handed pitcher Hunter Harvey.

Hunter Harvey pitching.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Harvey started this season with Bowie, which would suggest that he won’t be an addition for the Orioles this season, given the club’s stance on not rushing prospects. However, earlier this month Orioles manager Brandon Hyde hinted, via Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com, at the possibility that Harvey or Bowie reliever Dillon Tate could join the club later this season.

“I think they are developing but there is a possibility that one or both of those guys could be up here if they continue to pitch well. I know Hunter is throwing the ball great and it seems like Dillon’s stuff has gotten better coming out of the ‘pen. They are still developing but there is a chance that one or both could be up here at some point.”

Since being moved to Bowie’s bullpen in mid-June, Harvey has yet to allow a run. Between Bowie and Norfolk he’s thrown 12 scoreless innings in relief, allowing two hits, five walks and punching out 13 batters. It’s a bold suggestion given the Orioles’ philosophy on developing prospects, but the O’s ‘pen needs help and I think Harvey could get his first cup of coffee in the majors this September.

4. Other notable prospects will have to wait

Sorry, Orioles fans. But my gut feeling is that we will not be seeing Ryan Mountcastle, Keegan Akin or Austin Hays with the Orioles this season. While I predicted the club to go against their plan with Harvey, I think they’ll stick to their plan with these three.

Mountcastle has been crushing the ball in Norfolk, slashing .307/.329/.505 with 15 home runs in 80 games so far this season. However, he has a 3.2-percent walk rate and 23-percent strikeout rate. I’m sure the O’s are pleased with his hitting ability, but I think they’d like to see at least one of the walk rate or strikeout rate start to trend into a better direction. Also, they are beginning to experiment with the 22-year old in left field as well as first and third base. He’s made 61 starts at first, nine at third and five in left field. As well as avoiding starting the service clock of one of their top prospects, I think they’d like to see him show progress to become at least serviceable at more than just first base.

Akin, 24, hasn’t moved levels midseason at all in his professional career. He has made 16 starts and one relief appearance this season, compiling a 4.44 ERA and 3.80 FIP with 10.68 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.80 walks per nine. The one relief appearance he made was an attempt from the organization to limit his innings and workload this season. If they are trying to limit his workload, that’s a sign to me that we’ll have to wait until 2020 for his big league debut.

Hays already made his big league debut in 2017, but it’s safe to say the former staff may have rushed him through the minors. He has battled numerous injuries and is just returned to Norfolk Thursday night, marking just his 11th game at the Triple-A level. I think the Orioles would rather him just try to finish the year healthy at Norfolk then return to the majors in 2020.

5. Nunez matches his jersey number in long balls

Designated hitter Renato Nunez may only be slashing .239/.304/.495 with 107 wRC+ this season, but he did mash 20 dingers in the first half.

He has been a streaky hitter at the plate, but I think he’ll make his presence known to the organization by swatting an extra 19 homers before the season is over, finishing with 39, the number on his jersey.

6. The Orioles will not finish with the worst record in Major League Baseball

The race for the 2020 No. 1 overall pick is currently led by the Orioles. But other teams are not far off:

— Baltimore Orioles, 27-62 (.303)

— Detroit Tigers, 28-57 (.329)

— Kansas City Royals, 30-61 (.330)

— Miami Marlins, 33-55 (.375)

It seems like they’re well ahead of everyone else – or below, whichever way you want to look at it – but the Orioles won’t be the only ones in sell mode this month. The Tigers, Royals and Marlins all have intriguing pieces that could be moved before the deadline, which could take a hit on their win-loss totals.

Call me crazy if you want, but I predict the Tigers will have the worst record in Major League Baseball, with the Orioles just above them in the win column. You heard it here first. The Orioles will have the No. 2 overall pick next year.

7. Means will be left on the bench again, except this time it won’t be done by Alex Cora

A lot of Orioles fans were left upset during the All-Star Game when American League manager left John Means in the bullpen for the entire game.

Did I want to see Means pitch in the game? Of course I did. Am I really that disappointed? Meh, it happens. Cora had to save a starting pitcher just in case the game went to extra innings, and Means was the one selected. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

I think this won’t be the last time Means will be waiting for a call that doesn’t come. I’m talking about the American League Rookie of the Year award.

Means has some tough competition this season for the award, with Rays’ Brandon Lowe, Red Sox’s Michael Chavis, White Sox’s Eloy Jimenez, Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Astros’ Yordan Alvarez, Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull and Mariners’ Daniel Vogelbach.

If Means continues to pitch the way he has in the first half for the rest of the season, he’ll make a strong case for the award. But let’s be honest, he loses the popularity contest and there is still a lot of season left. Lowe is very deserving if he keeps playing the way he has, Chavis has been mashing the ball for Boston, Jimenez is heating up, we’ll have to wait and see about Guerrero, Alvarez has been on fire since the Astros brought him up, Turnbull has been fun to watch on the bump for the Tigers and Vogelbach has tremendous power from the left side of the plate.

Means will be very deserving of the award, but I think lack of national attention and having a bunch of other intriguing rookies will send the southpaw to the backburner once again.

Read Full Article

O’s Should Acquire (and Flip) Hechavarria

Adeiny Hechavarria of the Mets.

Griesser’s Suggested Change of the Week

As I outlined recently, the 2019 Baltimore Orioles are not going to have a particularly active trade deadline. While the team is in no position to buy and likely would prefer to sell than stand pat, Mike Elias doesn’t have too many chips on hand. However, despite that unfortunate reality, it’s possible that the O’s could make moves to advance the rebuild.

I’ll explain how in this week’s Suggested Change of the Week.

If the Orioles want to move forward in acquiring prospects, there’s a cheekier route to doing so than simply shipping off important players like Trey Mancini. Instead, Elias can flip low-level prospects for players who could be traded in the offseason this winter, or at the deadline next July.

(Ed Note: A previous version of this article mentioned trading him in August. We forgot about the elimination of the second trade deadline this season. We apologize for the error.)

Coming out of the All Star break, I recommend that he do just that by trading for Mets infielder Adeiny Hechavarria.

Of course, making a deal to acquire the utility man would likely mean a quick departure for Jonathan Villar, but I fully expect Elias to ship Villar off for more players in the system before the deadline.

Hechavarria isn’t necessarily young, at 30 years of age, but he’s a strong defender with range and speed on the basepaths. With Villar out of the picture for the second half of the season, Hechavarria would solidify the middle of the infield nicely next to either Martin or Alberto.

With that in mind, Hechavarria would really provide his value much further down the road.

If you’ve followed the deadline at all over the last few years, you’d know that Hechavarria has been consistently dealt by the end of July. Given his speed and importance as a defensive replacement, he makes sense for contending teams.

That means that once the Orioles scoop him up, they have a decent chance of flipping him for prospects at a later time. To be clear, if Hechavarria weren’t traded by July 31, Elias would have to extend his contract, but with a very clear opening as a starter in Baltimore, I don’t think that’d be much of an issue. Either way, he won’t be much of a commitment, as he’s only costing the Mets $3 million this year.

Comparing Villar’s value as a .259 hitter with 10 home runs to Hechavarria’s as a .230 hitter with five dingers, it’s fair to say that the Mets infielder wouldn’t bring much in return.

At the same time, however, it’s also worth noting how little he may cost the Orioles. Let’s dig into that now.

Last year, the Yankees acquired Hechavarria from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash. Before he was in New York, the Rays traded Hechavarria to the Pirates for Matt Seelinger, a 24-year old Single-A arm who’s currently pitching to a 4.42 ERA out of the pen. Finally, in his trade to Tampa Bay at the 2017 deadline, Hechavarria was dealt from Miami in exchange for AA outfielder Braxton Lee and Ethan Clark, who now pitches in the pioneer league.

Now, I realize there are two sides of this coin. While the Orioles certainly could get Hechavarria on the cheap (likely for a low-level arm, for example), they would be unlikely to get much in return. Even still, as mentioned above, Hechavarria would help soften the blow of a Villar trade, and his defense may instill confidence in any young arms that come up while he’d be in Baltimore.

By no means would this be a particularly exciting move for Birdland, but it’s the type of low-risk, medium-reward deal that Elias could swing over the next few weeks.

And who knows, maybe Baltimore will be a nice fit for Hechavarria. In that case, we could see him play his way back into trade consideration for contending teams, resulting in a decent prospect making his way to the system in the future.

Read Full Article

John Means Was the Most Deserving O’s All-Star

John Means pitching.

While many O’s fans are still stinging that Trey Mancini was “snubbed” for the 2019 All-Star Game in favor of John Means, the fact is that Means had just as much of an argument for being included on the squad as did Trey.

A glance at the three main providers of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for fans tells the story. At FanGraphs, Means has racked up 1.9 fWAR to lead the team, compared to Mancini’s 1.6. Andrew Cashner even bests Mancini here, coming in at 1.8. At Baseball Reference, Mancini’s 0.8 bWAR isn’t even tops among hitters, as he comes in behind Jonathan Villar (1.0), Hanser Alberto, Chance Sisco, and Pedro Severino (all at 0.9). Means tops all O’s hurlers at 3.4 bWAR. Finally, over at Baseball Prospectus, Mancini’s 0.9 WARP comes in behind Villar (1.4) and Alberto (1.0), while Means is tied with Villar and leads all pitchers with 0.4 WARP.

Of course, there are plenty of arguments against WAR, and it’s not the end-all-be-all, but it’s a nice tool with which to compare players, and the fact that Mancini trails Means at all three key providers of the stat is telling.

John Means was the most deserving player to be the O’s representative at the All-Star Game, period.

Of course, it would have been nice if Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora had been able to find it in his heart to give Means at least one batter to face, but as O’s fans, we’re plenty used to our players getting snubbed in such fashion (#CitoSucks, forever and always). The Orioles and San Diego Padres were the only teams to not have a player appear in the game (not including the Blue Jays, whose representative, Marcus Stroman, was injured anyway). Did Aroldis Chapman REALLY have to face all three batters in the ninth? Why not let Means start the inning and get an out? He gave the Cleveland crowd what they wanted by allowing former Indian CC Sabathia to walk out onto the mound for a “visit” during the final frame…but no such bone was there to be tossed to O’s fans watching at home, I suppose.

Still, Means’ story is an incredible and inspiring one, and Cora being a jackass does nothing to take away from that fact.

The dude nearly quit baseball last year, as The Baltimore Sun’s Nathan Ruiz reported, and even went so far as to create a LinkedIn page for himself.

Who knows what Means would have been doing? Selling mortgages? Slinging used cars? Perhaps betting on college ball to try to make ends meet? Now he’s an All-Star and a legitimate Rookie of the Year Candidate (his 3.2 bWAR is tops among pitchers in MLB, and is second to just Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe in the AL).

Birdland can’t wait to see how Means follows up his storybook first half.

Read Full Article

Newfound Respect For Chris Davis

Chris Davis trots around the bases.

I’ve railed on the man some fans haver endearingly referred to as “Crush” (or “The Crusher” if you’re Mike Bordick) for years. After the Orioles made the mind-boggling decision to compete against themselves in the bidding for then free agent Chris Davis and up the ante by $11 million, I opined that the Davis deal would set the O’s back years.

And it has.

Davis has been flat out awful and ironically the only thing saving his spot on the team’s roster is that bloated contract. Team owner Peter Angelos is about as comfortable admitting the errors of his ways as Hillary Clinton is in a confessional. Consequently, he won’t allow O’s GM Mike Elias to cut ties with the player who has for all intents and purposes replaced the Mendoza line with the Davis flatline. You can’t even get a Pointsbet Promo Code for an over/under bet on the inevitable event – the Davis DFA.

The strikeouts – particularly the backwards K’s on pitches “right down Broadway” with runners in scoring position are flat-out maddening. Making matters worse, the “caught looking” at-bats sometimes even feature Davis swinging at pitches that travel just 59 feet, 6 inches. Royal Farms should feature an orange frozen drink called The Crusher Brain Freeze.

All that said, believe it or not, lately I’m beginning to come around on Davis. No, his couple of dingers over the past few games haven’t made a believer out of me and they haven’t convinced me that his deal isn’t the worst in Orioles history. It is – by a country mile.

My softening up as it relates to Davis has everything to do with the man. No matter what he does, he’s going to get his $161 million. Whether he shows up late, calls out, gets a season ending hangnail or can’t find his way to the stadium, he’s going to be paid.

Yet given all of the criticisms, given the embarrassing stats, given articles like mine that rake him over the coals, he still carries himself with dignity; he still works on his decaying craft; he still fields questions from the media, some of which could and should be embarrassing. Add it all up and the message is clear.

Chris Davis is one classy dude!

Chris Davis

Photo Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

 

It’s hard to walk in a man’s shoes and understand what he’s going through. And in the case of Davis, it’s next to impossible. His situation is clearly unique. He may never be a player who by example can show your kids how to slap the ball down the left field line. He may not be able to show your kids how to take what the defense gives – to lay down that bunt which we all believe is the easiest single waiting to happen in MLB history.

But what Chris Davis is showing your kids every day when he arrives at the ballpark, mingles with his teammates and coaches, puts in the work despite deficient results and then steps up to that plate when he’d rather have a root canal, is how to tackle adversity. By continuing to carry himself as he has, despite struggles that would make most of us want to crawl into a hole, he plows ahead.

He may never hit 50 home runs again. He may never even hit 20 home runs again in a season. And clearly, he’ll never earn his grossly inflated contract – one which by the way, wasn’t his fault. That’s on Mr. Angelos.

But what he will earn is respect. At least he’s earned MY respect.

And I hope he’s earned yours too.

He at least deserves that.

Read Full Article

Hot Take Tuesday: Means’ Season O’s Best Since Bedard

John Means pitches.

In a frustrating 2019 campaign, the first year of a long rebuild that the Orioles are undergoing, it’s critical for fans to follow the exciting stories. They’re few and far between, that’s for sure, but it’s on us to enjoy them when we see them.

To that point, there’s no easier story to enjoy than the emergence of John Means, the Orioles’ new ace.

As the O’s All-Star representative, Means has quickly become a fan favorite and a household name in Baltimore. That’s impressive, especially given the fact that he’s a rookie on the league’s worst team.

But while we all know Means has been good this year, I don’t think enough people are talking about how good he’s been.

For as long as I can remember, Baltimore has been complaining about the genuine lack of top-of-the-rotation arms on the Orioles roster. This year, we’ve got that.

In realizing that, I took a look at how Means’ season stacks up against those of some past players, and my resulting take is steaming: John Means is having the best season on the mound since Erik Bedard’s 2007 campaign.

To this point, John Means has pitched to a 7-4 record and a 2.50 ERA, a number that would be 2nd in the American League had he pitched a few more innings. Twelve years ago in 2007, Bedard finished 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA, obviously an extremely strong season.

Of course, Means is technically on track to finish with a better ERA, but I’m holding the belief that his ERA may balloon a bit with one or two uncharacteristically poor outings down the road. If that happens, these two guys will end up with very similar seasons by those metrics.

Digging into some more analytical results, it’s noteworthy that Bedard sported a 3.88 K/BB ratio, finishing with an impressive 221 strikeouts in 182 innings pitched. This is where Bedard definitely has a statistical advantage over Means, who thus far has 69 punchouts in 82.2 innings. At the same time, these guys are two are pretty different pitchers, with Means pitching to contact more than not.

The last metric I’ll use to compare these two seasons is WHIP, because these results are uncanny. While Bedard finished 2007 with a clean 1.09 WHIP, John Means is sitting pretty with a 1.08 WHIP to this point.

For me, this statistic is extremely important, as it shows how dominant and consistent a pitcher is. In both of these seasons, the man on the mound was or is a model of consistency.

There are a few potential rebuttals to my take that I want to review, all of which were in that window of Orioles success that we miss so deeply today.

First, Chris Tillman posted a 2.93 ERA in 2012 while making 15 starts. This definitely is a strong year, especially considering his 1.04 WHIP, but Tillman only threw 86 innings, which is essentially where Means sits so far.

Unless Means blows up in his next start, he’ll have posted a better ERA in more innings, so his season should be compared to bigger and better ones than Tillman’s 2012 year.

Next, in the same 2012 year that saw the O’s return to relevance, Miguel Gonzalez provided yearlong stability while pitching to a 9-4 record in 18 games. While three of these appearances were out of the pen, Gonzalez finished with a 3.25 ERA in 105.1 innings.

Again, Gonzalez didn’t start for a full season, which is what Means will be hoping to do. On top of that, however, Means’ ERA and WHIP could be significantly better than those with which Gonzalez finished, so his year has been more impressive.

Third, moving forward to 2014 when the birds were a legitimate contender, Gonzalez doubled down on his 2012 performance and put up a 10-9 record with a 3.23 ERA in 26 starts, a full year’s work.

Even still, Means should be in a position to maintain a better ERA, and that alone may make his season better. Furthermore, however, Gonzalez’s WHIP in 2014 was 1.29, a number much higher than the one Means will post if he stays steady on the bump.

Finally, sticking with 2014, I think it’s worth looking at the man who was viewed as the Orioles’ ace: Wei-Yin Chen. In my opinion, this is actually the best case against John Means’ 2019 campaign being the strongest since that of 2007 Bedard, as Chen was consistently relied upon and would come through regularly.

Finishing 16-6, it felt like each time Chen took the mound, the Orioles were set for a win, and more times than not, that was the case. Chen was the stopper in his strongest year, and I’d say that’s what Means has been, if you can have a stopper on a downright awful team.

What makes Means’ year better comes down to sheer statistics, though, as his are far more impressive at a glance than those Chen posted. With a 3.54 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, Chen’s year doesn’t appear to have been nearly as good as the one Means is working toward nor the one Bedard completed.

At the same time, I think we’d all give up both Bedard’s and Means’ individual seasons combined to have a few more of the competitive team seasons like that 2012 campaign.

Here’s to seeing some that are similar in a few years, with John Means leading the way.

Read Full Article

Given a Chance, Sisco Flourishing

Hello Birdland! I am back after a bit of a hiatus, but I don’t think anybody could blame someone for not having much to write about when it came to the Orioles for the past offseason through the first part of the 2019 season, especially anything positive.

Here we are at the All-Star break though, and the Orioles are what we thought they would be. However, we are finally seeing glimpses of the future in players that are finally making an impact in the present. This has finally inspired me to address a few topics as I see them.

 

The re-emergence of Sisco

I thought Chance Sisco was ready to take over the Orioles’ staff last season, but former manager Buck Showalter was so obsessed with what Sisco couldn’t do well (throwing), he basically wrote him off. As a result, Sisco lost all confidence in his abilities both at and behind the plate and struggled through a terrible major league season and then after a demotion, a disappointing one in AAA as well. By the time he was called back up in September, it was in the role of a third catcher behind Caleb Joseph and Austin Wynns and he rarely played. A concussion sustained on September 16th from a foul ball (mercifully) ended his season.

In the offseason however, Sisco rebuilt his confidence, and although the Orioles brought in veteran Jesus Sucre and still had Wynns, the job was seen as his to lose. Just as before, he did everything he could in Spring Training to win the job, hitting .382 with a 1.298 OPS in 45 plate appearances. However, General Manager Mike Elias wanted all of the Orioles prospects to earn their promotions under his evaluation and also wanted to keep evaluating Pedro Severino who had some potential but was out of options, so Sisco was optioned to AAA Norfolk as Spring Training ended. I thought it was a terrible move at the time because the last time the Orioles did something like this, it destroyed Sisco’s confidence. The Orioles and Sisco had invested so much time to build that back up over the past offseason and during the spring, it would be a shame to see it all for nothing.

For the first month or so, it looked like Sisco was going to have another disappointing season as he was hitting near the Mendoza line (.224 AVG) and racking up the strikeouts without his usual walks and high on-base percentage. However in May, he turned that all around and wound up with a .348/.443/.708/1.151 batting line, and was beating down the door for a promotion to Baltimore as Elias had wanted to see from him. Sisco earned that promotion on June 3rd and has never looked back, and Brandon Hyde is actually now batting him in the cleanup spot against right-handed pitching, against which he has a .420 wOBA and 166 wRC+.

I would like Sisco to see some more opportunities against lefties as he was actually hitting them better in AAA this season, but the arrangement with Severino appears to be working. Sisco has also proven to be a much better catcher with the pitching staff this season, with Orioles pitchers having a 3.74 ERA with him behind the plate compared to the 5.02 ERA they had with him last season, and he’s definitely had better results than Severino (6.01 ERA). It’s clear that Sisco is the present of the Orioles behind the plate for now, and I expect he’ll continue to be the guy until the Orioles’ next catching star is ready (more on him in a bit).

 

2019 MLB Draft

I’ll admit I was pretty worried when Elias said that he wasn’t going to hire a scouting director last winter. Although scouting was his full time job with the Astros, being a General Manager is a big enough job on its own. And for all the credit he gets for Carlos Correa, the Astros’ other two number one selections, Mark Appel and Brady Aiken, have been huge busts. The Orioles simply could not afford to have a disaster and needed a franchise cornerstone with that top pick.

Reports surfaced right before the draft that the Orioles might be looking at other names besides Adley Rutschman and Bobby Witt Jr., as if Elias was trying to be too cute to try to draft other over slot picks later and possibly outsmart himself. Fortunately though, it was all just noise and the Orioles drafted Rutschman, a college catcher who had been compared to Matt Wieters, but was far better offensively and defensively in college and has the potential to be better than Buster Posey offensively.

I was further heartened when Elias said that Rutschman’s bat is so special that they will protect it by not playing him behind the plate all the time like the Orioles foolishly did with Matt Wieters. We may see the expectations for Wieters after his huge 2008 minor league season, finally come to fruition with Rutschman.

As for the rest of the draft, high school shortstop Gunnar Henderson is a huge get in the second round, especially because he had a chance to play with his brother Jackson at Auburn University. I also absolutely love that the Orioles went after the position depth in this draft first instead of reaching for pitching. The position depth they also went after was mainly college talent too, which may not have as high a ceiling, but puts them on a quicker path to help the Orioles. Stanford outfielder Kyle Stowers is the one to watch out of the group to be the first to reach Baltimore besides Rutschman.

In addition to Elias’ scouting ability, it seems that Assistant Director of Scouting Brad Ciolek and the rest of the department has really stepped up after the departure of Gary Rajsich, and those weren’t small shoes to fill. Rajsich was the best scouting director in the Peter Angelos era of ownership, drafting major league position players like Trey Mancini, Sisco, and DJ Stewart, and pitchers like Josh Hader, Stephen Brault and Kevin Gausman and likely future talent like Ryan Mountcastle, Grayson Rodriguez, Zac Lowther, DL Hall, Michael Baumann and Hunter Harvey among others.

So far, it seems his replacements are off to a good start.

Other thoughts

— Anthony Santander is proving to be the player the Orioles thought they had when they selected him in the Rule 5 draft in 2016. Santander is a catalyst in the Orioles lineup with a 136 wRC+ and .376 wOBA, batting 2nd against right-handed pitching, though like a lot of switch hitters, he’s struggling against left-handed pitching (85 wRC+). Still, his defense in right field (+7 DRS) in just over 141 innings is pretty impressive and the fact he can play center and left field as well bodes well for his future as a fourth outfielder at the very least.

— The Orioles need to try to trade Trey Mancini at the deadline or sooner. They have plenty of future DHs, especially with Ryan Mountcastle in AAA, and Mancini’s still prone to streaks, and is in the middle of a cold streak right now. Although he’s reduced his O-Swing% slightly and increased his BB%, Mancini is still a bit too much of a free swinger to fit in with this club for the future. With as much team control that he has left and as well as he’s doing – he’s likely at the peak of his value for a contending club and Elias should not let this opportunity pass him by if there is a good deal to be made. There will also be plenty of 1B/DH talent in the offseason for teams to sign for cheap that will negate any need for a team to deal for Mancini.

— Dan Duquette’s legacy was tied to Buck Showalter, so when one left, the other had to go for a clean slate. However, we are seeing Duquette’s legacy in the minors of the club, with pitching talent like Rodriguez, Lowther, Baumann, Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Alex Wells all having success. Also there is still positional talent like Mountcastle, Austin Hays and Yusniel Diaz that could be in Baltimore in the next few seasons. I think when the Orioles are winning again in a few years, fans will finally be able to look back at what Duquette did in his final few seasons, and realize that the Orioles were able to replenish their minor league system from all the trades they made to win from before 2017. I think we are already seeing that the system was never as barren as perceived by a lot of fans before he was fired.

— Speaking of people leaving, Brady Anderson’s name has vanished from the Orioles’ front office roster and that can only be a good thing. When you look at the albatross contracts to players like Alex Cobb, Darren O’Day and Mark Trumbo, it was clear Brady had no business in baseball operations. I always liked him as a player and still do, but his legacy as a front office executive is certainly one for Orioles fans to forget.

That’s all for now, but I promise to write more frequently in the future. With their 2019 draft picks about to begin their professional careers and younger talent like Sisco finally seeing playing time, the Orioles should prove to provide some entertainment value and topics to discuss, even in a lost season.

There’s always the 2020 MLB Draft to speculate about too and the race for the number one pick as the season winds down. Last year Orioles fans wanted the team to either #QuitforWitt or #PlayBadlyforAdley.

Which hashtags will we be using this year? Maybe #BustforBlaze or #TankforTorkelson?

I actually can’t wait to find out.

Read Full Article

David Lebron Loves Going Against the Best

David Lebron pitches.

David Lebron, pitcher, a 26th-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers, acquired by the Orioles in February and now playing for the Frederick Keys, was kind enough to sit down with me this week.

Matt: So David, you grew up in Miami-Dade County, is that correct?

David Lebron: Yes

Matt: So, with that area being such a talent-rich area, do you think that drove you to succeed?

Lebron: Yeah no doubt. I mean, growing up, we’re playing a lot of good talent down there. It kind of brings out the best in everybody, you know competing with high caliber players year in and year out. Baseball down there is a year-round sport. The only weather interruptions that we face are hurricanes and pretty much the rainfall year-round. But, for the most part, it’s very….it’s a big culture down there for baseball and it has grown on me ever since I was a little kid.

Matt: Did you get to play with any guys that are in the majors now (from Miami)?

Lebron: Yeah, I got to play against Manny Machado once in the fall of my freshman year of High School. I had a few other buddies that are playing pro ball right now. I played with Albert Almora…travel ball growing up and a few other guys that are playing in pro ball, not necessarily in the big leagues yet. Victor Caratini, I played with him at Miami-Dade. So, being able to play with some of those guys and kind of being able to see what they’re about, how they go about their business, definitely puts things into perspective, about how to go about your business and how big this game really is.

Matt: So you pitched a little bit at the University of Tampa…what does it mean to come from a school that has produced Lou PiniellaTino Martinez?

Lebron: It’s an honor. I go there and have two good years, get a lot of good exposure with scouts and professional baseball teams out there. It was a blessing, a blessing in disguise. I got to do two good years at the College of Central Florida before going to Tampa, worrying a lot about the mental game and then going to Tampa and being able to take that professional baseball culture in a college atmosphere and build that into my repertoire moving forward.

Matt: So in 2018, you were named Division II Pitcher of the Year. Between Division II and Single-A where you are now, where do you see the difference in talent level?

Lebron: There’s a lot of talent in the Sunshine State Conference, they had a lot of draft picks, and they usually lead Division II in draft picks every year. As far as talent goes, it’s baseball, there’s talent all over the place. The only difference you see is, the higher you move up, the hitters are more selective, looking for one pitch, you know? They’re not going to chase any breaking ball that you throw. That’s probably the only difference that I see. Hitters are more patient and more selective. You can’t just come out here and blow a fastball by them. It takes a lot more than that to get hitters out. So, for the most part, that’s the biggest difference that I’ve seen between college and playing baseball here.

Matt: You were actually drafted by the Texas Rangers. I know you didn’t spend too much time over there, but did you see a difference the two organizations? Texas and the Orioles?

Lebron: Not too much, they’re both very big analytically. The new modern data and the new-age baseball…the only difference I’ve seen as far as structure goes over there is…they’re (Rangers) very structured in the way they do their throwing program. Everybody has to do the same thing, more or less. Here, there’s a lot more flexibility, a lot more of ‘be who you are, everybody’s different, have your own routine.’ So, there’s no code of what you have to do every day. It’s kind of like, ‘do what works best for you, and go about your business just like you would in the years past leading up to getting here.’

Matt: Have you gotten a chance to work with Chris Holt at all?

Lebron: Yes, a lot actually. We had a good bullpen session today. (He’s) a very good guy…knows what he’s talking about…goes about his business in an aggressive manner that helps you visualize what your capabilities are, and that’s something that I really like about him, he’s going to tell you exactly how it is, not what you want to hear sometimes, but it’s what you need to hear. So, he goes about it in a way that’s very productive and that’s gonna help you grow and use your weapons to the best of your ability, and not just have average weapons…he’s going to bring out the best in you in all your pitches.

Matt: To piggyback off that, how receptive are you to the new technology? Obviously, spin rate is a huge thing.

Lebron: I’ve definitely been open-minded to it, coming out of college, I wasn’t too in-tune with it. I was more, ‘At some point you have to go out there and just pitch, you have to hit your spots, regardless of what your spin rate is.’ Your spin rate is going to be what it is, there really isn’t too much you can do to increase that. You can increase your spin efficiency, which kind of relates to your true spin on your pitches, but for the most part, I was always like, ‘You gotta go out there and pitch, hit your spots, work the corners, work up and down.’ I got here and now you’re learning more about where your arsenal plays, what your hot zones are, where damage can be done if you ‘live’ in a certain area. That’s something I’ve been very open-minded to, trying to soak everything in. But the analytics to me, it was like something to keep an eye on, it’s something to learn about, but not something to tie yourself into and knock your head on, knowing at some point, you still gotta go out there and pitch and to execute pitches is the ultimate goal.

Matt: What does your pitch repertoire look like? What are your strengths on the mound?

Lebron: Well pitch repertoire, to begin with: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider. My strengths being my: Fastball, Changeup, and Slider. The curveball is coming along…if I can get that going on a consistent basis, then that’ll help carry me for years to come. As far as my strengths go, I believe any pitcher has to have the ability to throw a fastball where he wants it and be able to command it consistently. At the end of the day, you can’t just go up there and flip breaking balls or throw a changeup 24/7. Like, if you’re able to command your fastball, everything else will live off of that. I’ve always been a firm believer of that. I’ve never been the type to shy away from throwing fastballs to a hitter just because he’s 6’5”. Everybody here can hit the ball, its pro baseball, you’ve just got to be able to command your pitches. I take a lot of pride being considered undersized for your prototypical pitcher, so I love facing the big guys, the big dogs, the top prospects. I love going after those guys, because that’s going to bring out the best in you as well as showing you, ‘Hey, this is where your strengths are, you’re facing the best of the best.’ It kind of builds confidence in you. I have confidence in my capabilities, but I love facing the top prospects, the big guys. I feel like you’re locked in a lot more. Unfortunately, it’s a bad way to put it, to be locked in to certain guys. But, that’s when you’re very tuned into what’s going on. Hey, ‘Let’s go, if you’re the best of the best, let’s go, I want to see what you got.’

Matt: So give me a name of a prospect you faced that was a really difficult hitter to face.

Lebron: I wouldn’t say difficult per se, but I’ve faced Luis Robert, he’s one of the best minor leaguers all-around. For some reason every time I face him, I’m locked in. I got to meet him in the offseason in Tampa, and my buddy Laz Rivera and I know he’s one of the biggest prospects in all of baseball. Every time you face him, its like, ‘Hey, this is going to be fun.’ You get to go after it. I’ve faced Nick Madrigal, he’s a good…he barely strikes out. I was able to get him out, you know strike him out once. After that, you know it’s a dog fight. He’s a very good hitter, very patient, very selective. I’ve faced Nolan Jones from Lynchburg, very talented hitter. Congrats to him, getting selected to the Futures Game as well as DL Hall and Grayson (Rodriguez). A lot of hard working talent out there, it just puts it into perspective, the talent out there as well as just here in the Carolina League, itself.

Matt: Alright, so just getting off baseball a little bit. What would be your favorite hobby?

Lebron: I would say just spending time with the family. That time, it’s hard to come by sometimes. In the offseason, I try to dedicate and spend some time with them, above anything else. I do that, I do some fishing sometimes, and that’s it for the most part. I love working out and going to the gym, just breaking a sweat. That’s it for the most part…hanging with some friends.

Matt: I know it’s different for a pitcher, but what would be your walk-up music?

Lebron: Right now, I’ve had ‘Ric Flair Drip,’ for possibly…I want to say…I’ve had it this year, I had it last year in college. It’s nothing that really reflects who I am per se, but it’s just something that hypes me up. At the end of the day, players choose a song that represents who they are, or their background, or where they come from, something they can relate to. For me, it’s just something to hype me up, gets me going, and pumps me up. To each their own.

Matt: Last question for you, what’s the thing you like to do the most on an off day?

Lebron: Catch up on some sleep, easily. I’ll binge watch on Netflix and Hulu.

Matt: Okay, what do you binge watch?

Lebron: A lot of ‘Chicago PD’…drama…action type shows…a lot of stand-up comedy. Actually for the most part, I know our next off-day is coming up in a week and a half or two, we have a golf tournament we’re going to go to. I’m pretty pumped for that. I haven’t hit the links in a while, so I might be a little rusty, but we’ll see.

Read Full Article

Hot Take Tuesday: Expect a Boring First Trade Dealing for Elias

Jonathan Villar in the batter's box.

Last Monday, my fellow ESR blogger Dillon Atkinson wrote an article focusing on the numerous Orioles players that could be available for trade to the rest of the MLB. Honestly, Dillon sort of stole my thunder, as this post was about to be my Hot Take Tuesday. Luckily, it’s a story that could wait a week, so here we go.

While there are a great deal of players that Mike Elias may consider moving, the Baltimore Orioles are not going to be legitimate sellers.

Before you turn on me, understand that there’s a great deal of circumstance playing into this take. And, understanding that they’re sitting at 24-60 at the beginning of July, I am not under some Duquette-esque delusion that the O’s are one piece away from contending. They’re not going to be buyers in any capacity.

What I mean by this, really, is that the Orioles are not in a position to be one of the primary sellers that contending teams focus on for players. In reality, the Birds have few players that the league will be sincerely salivating over, and even those they do have might prove extremely tough to part with.

Because I almost completely agree with Dillon’s list of players the O’s will make available, we’ll work off of that to see what I’m talking about here.

The first group of players I’ll use to advance my point are those who I see very few teams holding considerable enough interest in to deem them real trade chips: Richard Bleier, Dwight Smith Jr., Mark Trumbo, and Pedro Severino.

Running through those names quickly, Bleier’s performance has dropped too much since his injury, Smith Jr.’s hot start has seemed to pass him by, Trumbo’s inability to make an appearance makes his departure via trade extremely unfeasible, and Severino’s strong season might not be enough for teams to overlook the fact that he was unable to provide a bat before arriving in Baltimore.

In each of these cases, it’s unlikely that the demand from other teams would be strong enough to lead to considerable return.

Next, there’s a few names who might have been decent chips in the past and could be in the future, though their respective 2019 campaigns will have surely lowered their value: Mychal Givens and Dylan Bundy.

For both of these arms, the Orioles have had opportunities to deal them in the past, especially with Givens. Just last year, teams coveted the mix of talent and control over Givens, making him an intriguing option for a bullpen addition to contending teams.

Unfortunately, with Bundy sporting a 3-10 record and a 4.91 ERA, he’s positioned himself as an average-at-best starter. Against the field of other starters who may be available from truly compelling sellers, Bundy isn’t someone the Orioles will be able to part with for anything worth getting excited over.

Givens is a similar case, as the 29-year old reliever has pitched to a woeful 5.06 ERA in a campaign marred by inconsistency. He’s shown an inability to be a reliable option in high-pressure scenarios, making his name far less exciting to contenders who are looking to bolster the back end of their bullpen for a playoff run.

While I’m sure the Orioles will be able to deal these guys if they truly intend to, the poor seasons that Givens and Bundy have put together, combined with the fact that the O’s will retain their rights for a few more years, means that Elias and company will be better served waiting and hoping that the two righties fulfill their potential and make themselves solid chips to ship off in the future.

Finally, Dillon lists three players for whom I think the Orioles may actually be able to get a strong return: Andrew Cashner, Trey Mancini, and Jonathan Villar.

Starting with Cashner, contenders may be interested in the opportunity to bring in a consistent and seasoned back-of-the-rotation arm who could deliver every five days. Make no mistake, while a 4.03 ERA is just slightly above average in the AL, Cashner has been very good. We all know its tough to pitch in the AL East, but its even tougher when you’re on the worst team in the majors. This year, Cashner has proven himself to be a viable option for any rotation, so teams should be calling Elias to present an offer.

Next, anyone who’s followed the Orioles at all knows that Mancini has had an outstanding year. Unfortunately, it appears that it won’t get its deserved recognition as he was snubbed from the AL All-Star roster, but nonetheless, a .302 average with 17 home runs and 40 RBI is outstanding production. Keep in mind, Mancini’s delivering those numbers without any protection in the lineup. Knowing that and understanding that he’ll be under any team’s control until 2022 makes him a very real piece who could bring tremendous value (perhaps even a Top-100 prospect).

The problem with both of these names, however, is that the Orioles are extremely unlikely to part with them.

Mancini has become the default face of the franchise and by far the best player on the team. At some point, it’s going to come down to putting butts in seats. With multiple seasons remaining on his contract, might Elias wait to ship off the fan favorite?

In Cashner’s case, the wildly compelling case against dealing the arm is that he represents the Orioles’ only consistent veteran starter. As has been well-documented, the pitching staff has been atrocious and there are no real options for the Orioles to call upon in the near future. Due to that alone, is Cashner simply indispensable? In my opinion, the answer’s yes.

For those reasons, I believe the only player of considerable value that Elias may gather legitimate offers for is infielder Jonathan Villar, a super-speedy switch-hitter who’s batting .254 with 10 dingers and 35 RBI. He’s not a great player, but he’d be valuable for a team looking for infield help and pinch runners. In fact, I actually think the O’s would get a fairly enticing return for Villar.

However, while that may be true, Villar’s name isn’t one that’s going to set the Hot Stove on fire. And if he’s the only name the Orioles are making available, which may very well be the case, the Birds won’t be a team that’s taking the league by storm as an absolute fire-seller, like they were last year.

They were never going to have the names available that they did last July, but due to the lack of interest their players will garner and the lack of return they’ll be setting themselves up to receive, to call the Orioles one of the sellers of the league is inaccurate.

Quite frankly, when it comes to selling, they won’t be able to do that much.

Read Full Article

Peralta Should Head Back to Frederick

Ofelky Peralta pitches.

Griesser’s Suggested Change of the Week

In all honesty, rather than making a whole new suggestion for this change of the week, I could stick to my guns and maintain the opinion that Bowie starter Zac Lowther should take a ride to Norfolk; his weekly start was strong once again, going 6.0 innings while giving up just two runs on four hits.

At the same time, I’m not Mike Elias, and my opinion of extended success at a level may not quite match his. I respect his belief that players should dominate a level for a full season before being awarded a promotion.

I see his point and I like the emphasis on player development, so I’ll make a new proposition for him: promote Delmarva righty Ofelky Peralta to the Frederick Keys.

This might seem like a deep dive into the minors this week, and while part of that is because there simply aren’t too many players knocking on the door to be called up to Baltimore, I’ve actually been following this guy for a couple seasons. This year, he’s really making strides.

Ofelky Peralta pitches.

Frederick Keys Photo

As a little background for those who aren’t familiar, Peralta is a 6’5” 22-year old from the Dominican Republic. In 2013, he signed with the Orioles organization at 16. Being from the DR, he was one of the few international prospects brought in during the previous regime.

As he’s suffered from injuries and struggled with control, Peralta’s movement up the minor league ladder has been slowed a bit. Sitting firmly in the mid-90s, however, he has good stuff that has helped him find considerable success this year.

In 14 starts for the Shorebirds this year, Peralta is 5-2 with a 3.32 ERA. Looking a little closer at that ERA, though, he had a poor outing on June 20th, allowing six runs in 3.0 innings pitched. That was certainly cause for concern, but Peralta showed poise by rebounding with a five-inning shutout on Wednesday night.

What stands out to me the most, though, is the way his control has improved this year. To this point, Peralta has walked 31 batters in 62.1 innings. While that still isn’t ideal, it’s significantly better than his past two campaigns: In 2017, Peralta nearly surrendered a walk in each inning pitched (86 in 104.2). In 2019, he walked a batter around every 1.5 innings (38 in 50.2) in an injury-shortened season.

Additionally, Peralta’s K/BB ratio is outstanding this year, at 77/31 in those 62.1 innings. On its own, the strikeouts he’s amassed this year are exciting, but seeing that improvement along with the drop in walks is promising for his development. For further comparison to his past performance in the minors, Peralta sported a K/BB ratio of 95/86 in 2017 and 33/38 in 2018.

Clearly, he’s beginning to turn the corner when it comes to control.

Now, given what I wrote to begin this week’s piece, you’re probably wondering why Peralta would be promoted if Elias wants each player to complete a season at a level before being promoted.

Interestingly enough, however, Peralta has already spent a full season for Delmarva back in 2016, as well as two seasons a level ahead in Frederick.

Of course, in those 2017/18 campaigns he struggled mightily on the mound and dealt with injuries (which presumably led to his demotion back to the Shorebirds roster at the beginning of this year), but having shown once again that he can perform in Low-A ball should be enough to advance him to the next level.

It makes perfect sense for Elias to want to see a player’s continued success throughout a long baseball season at their respective level before being promoted, but at some point, capping a pitchers’ development after considerable time at a level between multiple seasons can become a concern.

Peralta may have struggled at Frederick in the past, though the progression of his control and sustenance of his electric “stuff” makes a jump back to High-A ball an intriguing prospect worth exploring.

Read Full Article

Thursday Thoughts: Don’t Buy Into The Fan’s Manny Shtick

105.7 the fan logo

After a brief hiatus, Andrew Stetka returns with his Thursday Thoughts column for ESR.

1. I was pleasantly surprised, for the most part, in the crowd’s reaction to Manny Machado’s return to Baltimore this week. It’s not that I expected to hear overwhelming booing from the fans, but I expected to hear more of it than I did. It’s great that, at least over the TV broadcast, it couldn’t really be heard at all. It looked all positive for Machado, who deserved all positive.

Machado provided Orioles fans with some of their best memories in the last handful of years. Anyone who wants to blame him for taking a contract elsewhere (especially when the Orioles didn’t make him a fair market offer), is only lashing out for their own health. They aren’t doing it for any practical reason. Machado is one of the best players to put on the Oriole uniform in Baltimore history, and certainly one of the most talented.

His “antics” that folks like to talk about are often overblown. I certainly didn’t defend him when he intentionally threw a bat into the field of play. I haven’t defended some of his other actions or words, either. But none of these things make him a bad person, and they certainly don’t make him a bad player. I also tended to get on Machado’s case quite often about his baserunning.

But I also came to realize that if being a bad baserunner came with the rest of his talents, I’d take those talents every day.

2. Much of the reaction surrounding Manny’s return to Baltimore and the “urge” to perhaps boo him was propagated by the local flagship radio station in town. I’m not here to bash the station. In fact, I used to work for the station, left on good terms, and know many of the people who still work there. But some of the nonsense spewed both on the airwaves and on social media about Machado over the last few weeks was really disappointing. Admittedly, I don’t listen to the station often. But what I heard was silly and still somehow not surprising.

There’s probably a larger conversation to be had here about sports talk radio in general. Most of what was being drummed up at the flagship was surely just “shtick.” It was all a wacky bit that was done in order to drum up interest and conversation around a baseball team that has really done nothing itself to gain any positive attention. All of that is fine, if you’re into it.

I’m honestly not super worked up about the station’s approach to Machado’s return, because I understand where it’s coming from. I do tend to question, however, the response to that approach. Perhaps the people who are really worked up about it and bothered don’t realize it’s just a bit. Perhaps those who got their pom-poms out to support such an approach are just joining in on the bit to have some fun, and don’t really mean to express some kind of angst towards Machado.

Either way, I think both are silly. Maybe I’m just an old guy now, but the idea of sports talk radio as it’s presently constituted just gives me a headache. I tend to listen to and read more nuanced takes when it comes to sports, and frankly, life. The back-and-forth yelling and “hot take” culture just isn’t for me.

Interesting debate and conversation is one thing, but that’s not what the flagship was trying to do when it came to Machado.

3. Seeing Adley Rutschman’s deal get done this week was a welcomed sign. The 21-year-old immediately becomes the most important player in the Orioles organization, which is a heavy burden. But it’s also one he can’t and won’t carry alone. There’s also a ton of pressure on Mike Elias and whether or not he got it right. I think the frustrating thing I’ve seen since the O’s drafted Rutschman is the instant comparison to Matt Wieters. It entered that sports talk radio “hot take” zone very quickly.

I heard a lot of disappointment that the Orioles drafted another catcher who wouldn’t live up to the hype. I don’t get the folks who say Wieters didn’t live up the hype. It was hype that was only created by scouts and media, then given life by fans. He never lived up to the “Jesus in Cleats” moniker that was placed upon him, but Wieters was a very good player on many very good teams. He was well worth it and the O’s got exactly what they needed out of him as a player.

The expectations for Rutschman are already beyond those of Wieters, from what I’ve seen. That’s fine, too. Expectations, which is that word I love to write about, are fine to have with a player. But if he doesn’t quite hit the high-water marks being set for him, that’s okay too. The Orioles need Rutschman to be an important piece of their future. There’s no doubt about that. But if he doesn’t turn out to be a Hall of Fame player, that’s okay too.

If he turns out to be Matt Wieters, the Orioles will survive.

4. In my small hiatus from writing in this space, I’ve been doing a lot of lurking. I’ve sat back and watched what people have to say on social media about the Orioles, and to be honest, it’s been more entertaining than the games. For those who are actually interested in paying attention to this team, I’ve been surprised at the number of fans who are genuinely disappointed or saddened at the way they are playing. It’s almost as if many are saying, “we expected them to be bad, but not THIS bad.”

Really? Not THIS bad? Frankly, I expected the Orioles to be exactly this bad. I expect them to be pretty bad next year too. Maybe not 2019 or 2018 bad, but close. This is what a rebuild brings to the table. It’s a ton of losing, and not a lot of fun.

I know it’s really tough for fans to stomach, but you also have other options. You don’t have to watch every game. The Orioles aren’t going to be offended if you skip a few here and there. I’ve done it. Apathy is a really dangerous thing, but so is holding your eyelids open with your fingers and force-feeding bad baseball into your brain.

I’ve written a lot over the last few seasons about expectations. I’ve probably even overused the word when it comes to the Orioles. Mostly, expectations were completely different than they appeared coming into this season. But the concept goes both ways. You couldn’t have expected anything more from this group than it is giving you. This is the bad end of what is supposed to be a long and drawn out process. There aren’t many (any) good players on the team, and newsflash, that makes for a pretty bad team.

Expecting anything different is just wasting your time and energy.

Read Full Article

The Payoff Pitch – Manny Love Fest w/Matt Pyne

machado wearing headset at press conference

On this week’s episode of The Payoff Pitch, ESR’s Matt Pyne joined me once again. We talked about Manny Machado’s return to Baltimore, the signings of Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson (see Matt’s piece on slot value here) as well as their immediate futures in the organization, plus whether or not the Birds can punt 2020 like they have 2019.

Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for The Payoff Pitch Prospect Report coming Thursday!

Read Full Article

Hot Take Tuesday: Stand and Cheer for Manny, Birdland

Manny Machado in front of sign at spring training 2015.

As many of you probably know, our beloved Orioles will be playing host to the San Diego Padres starting Tuesday evening. While this series normally would carry excitement because of the interleague dynamic, it’s especially important to the city of Baltimore because it marks the return of one Manny Machado to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Since his departure last trade deadline, Machado has been a member of the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers and signed an incredible contract with San Diego this winter. In just under seven full seasons with the Orioles, Manny was a fan favorite. Yet, with the Padres making the trip to Baltimore, his reception seems as if it may not be so welcoming.

On Monday, our Eutaw Street Report Twitter account expressed frustration with 105.7 the Fan for making a commercial centered around his antics.

Without a doubt, the talk about booing Machado throughout the series is ramping up, so for my Hot Take Tuesday this week, I think it’s appropriate to put a halt to that chatter.

Manny Machado is fully deserving of our unwavering appreciation, not our relentless hate.

One major argument against Machado’s legacy in Baltimore is the fact that he left in his first legitimate crack at free agency. I get how that comes across, but before rashly punishing him for it, understand that the Orioles forced their own hand in trading the stud infielder, it wasn’t the other way around.

Normally, when a player receives backlash for causing a team to trade him before leaving in free agency, it’s because he explicitly said that he didn’t desire to play there anymore. In Machado’s case, however, those sentiments didn’t really seem that strong. In fact, because the Orioles failed to publicly extend a competitive contract offer or engage in talks until far too late, it’s impossible to confirm that he wouldn’t have stayed if given a real chance to re-sign with the club.

He said as much to Britt Ghiroli in an interview for The Athletic earlier this week.

“There was a lot of situations (in the past) where we reached out, and we wanted to stay there, and they kept saying, ‘Hey, yeah, we’re going to call you back. And we’re going to talk.’ And we’re still waiting for that call[…]

Did Machado want to stay at some point? There was always the idea that a talent like his would price himself out of Baltimore. Earlier in his career, the two sides explored an extension. But then Machado got hurt. Two consecutive season-ending knee surgeries. Maybe there was a window. Perhaps not.

“In 2015 they were like, ‘All right, we might talk this offseason. We’ll give you a call,’” Machado said. “The call, well, who knows?

If the Orioles had truly been smart, they would have identified the reality that Machado was a generational talent much earlier than they did and worked to extend his contract before his price tag got too high. In not doing that, they created a situation in which they couldn’t compete with the other offers that Machado would get, meaning the majority of the blame for his departure should be pinned on their back.

Second, quite frankly, Manny is one of the best players the Orioles have had in decades. I won’t go as far as to say that he is an All-Time Oriole, as my 1998 birthdate probably ages me out of the demographic of people who can speak to that, but even still, I can definitively say that he’s the best player that Baltimore has seen in my lifetime.

In his stint with the birds, Machado was a career .283 hitter, totaling 162 HRs and 471 RBI. Additionally, Manny represented the Orioles in four All Star Games (the last of which was a tear-jerker for me) and won two Gold Glove Awards at third base with a Platinum Glove for good measure.

On the whole, Machado’s career with the Orioles was consistently strong, and in terms of sheer skill, he’s the best player I can remember watching. The throws he made with a fully torqued body from third, the bombs he’d hit once finding his power stroke, the presence he had in the lineup, it was all spectacular. That kind of player deserves a warm welcome home, barring any ridiculously snake-like behavior while heading out the door. As I’ve already outlined, Machado’s handling of his situation was appropriate.

Now, while his departure doesn’t warrant any backlash, I can understand the point that the good is accompanied by the bad when it comes to his antics on the field. Without a doubt, his laziness on the way to first base, his boneheaded baserunning and his occasional hot-headedness with other players deserve criticism. Simply put, he’s a diva.

Manny Machado makes a throw during spring training.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

But, as one of my high school buddies astutely said just a few days ago, he was our diva.

While Manny had a portfolio of incredibly frustrating moments that made you want to punch him in the gut, he had a full gallery of wonderful moments that would take you out of your seat in outright joy. I’m talking about the 3-HR game against the Angels that was capped with a walk-off Grand Slam; I’m talking about the beam from foul ground at Yankee Stadium that nabbed Luis Cruz; I’m talking about the fake to first that started a rundown in a tie game against Tampa Bay when he was just 20 years old. All of these moments were so wonderful, it’s a shame to forget them out of frustration with the franchise’s inability to think proactively and lock up the cornerstone talent.

At the core of each of these pieces of his career is something bigger about Machado, though. It’s something that will always be so very important to me and should be for any Orioles fan. See, before Machado was ready to burst onto the scene in 2012, Baltimore baseball was effectively an oxymoron. For my entire life up to that point, the Orioles had been among the laughingstock of the MLB. They were downright terrible.

However, Manny Machado’s arrival signaled the arrival of the Orioles. In that 2012 season they not only had their first winning record since 1997 but also won the Wild Card Game against the Texas Rangers, and took the New York Yankees to five games in the ALDS. For the next few years, they were one of the best teams in baseball.

Manny Machado was not just an integral part of that run but likely the key part of it.

If we overlook that reality and welcome him home in any way that isn’t lovingly, we’ve failed as a fan base.

Read Full Article

Our 2019 BEVy Nominees

Tanner Scott pitches.

It’s BEVy time again! Can you believe it? It seems like just yesterday the Orioles walked down the orange carpet, took a lead against the Yankees into the late innings, and then saw the bullpen immediately shit said lead away.

Of course, the bullpen shitting probably did happen again yesterday. And the day before. And it’ll happen tomorrow.

Such is Orioles baseball in 2019. Only three-plus months left of it! Can the Birds lose fewer than the 115 game bar of awfulness set by last year’s squad? Stay tuned.

Anyway, where were we?

Oh, right, BEVYs! The midseason awards show put on by our friends over at Birds Eye View. To our categories, and nominees!

From 2013 – 18, we used the same BEVy categories every season. However, now that the Birds are in rebuild mode, I thought it was time to change things up. After all, it would be pretty tough to pick out a Forgotten Man from a roster so chock full of has-beens, never-weres, and never-will-bes. As it would be impossible to choose someone who’s letting us down, considering that our expectations are subterranean.

So we are officially retiring our long-tenured BEVy categories – The Forgotten Man Award and the “Why Are You Breaking My Heart Like This, Just Let Me Love You!” Award.

The Duquette Era awards give way to the Rebuild Era awards. Here’s to these two categories only lasting a year or two. Hopefully, by the BEVy’s 10th or 11th birthday, we have some much more positive Elias Era hardware to hand out.

For now, the new categories are….

 

Best Football Score

The Orioles are involved in WAY too many games that look like football scores. They’re always on the wrong end of them, of course. Which has been your favorite so far? The nominees…

April 7 – Yankees 15 Orioles 3

The O’s celebrated Kids’ Opening Day by making sure as many kids as possible looked at their parents and said “are you SURE we’re cheering for the right team?” A generation of little bandwagon Yankees fans was born, thanks to this game of field goals, in which Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier combined for five home runs. Two other bad guys went yard for good measure.

April 10 – A’s 10 Orioles 3

Just three days later, the Raiders put up a touchdown and a field goal to the Ravens’ lone Justin Tucker score.

May 16 – Indians 14 Orioles 7

The O’s actually led this one 5-2 headed into the bottom of the third. Dan Straily was the starting pitcher though, so…yanno. Hey, at least we finally got in the end zone.

May 19 – Indians 10 Orioles 0

An old AFC North defensive struggle here.

June 23 – Seattle 13 Orioles 3

The 12’s were just too much for Baltimore up in the Emerald City, as Gabriel Ynoa and Matt Wotherspoon combined to give up TWELVE runs over the game’s first five frames. A game that was 2-2 after two was a laugher by the fourth.

So, which was your favorite Football Score (so far)?

Which was your favorite football score this season?
Yankees 15 Birds 3
Oakland 10 Birds 3
Indians 14 Birds 7
Indians 10 Birds 0
Mariners 13 Birds 3
View Result

Moving onto our next new BEVy category…

 

Bullpen Bum

How will we ever choose? This is like going down to the flaming dumpster and picking out the hottest piece of burning garbage.

Still, there can be only one BULLPEN BUM of the O’s first half. We had to narrow it down a little bit, so the stipulations are:

1. Player has to still be in the O’s organization (sorry, Mike Wright)

2. Player must not have started a single game (no award for you, Dan Straily!)

3. Player must have made at least nine appearances, with a current ERA of 5+ (just missed the cut, Jimmy Yac)

The laundry list of nominees….

Evan Phillips – 17.1 IP, 7.79 ERA, 22 H, 15 BB, 25 K, 2.13 WHIP, 0 HR (!!!)

Branden Kline – 21.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 21 H, 8 BB, 23 K, 1.36 WHIP, 6 HR

Tanner Scott – 8.1 IP, 6.48 ERA, 12 H, 11 BB, 13 K, 2.76 WHIP, 2 HR

Richard Bleier – 21.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 27 H, 2 BB, 9 K, 1.36 WHIP, 3 HR

Miguel Castro – 39.0 IP, 5.77 ERA, 40 H, 20 BB, 34 K, 1.54 WHIP, 7 HR

Josh Lucas – 15.2 IP, 5.74 ERA, 14 H, 7 BB, 16 K, 1.34 WHIP, 2 HR

Mychal Givens – 31.0 IP, 5.23 ERA, 27 H, 15 BB, 45 K, 1.35 WHIP, 8 HR

Alright, Birdland…there can be only one. Who is your BULLPEN BUM?

Who was the BULLPEN BUM of the first half?
Evan Phillips
Branden Kline
Tanner Scott
Richard Bleier
Miguel Castro
Josh Lucas
Mychal Givens
View Result

 

Be sure to tune into the BEVys at Bird’s Eye View over the All-Star Break to hear the winners!

Read Full Article

Potential Partners for the Birds’ Top Trade Chips

Jonathan Villar in the batter's box.

The trade deadline is a little over five weeks away – July 31 at 4:00 p.m. ET – and the Baltimore Orioles will certainly be acting as sellers for the second consecutive season as they continue to stock the farm system in the ongoing rebuild process.

Let’s take a look at some trade chips the Orioles have who have a chance to be on the move this summer. They could either be players who are of high interest to other clubs or players who the Orioles would like to move.

I won’t make any predictions or guesses at what type of return Baltimore could net for each player because it always ends up being wrong and the market dictates what type of trade value a player has. Instead I’ll list five teams that could be potential fits for each player. The age noted next to each name represents how old the player will be at the time of the trade deadline. If you have any questions as to why each team would be a fit for these players, I’ll leave my Twitter handle at the bottom.

Let’s start with the pitchers, shall we?

 

RHP Mychal Givens (29)

Contract status: Under team control through 2021

Mychal Givens on the mound looking in.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

To say Mychal Givens is off to a rough start to the season is an understatement. He is currently sporting a 5.23 ERA and 5.18 FIP in 31 innings pitched, allowing eight home runs and walking 15 batters. However, he does have the highest strikeout rate of his career with 13.06 K/9 and the demand for relievers at the deadline is always high. Givens was highly coveted last season, but the Orioles decided not to move him. Teams that miss out on the higher-tier relievers could target Givens next, hoping for him to return to his previous form.

Potential fits: Red Sox, Rays, Nationals, Braves, Phillies

 

LHP Richard Bleier (32)

Contract status: Under team control through 2022

Richard Bleier of the Orioles pitches.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Richard Bleier is another reliever who isn’t performing like his former self, recording a 6.75 ERA and 4.59 FIP in 21 1/3 innings this season. In 23 innings with the Yankees in 2016, he had a 1.96 ERA, and he followed up the next two seasons with the Orioles posting ERAs of 1.99 and 1.93 ERA, respectively. It’s certainly possible he just had trouble settling in early on since returning from surgery on his left latissimus dorsi muscle, as he does have a 2.35 ERA in his last seven appearances totaling 7 2/3 innings.

The Orioles may not be in a rush to trade Bleier as he’s under control for three and a half more seasons and clubs could try to acquire him on a discount. The southpaw is in his age-32 season, though, so Baltimore may opt to ship him away for the best offer as they continue to get younger.

Potential fits: Red Sox, Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Cubs

 

RHP Andrew Cashner (32)

Contract status: Final year of two-year, $16 million deal (third year option)

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Andrew Cashner is your typical rental back-of-the-rotation starter, posting a 4.37 ERA and 4.62 FIP in 82 1/3 innings so far this season. He is making $8 million this season and has a $10 million vesting option for 2020. The option vests if the right-hander reaches 340 innings between 2018 and 2019, and becomes a player option at 360 innings pitched. Having thrown 235 1/3 innings so far during his two-year contract, he needs 104 2/3 innings pitched the rest of this season for his option to vest into 2020. He’s not an exciting option for teams, but he has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 11 of 15 starts this season, and two or fewer in eight of 15 starts. He also has pitched at least six innings in seven of his last 10 outings. Contenders with deep farm systems will line up for Marcus Stroman and Madison Bumgarner this summer, while others may target Cashner at a cheaper cost to solidify their rotations.

Potential fits: Astros, Rangers, Athletics, Phillies, Brewers

RHP Dylan Bundy (26)

Contract status: Under team control through 2021

Dylan Bundy pitching.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

The start of Dylan Bundy’s 2019 campaign looked similar to his 2018, recording a 6.67 ERA and 6.61 FIP in six starts through the end of April. However, when the calendar flipped and he made adjustments to pitch usage, he has made some wonderful strides. Since the start of May, Bundy has posted a 3.46 ERA and 4.11 FIP over nine starts totaling 52 innings pitched. His walks and home runs allowed have decreased considerably. The Orioles may not be in a rush to deal him away, as he has two and a half years until free agency, but as clubs dive into the trade market for controllable starters, a reestablished Bundy could be on a few teams’ list of options.

Potential fits: Astros, Rangers, Athletics, Phillies, Brewers

 

1B/OF Trey Mancini (27)

Contract status: Under team control through 2022

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Fans, writers and reporters have gone back and forth on whether or not Trey Mancini is an extension candidate or trade chip. If you have to have this type of debate during a rebuild, the player must be doing something right. Mancini is slashing .304/.364/.564 with 17 home runs so far this season and is absolutely the most deserving on the roster for the All-Star Game and team MVP. He’s still under team control for three and a half more years, which means the O’s won’t be pushing him out of the door. But it’s possible that he could net the Orioles the biggest return of all their trade chips. It’s unknown what route the club will go, but for now it’s worth noting that it’s at least possible he could be on the move this summer.

Potential fits: Rays, Indians, Astros, Rangers, Rockies

2B/SS Jonathan Villar (28)

Contract status: Under team control through 2020

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

The Orioles may be able to expand on their return for Jonathan Schoop. Last summer, the Brewers sent Jonathan Villar, Luis Ortiz and Jean Carmona to Baltimore for Schoop. Now, the Orioles could ship Villar out for additional prospects. Villar is currently batting .249/.310/.405 with nine homers and 15 stolen bases. It’s worth noting the switch-hitter is performing better from the left side, slashing .264/.348/.429 with five home runs. His speed, defense and ability to hit right-handers could be attractive on the trade market. Having team control through next season could also help entice possible suitors.

Potential fits: Indians, Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers

 

OF Dwight Smith Jr. (26)

Contract status: Under team control through 2024
Embed from Getty Images

Dwight Smith Jr. has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles in 2019, but there’s no telling where he fits into the team’s future plans. He owns a .257/.313/.464 line with 11 long balls this year, and has shown an ability to be an average hitter against both right-handers and southpaws. He’s under club control for five and a half more years, but it remains to be seen whether the O’s view him as a long-term asset or a potential trade chip. We’ll see in the coming weeks.

Potential fits: Indians, Athletics, Phillies, Cardinals, Rockies

 

1B/OF Mark Trumbo (33)

Contract status: Final year of three-year, $37.5 million deal

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

This is a tricky one. Mark Trumbo still has yet to play for the Orioles this season as he recovers from knee surgery, and there’s no telling when he’ll return to action at the big league level. He’ll most certainly need to play some games for the Orioles if they wish to move him and shed some of the money he’s owed the rest of this season. If they are able to trade Trumbo, don’t expect much of a return. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the O’s either combine Trumbo in a package with another player or eat some of Trumbo’s remaining salary in his contract year for a contender to acquire him.

Potential fits: Indians, Astros, Rangers, Phillies, Rockies

 

C Pedro Severino (26)

Contract status: Under team control through 2023
Embed from Getty Images
This all depends on – like some other potential trade chips – how the Orioles feel about Pedro Severino. He’s only 26 years old and is under club control for four and a half more seasons. The catcher is also hitting at a level he never has in his professional career, minors included. He’s currently batting .280/.353/.487 with eight homers on the season. Severino has demolished left-handed pitching, slashing .328/.380/.609 while hitting .244/.333/.395 against righties. If the Orioles believe he can keep this up, they may hold on to the backstop. But if they think this is a fluke year for the 26-year-old, they could try to maximize his value now and select the contract of Jesus Sucre from Triple-A Norfolk to continue to mentor Chance Sisco behind the dish.

Potential fits: Astros, Angels, Rangers, Brewers, Diamondbacks

The Rays, Red Sox, Nationals and Phillies could all use some bullpen help. The Athletics need to fill a Frankie Montas-sized hole in their rotation, while the Astros, Rangers, Phillies and Brewers could fill in the back end of their starting fives as well. Houston could target first basemen to be an upgrade over Tyler White and Yuli Gurriel, while the Indians, Phillies and Rockies could use some more bats as well. The Angels may target Severino as a present and future backstop with pending-free agent Jonathan Lucroy being a disappointment behind the plate.

If you want further explanation on why I feel each club listed could be a potential fit for any of the Orioles players listed above, you can find me on Twitter at @DillonTAtkinson.

Read Full Article

Zac Lowther Has Earned a Promotion to AAA

Zac Lowther pitches.

Griesser’s Suggested Change of the Week

Last week, I suggested one Bowie pitcher be moved all the way up to the major leagues to aid the Orioles’ horrendous pitching staff. While Mike Elias ultimately hasn’t made that decision just yet, a promotion of some type can’t be too far off, as Bruce Zimmermann went on to pitch a complete-game shutout a few nights later.

This week, my suggested change won’t be quite as dramatic, as the player won’t be jumping two rungs of the professional baseball ladder. Instead, I recommend that Zac Lowther, the 23-year-old lefty, move from Bowie to Norfolk after 13 fantastic starts for the Baysox.

In a baker’s dozen starts in Bowie, Lowther has dominated, going 7-4 with an incredible 1.95 ERA. Unlike Zimmermann, however, Lowther’s strong start to the year isn’t particularly surprising; he owns a 2.00 career ERA in the minors.

Now, I understand that this move isn’t exciting because it won’t immediately affect the Orioles. However, it’s time for Lowther to get another test.

For those that suggest that Lowther’s 12 starts in Bowie isn’t enough of a look to move him up to Norfolk, I get your argument. That would certainly make Lowther an unbelievably quick riser in the O’s system, and some could worry that the club would be rushing him. At the same time, the Orioles have a serious lack of arms in AAA, with nobody even close to knocking on the door. Lowther could certainly struggle if called up now, no question. If he doesn’t, though, Elias can allow him to learn to pitch at that level for at least the majority of the season, waiting to call him up to Baltimore in September, at the earliest.

Additionally, because Lowther is a college arm, it’d be disappointing for him to spend too much time in AA before making another jump. He seasoned quite a bit at Xavier before being drafted by the Orioles, so his success thus far calls for his promotion.

Focusing on where he fits with Norfolk, the transition is really pretty seamless. Other than Keegan Akin, Luis Ortiz, and – maybe – Luis Ysla, there really aren’t any names that Elias should feel are worth keeping in a rotation over Lowther.

And, rather than sending someone from AAA down to AA or releasing them, I think there’s a chance that a player is moved up. With the DFA of Dan Straily (something else I and everyone else in Birdland predicted) and John Means’ placement on the 10-Day IL, I think the door is open for Tanner Scott.

Scott has been up and down between Baltimore and Norfolk over the last year or so, but he’s found recent success with the Tides, lowering his ERA to 3.57 in 15 appearances.

The O’s bullpen needs help from somewhere, and even though Scott has let chances in that role slip before, there’s simply nobody else to call up at this point. Plus, given his ability to go multiple innings, Scott may fit into a game in which Hyde runs out an opener.

In reality, both of these potential moves would be minor for the time being, but I think something critical is for the Orioles to see what they have in their young arms. For me, Zac Lowther has shown us that he will succeed at the AA level.

Now, he has to prove it in Norfolk.

Read Full Article