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Tides Recap: Wilkerson Does it All as Norfolk Takes 3 of 4

Steve Wilkerson of the Frederick Keys.

Utility man Steve Wilkerson made his presence known during a weekend series against the Charlotte Knights, playing three different positions, making sparkling defensive plays, and contributing clutch hits as the Tides took three of four games against last-place Charlotte.

 

TIDES SEASON TO DATE

The Tides (36-30, 2nd in the IL South through Sunday) entered the series with Charlotte having lost two out of three games to the Gwinnett Stripers (Braves’ AAA club) and scoring just four runs in those three games. Starting pitcher John Means (6 IP, 0 R, 8 K) and center fielder Cedric Mullins (4-for-11, 4 doubles) had standout performances for the Tides in the Gwinnett series. Norfolk currently features three of the Orioles’ top 30 prospects: outfielders Mullins (6) and D.J. Stewart (11) and pitcher Yefry Ramirez (17).

 

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS

It hasn’t been an easy homestand for the Tides: After dropping two of three to a Gwinnett team featuring some of the best players in the Braves’ minor league system, Norfolk had to turn around the next day and play the first of four games against the Charlotte Knights, the top farm club of the Chicago White Sox. The Knights have no shortage of highly touted players themselves, highlighted by hard-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech – the No. 8 prospect in all of Minor League Baseball. To put into perspective how talented the White Sox system is, Kopech isn’t even No. 1 in the organization – that honor belongs to Double-A outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in MiLB.

The Knights also feature pitchers Spencer Adams (No. 14 in the White Sox organization), Jordan Stephens (20), and Thyago Viera (27). Charlotte entered the series with a record of 29-35, but had won 11 of their last 16 games.

 

TOP TIDES PLAYERS OF THE SERIES

RHP Jimmy Yacabonis: 4.2 IP, 5 K, 2 R

Yacabonis continued his recent hot streak on the mound, going 4.2 innings in his start on Thursday night and striking out five. The righty has a 1.27 ERA and 3-0 record in his last six starts over 28.1 innings.

2B/3B/LF Steve Wilkerson: 7-for-16, 2 2B, HR, 6 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB

The switch-hitting Wilkerson reached base ten times in four games and played stellar defense at second base, third base, and left field. He’s hit safely in 14 of 16 games this year after serving a 50-game suspension to begin the season and has been an invaluable piece at the top of the Tides lineup.

 

INDIVIDUAL GAME RECAPS

Tides 6, Charlotte 4

The Tides took advantage of poor command from Knights’ starter Kopech on Thursday night, sending nine hitters to the plate and scoring three times in the bottom of the third en route to a 5-4 victory. Drew Dosch had three RBIs, including a two-run double, to pace Norfolk’s offense.

Starting pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis threw four and two-thirds innings for the Tides, striking out five and giving up two runs. Joely Rodriguez took over for Yacabonis and threw 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.

The Knights shaved the deficit to 5-4 in the top of the eighth inning when rehabbing White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia launched a long two-run homer off of Andrew Faulkner. Jhan Marinez entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and proceeded to record the final four outs for his eighth save.

Kopech walked eight hitters in three-plus innings of work and gave up two hits for Charlotte, surrendering five runs while throwing five wild pitches.

Wilkerson – playing Thursday’s game in left field – went 2-for-3 at the plate while reaching base four times and making a difficult catch at the left field wall to end the top of the sixth. First baseman Garabez Rosa added a pair of RBI singles.

Charlotte 7, Tides 2

Norfolk was unable to take advantage of several early run-scoring opportunities on Friday night, as they fell to Charlotte by a score of 7-2. Tides designated hitter Jaycob Brugman reached base four times, stole two bases, and drove home a run.

Charlotte struck first in the top of the second inning, as a base hit and two walks loaded the bases with one out. Knights catcher Dustin Garneau then singled to left field, scoring two, and shortstop Eddy Alvarez ripped a double into right field to score another run and make the score 3-0.

A bloop single by Brugman in the second and a double by Steve Wilkerson in the fourth scored the only two Tides runs of the game. Norfolk stranded ten runners on base.

Tides starter Tim Melville struggled with his command, walking four hitters and allowing six runs in three and two-thirds innings. Though he got the Knights to go down 1-2-3 in the first inning, he allowed three runs in the second and needed to rely on a beautiful diving grab by Mullins in center field to wiggle out of a bases loaded jam in the third. Four hits and a walk in the Knights’ fourth inning extended Charlotte’s lead to 6-1 and ended Melville’s night.

Reliever Paul Fry threw three scoreless innings for the Tides, striking out three. Wilkerson, playing second base in Friday’s game, went 1-for-4 at the plate.

Tides 4, Charlotte 3

Matt Wotherspoon threw five innings of one-run ball in a spot start and Renato Nunez and Steve Wilkerson blasted solo home runs in a 4-3 Tides victory that saw Charlotte and Norfolk trade the lead four times.

The Knights scored the first run of the game for the third straight night, using a double, two walks, and an RBI single in the top of the first to jump ahead 1-0. Wotherspoon settled down after the first frame, retiring 14 straight hitters and striking out a total of 5 hitters.

A night after leaving 13 runners on base, the Tides left the bases loaded again in the bottom of the first against Knights starter Spencer Adams. The game remained 1-0 Charlotte until the fourth inning, when Nunez launched a line drive that cleared the wall in left field for a leadoff home run.

Wilkerson led off the bottom of the sixth by crushing a 3-2 offering from Adams over the right field fence, giving Norfolk a 2-1 lead. In the top of the seventh, he put his defense on display – first bare handing a bunt and firing a strike to first base for the out, then snagging a hard-hit grounder on the third base line and throwing across the diamond for another out.

Reliever Andrew Faulkner got into trouble in the top of the eighth after surrendering a two-out walk and allowing the next hitter to reach on an error by Garabez Rosa at first base. Manager Ron Johnson elected to bring in closer Jhan Marinez, who immediately allowed back-to-back RBI singles to give Charlotte a 3-2 lead.

The Tides offense refused to go quietly in the eighth. Singles from Adrian Marin and Wilkerson put runners at first and second with one out, and a D.J. Stewart double scored Marin to tie the game and put runners at second and third. Nunez then floated a bloop single to the edge of the left field grass over the drawn-in Charlotte infield, scoring Wilkerson to take a 4-3 lead. Marinez remained in the game to shut the door in the ninth inning.

Tides 11, Charlotte 4

The Tides rode an eight-run eighth inning to come from behind and tally a 11-4 win on Sunday afternoon. Right fielder D.J. Stewart went 3-for-5 to lead the offensive effort.

The Knights once again used a first-inning rally to take a quick lead. Two singles and an RBI double from Avisail Garcia put Charlotte up 2-0 before the Tides came up to bat, and Knights pitcher Jordan Stephens breezed through the first three innings while holding Norfolk scoreless. The Knights added a third run in the fourth inning on an RBI single.

Stewart got the Tides going in the bottom of the fourth, lining a single to center field to lead off the inning. The next hitter, Renato Nunez, dribbled a ball to shortstop that forced the Knights to take the out at first and allowed Stewart to advance to second. After Drew Dosch walked, a trio of RBI singles from Garabez Rosa, Caleb Joseph, and Marin tied the game.

Charlotte reclaimed the lead in the fifth after a run scored on a two-out throwing error by Dosch. Three relievers – Ricardo Pinto, Gregory Infante, and Aaron Bummer – shut the Tides down in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings, while Norfolk’s D.J. Snelten and Joely Rodriguez combined to post scoreless innings in the 6th, 7th, and 8th.

Bummer remained in the game to begin the eighth inning, but was lifted for righty Rob Scahill after allowing the first three Tides hitters to reach base. Scahill immediately walked Marin to tie the game and then gave up a two-run single to Mullins as the Tides took a 6-4 lead. Subsequent RBI hits by Wilkerson, Stewart, Dosch, and Jaycob Brugman swelled the lead to 11-4. Rodriguez remained in the game on the mound and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to seal the win.

 

UP NEXT

Norfolk begins a six-game road trip to play the Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) and Louisville Bats (Reds) on Tuesday. The Tides return to Harbor Park on June 25.

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Series Preview: Orioles (19-48) vs. Marlins (26-43)

Kevin Gausman pitches in Sarasota.

After getting swept against the Red Sox, the Orioles will now conclude their home stand by taking on the Miami Marlins for a three-game set over the weekend.

The Orioles (19-48) nightmare campaign continues to fall deeper into the abyss. Their current seven-game losing streak is the sixth time that they’ve lost five-plus games in a row and the third time that they’ve lost seven-plus straight. They’ve also won just twice over their last sixteen contests.

The Marlins (26-43) should be coming into town feeling good after taking three of four from their latest series against the Giants. They’ve also won six of their last ten ballgames and will look to continue to rack up the wins at Camden Yards despite being in the cellar of the NL East.

Kevin Gausman (3-5, 4.58 ERA) will take on Jose Urena (1-8, 4.59 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Gausman turned in a quality start by holding the Blue Jays to three runs over 6 2/3 innings during his last outing, but has been struggling in recent times. He’s gone 0-3 with a 7.37 ERA over his last five contests.

Urena took the loss his last time out after giving up three runs over six innings against the Padres, and will continue to search for his second win of the season against the Orioles. He’s gone 1-2 with a 4.97 ERA over his last five outings.

Alex Cobb (2-8, 7.23 ERA) will match-up against Wei-Yin Chen (1-3, 6.13 ERA) on Saturday.

Cobb was tagged for nine runs over just 3 2/3 innings during his last start versus Toronto, and will be looking for a quick bounce back against the Marlins. Things seemed to be turning around for Cobb as he had allowed just four runs over thirteen innings in the two starts prior to his last, but is now back to square one after his fifth start of allowing five runs or more.

Chen coughed up four runs over just 4 1/3 innings in his last start against San Francisco, and will be looking to end the misery against his former ballclub. Over his last three starts, Chen has allowed ten runs over just 10 1/3 innings combined.

Dylan Bundy (4-7, 3.66 ERA) will go up against Trevor Richards (1-3, 4.41 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Bundy was outstanding during his last start against Boston and allowed just three hits over eight shutout innings, but was no-decisioned in the Orioles eventual loss after the offense let him down yet again. Bundy has been tremendous over his last four starts, going 2-1 with a sparkling 0.96 ERA.

Richards earned his first career major league win after holding the Giants to one run on two hits over six innings, and will be looking to notch another against the Orioles struggling line-up. Over his last three contests, Richards has posted a superb 2.30 ERA over 15 2/3 innings of work.

That’s it for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing skid.

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Worst Part of All This? O’s Seem Happy with Status Quo

dan duquette and buck showalter sitting at press conference

The Orioles are the worst team in baseball, and it’s not even close. Having lost 14 of their last 16 games and mired in a seven-game losing streak, the Orioles’ record sits at 19-48, worst in all of baseball by 2.5 games (the Royals, losers of 9 of 10 games, are 22-46). What doesn’t sit well in Baltimore isn’t the poor record so much as the lack of action taken.

Offensively, the team is in the bottom third of the league in every major category except for home runs. In fact, out of 30 teams, the Orioles rank either last or next-to-last in average, OBP, OPS, runs, and RBI. They are 27th in hits, and 28th in slugging.

Suffice it to say, the offense has been putrid. So putrid, in fact, that nobody is talking about just how bad the pitching staff has been. The Orioles’ 4.92 ERA ranks dead last in all of baseball. So does their .282 BAA and 1.53 WHIP despite allowing the ninth fewest walks. They’ve allowed the fourth most home runs in the league (93), and their 19 wins and 13 saves are last in the league, though you need only look at the standings to figure those last two numbers out.

Individually, a number of players are having the worst years of their careers. Brad Brach and Mychal Givens are posting the highest ERA of their careers. Pedro Araujo and Mike Wright continue to pitch out of the bullpen despite ERAs of 7.71 and 6.11. Alex Cobb has a 7.23 ERA and 1.768 WHIP.

Trey Mancini is experiencing a severe sophomore slump that has left his average at .229 after batting .293 as a rookie in 2017. Jonathan Schoop has regressed so much this season that his numbers look eerily similar to those of his rookie 2014 campaign when he hit .209 with a .244 OBP.

Chris Davis has been so bad that a local Baltimore bar is offering free shots any time the former slugger records a hit. Not a home run; a hit. Even Manny Machado, who could do no wrong through the season’s first two months, is stuck in a 3-24 slump that has dropped his average from .329 to .307 in a matter of just 12 days.

Yet here the Orioles stand, 19-48 on June 15. Davis still starts more often than not. Mancini still plays left field despite defensive metrics that would make Manny Ramirez blush. Scott Coolbaugh still has a job leading the worst offense in baseball, while Roger McDowell still has a job leading one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball.

Buck Showalter is still managing under the stress of an expiring contract. Dan Duquette, who tried using his shiny new Executive of the Year award as leverage to leave for Toronto following an ALCS appearance in 2014, is still employed by the ball club.

We have no idea who oversees baseball activities in the ownership group. Is it Peter Angelos, or is it his sons, John and Lou? Does Dan Duquette even have a role in the franchise? Reports suggest that Brady Anderson was the one pulling all the strings in the offseason and would seem to be the heir apparent.

As bad as this season has been, and as daunting a task as 95 more games may seem to be, the biggest frustration amongst the Baltimore fan base is the lack of action and transparency within the organization. Fans could get on board with a rebuild if ownership were to come out and say that’s the path the team is taking.

Baltimore just wants a visible plan in place.

In a season filled with ugliness, saying and doing nothing may be the ugliest of all.

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“AAAA” Players Can’t be Any Worse than “MLB” Players O’s are Using

Renato Nunez of the A's poses with his bat.

It’s been no secret that the Orioles have been terrible this season: The Birds have the worst record in the major leagues, and Chris Davis has had the worst season of any hitter this year by several measures. The farm system is noticeably lacking strong prospects, especially at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. Everyone expects Manny Machado to be traded at some point before August. Put simply, there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer for this year.

So where should the Orioles go from here?

I wrote a few weeks ago about how it would be interesting to see the Orioles join the Rays in using an “opening pitcher.” But there’s another strategy I’d like to see them try, and it’s much less radical: giving MLB playing time to veteran minor leaguers performing well with the Tides and Baysox.

These types of players are known as “Quad-A” – guys who excel in the minor leagues but for whatever reason have struggled heavily in the majors or have never really gotten an opportunity because scouts and GMs think they’ll struggle at the highest level. They’re caught in a sort of purgatory, consistently putting up big numbers and earning playing time at Triple-A but never quite getting a consistent opportunity to prove themselves in the major leagues.

Some teams who take a flyer on Quad-A players are rewarded many times over. The Blue Jays acquired a little-known journeyman third baseman named Jose Bautista in 2008 from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later. Bautista went on to establish himself as one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball and a six-time All-Star outfielder, twice leading the American League in home runs.

But for every Jose Bautista, there’s a mountain of Quad-A players like Bryan LaHair or Russ Canzler who never pan out. A 2012 article from Baseball Prospectus looked at reasons for why Quad-A players are often unsuccessful, quoting an unnamed scout who notes that while the minor leagues are about player development, the major leagues are about winning. Major league hitters are analyzed much more carefully by opposing teams than minor leaguers, meaning that it’s easier to expose a hitter’s weaknesses, and better pitching means that hitters don’t get as many mistake pitches to capitalize on.

All of those points are true, but let’s be honest with ourselves. The 2018 Orioles are not winning. They don’t have any chance of making the playoffs. With fan and industry expectations this low, Camden Yards in 2018 is about as low-pressure a Major League environment as a player could find. It’s the perfect chance to turn Quad-A hitters loose, giving them consistent MLB playing time and seeing if any of them run with it.

By watching the Tides play (I go to most games and watch from the press box), I’ve noticed several hitters whom I’d love to see get a chance in Baltimore – even if they aren’t “prospects” in the traditional sense of the word. One hitter in particular, Renato Nuñez, sticks out to me as someone to whom the Orioles should consider giving a serious shot.

Although he’s just 24 – younger than the prototypical Quad-A hitter – Nuñez has spent parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues, playing a total of 30 games and hitting a combined .167/.222/.273 with two home runs for the Athletics and Rangers. Despite that dismal showing, he’s put up big numbers in the minor leagues, having hit 123 MiLB home runs from 2014-2017. While he’s hit just one home run this year for the Tides, his OBP is up 51 points from last year for the Athletics’ AAA team in Nashville and he’s on pace to hit more doubles than he’s ever hit in a single season.

It might be alarming for some people to see that a hitter who averaged almost 25 home runs a year for five straight years has only hit one as of mid-June, but part of that likely stems from moving from the infamously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League to the much more pitcher-friendly International League while playing half of his games in Norfolk’s Harbor Park – one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the IL. Nuñez might even be a more complete hitter in 2018 than he’s been in any previous season, as he’s getting on base much more consistently even while moving to a difficult hitter’s environment.

It’s clear what types of players Danny Valencia, Tim Beckham, and Chris Davis are from the years all three have spent in the big leagues. We know what we can realistically expect from all three. But what can Renato Nuñez provide the Orioles? Is he the 30-home run threat he was in the Pacific Coast League? Probably not, but he’s likely not a .167 MLB hitter either. In a season that’s been lost almost from the start, the only way to answer that question is to give Nuñez – and other players like him – a chance.

It certainly can’t hurt.

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Thursday’s O’s Links: The Worst Team Ever?

Trey Mancini of the Orioles dives as the baseball bounces by.

It just gets worse…and worse…and worse. After being swept by Boston, the Birds have now lost seven straight. Again. Their pace is something to behold…more below.

/holds nose

To the links…

Davis has Struck Out in 21 Straight Games – Personal & Team Records within Reach

Let’s check in with Matt Taylor over at Roar from 34, shall we? Matt chronicles Chris Davis’ latest strikeout streak, which is about to break his own ridiculous strikeout streak, and which is catching up to the Orioles’ all-time record.

Appreciation for Jim Palmer in the Booth

Hey, Milton Kent! Old heads like me who read The Baltimore Sun back in the day will remember Milton, who is now contributing over at Baltimore Sports & Life. Here, he praises Jim Palmer for his criticisms of the fella we talked about in the first link.

O’s Struggles Reaching Historic Levels

Yay.

How bad can it get? As Jon Meoli of The Sun points out, the Birds are flirting with some uncharted territory here, so nobody really knows.

Current State of the Orioles: Really Bad

So now that we’ve gone over how bad the MLB team is, let’s talk about how there’s no hope on the Farm, shall we?

Well, perhaps not NO hope, but not much! Matt Kremnitzer of Camden Depot explains.

With Winning Out of the Question, the Orioles Have Two Choices Moving Forward

Alright, so. Things are bad. We know that. So how can the Birds fix it? Well, they can go about it in one of two ways, as Camden Chat’s Alex Church tells us. Which will they choose? Likely not the one that fans would prefer!

 

Uh…at least they can’t lose today? And tomorrow is Floppy Hat night!

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Tides Recap: Cedric Mullins, Doubles Machine

Cedric Mullins in the batter's box.

Despite four doubles from center fielder Cedric Mullins, the Tides dropped two of three games to the Gwinnett Stripers to open a seven-game homestand. The Tides welcome the Charlotte Knights to Harbor Park on Thursday for a four-game weekend series.

 

TIDES SEASON TO DATE

The Tides (33-29, 2nd place in the IL South through Wednesday) finished a six-game road trip prior to this homestand with a record of 3-3. Third baseman Renato Nunez hit .346 with three doubles over those six games, while catcher Caleb Joseph has hit .370 with a home run and six RBI over his past seven games. The Tides currently feature three of the Orioles’ top 30 prospects: pitcher Tanner Scott (No. 5) and outfielders Mullins (6) and D.J. Stewart (11).

 

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: GWINNETT STRIPERS

The Gwinnett Stripers – known before the 2018 season as the Gwinnett Braves – are the AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Three of the top 30 prospects in Atlanta’s stacked farm system currently play for the Stripers: left-handed pitchers Kolby Allard (No. 6) and Max Fried (7) and outfielder Dustin Peterson (15). Gwinnett has struggled this season, entering the series with the Tides with a record of 26-34 after a large portion of the top talent in the Braves’ minor league system graduated to the major leagues earlier this year.

 

TOP TIDES PLAYERS OF THE SERIES:

John Means, LHP: 6.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 8 K

Means earned the win in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader by throwing six shutout innings, striking out eight and walking none. He gave up just three hits – all weakly-hit singles – and struck out the first four Stripers hitters he faced. Means was able to work around a jam with runners at the corners and one out in the fifth inning by getting Gwinnett DH Rob Brantly to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

Cedric Mullins, CF: 4-for-11, 4 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB

Mullins, the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect, provided a spark from the leadoff spot in the order in all three games after an initial slow start following his call-up to Triple-A. Though he scored just one run, he hit three doubles during the two games on Tuesday and added in a stolen base in Game 2 for good measure. He followed the previous day’s performance with another double and an RBI in the final game of the series.

 

INDIVIDUAL GAME RECAPS:

Norfolk 1, Gwinnett 0 (7 innings, Game 1 of a doubleheader)

Left-hander John Means struck out eight Stripers and yielded just three hits, while Caleb Joseph’s second-inning home run was all the Norfolk offense needed to notch a victory in the first game of Tuesday night’s doubleheader. Mullins and Stewart, each among the Orioles’ top prospects, combined to go 2-for-6 with two doubles. Jhan Marinez entered the game in relief of Means in the seventh inning and pitched around a leadoff walk to earn his seventh save of the year.

Gwinnett 2, Norfolk 1 (7 innings, Game 2 of a doubleheader)

Tides pitchers Paul Fry and Ryan Meisenger held Gwinnett’s offense scoreless through five innings in the second game before the Stripers pushed across a run in the sixth on an inning-opening home run from Danny Santana. Though back-to-back doubles from Mullins and Steve Wilkerson tied the game in the bottom half of the inning, the Tides were unable to score again. The Stripers scored the eventual winning run in the top of the seventh, when Santana scored former Orioles outfielder Xavier Avery on a sacrifice fly.

Mullins and Wilkerson each went 2-for-4 at the top of the Tides’ lineup, combining for three doubles.

Gwinnett 10, Norfolk 1

A pair of early Stripers home runs coupled with a four-run seventh inning doomed pitcher Asher Wojciechowski and the rest of the Tides on Wednesday, as Norfolk dropped the rubber match of the series by a score of 10-1.

Gwinnett’s Michael Reed launched a two-run homer to left-center field in the first inning and Sal Giardina followed with a three-run blast of his own in the top half of the second inning to put the Tides in an early 5-0 hole.

Wojciechowski went five and two-thirds innings, allowing six runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking one.. D.J. Snelten allowed four runs (two earned) in an inning of relief.

The Tides offense was stifled all game long by Stripers starter Max Fried, who struck out a career-high 11 hitters in seven innings. Left fielder Mike Yastrzemski drove in the first Tides run of the game, singling home first baseman Garabez Rosa in the second inning. Mullins notched the team’s other RBI in the bottom of the eighth after grounding into a 6-4-3 double play.

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Thursday Thoughts: Richard Bleier Goes Down with Lat Injury

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. Everyone in the Twitterverse or the blogosphere continues to talk about the Orioles like changes need to be made. Changes on the field, changes off the field, and changes in the dugout have been speculated upon for weeks, if not months.

At this point, I’d be shocked. I don’t see any scenario where Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette aren’t finishing out this season in their current positions. The Orioles aren’t the type of team to make extreme changes in-season. They know this season is going nowhere. They also probably know who is in control going beyond this season. But they aren’t giving up that information.

The rest of us will just have to sit and wonder how long this misery will last beyond this season.

2. The Orioles continued to pour gasoline on their season over the past week, and as the flames rose higher, an old friend emerged from them. Zach Britton made his return to the mound Tuesday night, after rupturing his Achilles in December. Britton did not impress in his first outing, walking three of the first five Red Sox hitters he faced. That marked the first time in his relief career (spanning 246 outings) that he walked more than two hitters.

Still, he managed to get out of the inning unscathed. There’s a lot riding on Britton’s next few weeks of appearances. The more he can build up his value to potential trade suitors, the better off the Orioles may be.

The main target to me remains the Houston Astros, who thought they had a deal in place for the left-hander last year. They could use another arm in their bullpen, which may be the closest thing they have to a weakness.

3. Richard Bleier left yesterday’s game with what the Orioles are categorizing as a lat injury, which is very bad news. Bleier was among the few Orioles having a good season and because of that, was a top trade target for teams looking for bullpen help. His emergence this season was pretty much from out of nowhere. He’s allowed just seven earned runs in 32.2 innings, good for a 1.93 ERA. That includes 15 strikeouts to just four walks.

With just under seven weeks until the trade deadline, there’s virtually no chance a team will be able to deal for the injured left-hander now.

4. As the Orioles have become more and more of a laughing stock this season, one Baltimore bar is taking advantage. Edward Lee of The Baltimore Sun reports this week that Bartenders Pub on Boston Street is handing out free shots every time Chris Davis gets a hit. The shooters are a “Dr Pepper” shot, a mix of amaretto and Miller High Life. Apparently they taste like the soft drink, not that I’d know anything about that.

It’s gotten to the point with Davis that seeing him get a hit really is reason to celebrate. Actually, seeing him make contact with the ball is reason to celebrate. I’m always surprised at this point when Davis doesn’t strike out. Hell, I’m encouraged when he doesn’t strike out looking. “At least he swung,” is something I’ve caught myself saying this season.

This is a genius idea by the folks at Bartenders Pub. It’s not like they will be losing a lot by doing it, and it can create conversation if nothing else. It’s sad, but it its own little way, it’s endearing. Baltimore really is embracing the awfulness of the Orioles.

5. If you are an Orioles fan that is interested in watching (or perhaps pulling for) a good story this season, might I interest you in the Seattle Mariners? The M’s are very 2012 Orioles-esque this season. They’ve gone 21-9 in one-run games this season, get timely hitting, and have a lights out bullpen.

Sound familiar? Seattle is playing well above its “expected” win total, and some are calling them lucky. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, and they are 6-0 in extra inning games. Sound familiar?

Let’s also not forget to address the fact that the Mariners have the longest current playoff drought in all of the big four North American sports. They haven’t played in a postseason since 2001, which was Ichiro’s rookie year. That mark had belonged to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills before they made the playoffs last year.

Right now, the M’s are in a dogfight with the Astros in the AL West, but even if they aren’t able to hold on to the division, the playoffs look very plausible. Assuming one of the Red Sox or Yankees take one of the two Wild Card spots, there isn’t really another AL team that is a massive threat. The Angels are probably the best bet, but they’ve just lost two-way star Shohei Ohtani to injury. I’m going to pull for the Mariners this season to end that long drought, not only because I have friends that are long-suffering fans, but because it’s a good story.

In a season of awfulness for the Orioles, I’ve afforded myself that luxury. Deal with it.

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Tuesday’s O’s Links: Just One Game Ahead of the 1988 Team

Zach Britton pitches for the Orioles.

Every time we think perhaps the Orioles have reached “rock bottom,” they just plunge through the floor and reveal that there is somehow, still another, lower, level. After sweeping the New York Mets in a short two-game set at Citi Field, the Birds have now lost five straight. Last night, they wasted eight shutout innings from Dylan Bundy, losing 2-0 to Boston in 12 innings.

(This was about Adam Jones missing the cutoff man in the 12th yesterday on the sacrifice fly that gave Boston a 1-0 lead. Because he missed, a runner went from 2nd to 3rd, and that runner scored on a sac fly just a play later. Would it have mattered? Most likely not at all. But it was still bone-headed, and helped turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-0 deficit. Ross Grimsley was not a fan either:)

To some links, I suppose.

The Orioles’ Outfield Defense is Brutal

Let’s stay with that theme for a moment. Jones made a bad play – and he’s made his share of late – but he is, yet again, being asked to cover for some horrendous outfielders on both sides of him. Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer has the gory details (and GIFs) of just how terrible the Birds’ OF defense has been.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 241: Duck and Cover

Jake and Scott join me in trying to find Rock Bottom. They asked O’s fans to give them their Rock Bottom moments, as our season theme of “misery loves company” rolls on.

The Way Buck Showalter Organizes the Orioles Lineup is Confusing

If you’re forced to organize the deck chairs on the Titanic, shouldn’t you at least put them as far away from the listing edge as possible? As Tyler Young points out at Camden Depot, Buck has routinely set the chairs up in a silly, haphazard, and entirely indefensible manner.

Sunday Notes: Mancini a “Thoughtful Slugger”

David Laurila talked to Trey Mancini (scroll down) about getting in his own head, exceeding expectations, and how he quiets the naysayers both internal and external.

Zach Britton is Back

Buck said he didn’t want Britton’s first appearance to be a save opportunity. Last night would have been perfect then, right? I guess Buck should have said he wanted Zach’s first outing to be in mop-up duty, because he had several good chances to bring Britton in last night – even “dry humping” him twice – but instead left Mychal Givens out there to wither yet again. Buck has learned nothing.

 

Today is Dylan Bundy bobblehead day at the Yard. Somehow I’m thinking they might have some left over.

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Series Preview: Orioles (19-45) vs. Red Sox (44-22)

baseball players trot around the bases as the pitcher watches.

After getting swept during a gut-wrenching four-game set in Toronto, the Orioles will now return home and take on the Red Sox over the next three games at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (19-45) will be looking to break out of the darkness at home, but it won’t be easy as they’ve gone 1-9 over their last ten games against the Red Sox. To make matters worse, they’ve also gone just 2-11 over their last thirteen contests.

The Red Sox (44-22) will continue battling the Yankees in the two-horse race for division supremacy, and will be looking to bounce back after losing two of three at home to the White Sox. However, the ‘Sox come into Baltimore in fine form with a 16-8 record over their last 24 ballgames.

Dylan Bundy (4-7, 4.04 ERA) will take on Steven Wright (2-0, 1.57 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Bundy earned his fourth win of the season by holding the Mets to just three hits over seven shutout innings in his last start, and will look to extend his superb run of form against the ‘Sox. Over his last three starts, Bundy has gone 2-1 with an outstanding 1.23 ERA. During that span, he’s allowed just three runs over 22 innings of work while notching 25 strikeouts in the process.

Wright will be making his second start of the season against the O’s, and will be looking to impress again. He shut down the Tigers and allowed just two hits over seven scoreless innings during his first start on June 5th.

David Hess (2-2, 3.07 ERA) will match-up against Eduardo Rodriguez (7-1, 3.68 ERA) on Tuesday.

Hess turned in yet another impressive performance in Toronto and allowed just a single run on five hits over six innings, but was robbed of the win due to the Jays ninth-inning comeback and eventual victory.

The Orioles red-hot rookie owns a spectacular 0.96 ERA over his last three outings after allowing just two runs during his last 18 2/3 innings on the mound.

Rodriguez continued his own red-hot streak during his last start by holding the Tigers to one run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings. He’s now won four straight contests and has recorded a sparkling 1.90 ERA over 23 2/3 innings during that span while racking up 26 strikeouts.

Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.98 ERA) will go head-to-head with Chris Sale (5-4, 2.83 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Cashner turned in his second straight quality start against the Jays by allowing three runs on nine hits over six innings, but still ended up in the loss column. He’s ended up in the win column just once since April 5th, mainly due to a lack of run support.

Sale was outstanding against the White Sox and allowed just a single run on six hits over eight innings, but still took his fourth loss of the season. The Red Sox ace is in the middle of another stellar campaign as he’s held opponents to three runs or less in twelve of his fourteen starts while notching eight-plus strikeouts on ten separate occasions.

That’s it for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing skid.

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Series Preview: Orioles (19-41) @ Blue Jays (26-35)

Rogers Centre in Toronto with the roof open.

After sweeping the Mets during their two-day stay in New York, the Orioles will now fly north of the border and take on the Blue Jays for a four-game set before returning home.

The Orioles (19-41) may still own the worst record in the big leagues, but they’ll be feeling good coming into Toronto after winning consecutive games for just the fourth time this season.

The Blue Jays (26-35) have seen their season derail in a hurry, and will be looking to get back on track against the Orioles. After getting swept in a two-game set versus the Yankees earlier this week, they’ve now gone just 5-17 over their last twenty-two contests.

David Hess (2-2, 3.47 ERA) will take on Jaime Garcia (2-4, 6.08 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Hess took a tough-luck loss in his last outing after giving up just one run on four hits over six solid innings against the Nationals. The rookie has been impressive to start his career in the bigs and has recorded three quality starts in his first four attempts. He’s also allowed just a single run on eight hits over his last 12 2/3 innings of work.

Garcia was tagged to the tune of four runs on seven hits over just 1 2/3 innings against the Tigers, and will be looking to snap out of a rough patch against the Birds. He’s gone 0-4 with a 7.26 ERA over his last seven starts.

Andrew Cashner (2-7, 5.09 ERA) will match-up against J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.08 ERA) on Friday.

Cashner turned in a solid outing during his last start, but took the loss after giving up three runs over six innings against the Yankees. It was just his second quality start over his last eight attempts and he has posted a 6.19 ERA over his last seven starts.

Happ struggled during his last start in Detroit, allowing four runs over five innings, but has been otherwise excellent for the Jays this season. He’s allowed two runs or less in six of his last ten starts. He’s also gone 3-0 with a stellar 2.81 ERA over his last four contests.

Kevin Gausman (3-5, 4.63 ERA) will go up against Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.48 ERA) on Saturday.

Gausman was hit hard against the Yankees and allowed five runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings en route to his fifth loss of the season, and will be looking to snap out of his recent funk in Toronto. He’s gone 0-3 with an 8.53 ERA over his last four starts.

Sanchez notched his third win of the season by holding the Tigers to one run on two hits over six innings during his last start, and will be hoping to stay in form after his prior struggles. Sanchez went 0-3 with a 5.96 ERA over five starts in May.

The Blue Jays haven’t named a starter to take on Alex Cobb (2-7, 6.19 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Cobb was impressive during his last outing against the Mets and earned his second win of the season after allowing just a single run on two hits over six innings. Cobb has now posted quality starts in five of his last seven contests and has allowed three runs or less on six separate occasions during that span.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to coming home on a high note.

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Thursday Thoughts: Schoop’s Struggles Put O’s in Tough Spot

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. The 2018 Orioles won’t go the whole season without sweeping a series. Okay, it was just a two-game series. And okay, it was just the Mets. But it still counts. The Orioles needed just three runs to win two games this week in New York, and they officially have a win streak, their first one in almost two weeks.

It’s just their fifth series victory of the season and their second on the road. Incredible. I am over the idea of getting excited over wins this season, because they really don’t mean anything. But I will at least try to enjoy them as few and far between as they may be.

It’s all we have at this point to keep from slipping into the deep, dark void.

2. The Orioles capped their draft yesterday, selecting a total of 40 new players. Some will sign, some won’t and none of it will really matter to the big league club for a few years. What’s more important than who the Orioles DID draft this week, is who they DIDN’T draft.

Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich was not among the 1,214 players drafted. For those living under a rock, Heimlich is the talented prospect who is also a convicted sex offender. He pleaded guilty to a felony count of molesting his six-year-old niece when he was just 15. The guilty plea included admissions from incidents in 2009 and 2011, but he has since denied that anything happened. What’s more is that according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the first-round talent was apparently being watched closely by the Orioles.

The piece revealed that the O’s had discussions with Heimlich about signing him as an undrafted free agent months after the details of his case were disclosed by “The Oregonian.” This would’ve been an obvious PR nightmare for the Orioles, who have already had no shortage of those in recent years. Many teams said Heimlich was not even on their draft boards this year, and that’s obvious by the fact that he went undrafted.

But it leaves questions for what could happen going forward for the 22-year-old. The fact that the Orioles were involved in any kind of discussions with Heimlich in the past should raise big questions and it unveils just how deep the dysfunction inside The Warehouse may be.

3. Don’t look now, but maybe the Alex Cobb signing wasn’t an unmitigated disaster like some thought it was looking to be a month or so ago. The overall numbers look awful, but if you exclude Cobb’s disastrous three April starts, he’s pitched to a 4.20 ERA. No one is claiming that’s great, but it’s certainly capable of holding up as a fourth or fifth starter in the AL East.

If you remove one of Cobb’s May starts, his May 23 outing against the White Sox, he’s pitched to a 3.16 ERA since April over 37 innings. Cobb’s latest outing on Tuesday night was six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts. He allowed just two hits and one walk against the lowly Mets.

I don’t think they would ever consider it after signing him to a four-year deal this past offseason, but the Orioles should seriously think about floating Cobb in a trade. If they aren’t going to be competitive for a few years, there’s no real reason to have him around. He’s an asset as a veteran pitcher and could be helpful to a potential playoff team. There’s also a big question as to what the O’s could possibly get for him in a deal, seeing that there’s a decent amount of money on his contract.

But the team control is there and the trade market for pitching could be somewhat thin this July. It’s something to think about.

4. Jonathan Schoop should be thanking Chris Davis each day for distracting people from his awful season. While Davis has been the worst hitter in baseball at the plate this season, Schoop isn’t following up his All-Star campaign very well either. The second baseman spent a little more than three weeks on the disabled list with an oblique injury, but his time spent on the field has not impressed.

Schoop’s hitting just .232/.257/.375 this season with five homers and a 41/4 K/BB ratio. The Orioles are in a very weird place with Schoop. He’s a free agent after next season, and I can’t imagine he has any trade value at this point. I also can’t imagine they’d be enthused about giving him an extension (or that he’d want one at this point with his value so low). Schoop is obviously capable of being a big league second baseman, and a pretty good one. But there’s also a very good chance we’ve seen Schoop’s peak season already.

That’s not to say he can’t be a valuable contributor going forward, but his .293/.338/.503 season with 32 home runs last year might be his best offensive campaign. Schoop is also perhaps the biggest and best example of why the Orioles should be spending on the international market. He could be a lasting reminder as to the gold that can be found when you actually look for it.

Because he still has a year after this one left on his contract, I don’t think the Orioles will look to trade him this year. But they have to come up with a plan for him. If they have no designs on giving him a contract beyond next season, he should be traded immediately.

As much as Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton are question marks for this year’s trade deadline, Schoop will be next year’s problem.

And the Orioles are so bad this year, that they should already be looking to address next year’s problems.

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A Case for Signing Hanley Ramirez

After sweeping a two-game series from the Mets at Citi Field, the Orioles are now 5-1 in “The Big Apple” … and 14-40 everywhere else.

Though the Birds might be flying high after winning back-to-back road games for just the third time this season, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the same issues still abound for the ball club, as the team combined for just three runs on 11 hits (all singles) in the series.

The Orioles rank last in the American League, and next-to-last in the majors, in runs scored (218). Their .230 team average is better than just three teams in all of baseball, while their saving grace from seasons past — the long ball — ranks 14th out of 30 teams (68).

Former home run champions Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis have combined for just six home runs and 23 RBIs in 2018, and the season is more than two months old. Jonathan Schoop, a 2017 All-Star and team MVP, is hitting .232.

Trey Mancini, the second runner up for AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, was hitting .284 on April 20th when he exited the game against the Indians after smashing his knee into the fence attempting a sliding catch in foul territory. Since the injury, Mancini is hitting just .200 (28-140), dropping his average to .231.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The Orioles are offensively challenged in 2018, and there doesn’t appear to be any help on the horizon. As Buck Showalter likes to say, these guys all have track records, and their numbers should be better by season’s end. The problem is that the numbers have been so bad to this point that a team that had legitimate playoff aspirations in March is now the worst team in baseball in June.

And now rumors are swirling that the team could be on the cusp of signing Hanley Ramirez, who was recently discarded by the rival Red Sox when Dustin Pedroia returned from offseason knee surgery. That possibility has left many scratching their heads of as to why the Orioles would even consider such a move when the season is basically over.

In fact, I questioned the move myself when I first heard the rumors, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Now put down your pitch forks and torches and hear me out.

The Red Sox are on the hook for Ramirez’s $22 million salary this season, meaning that any team that chooses to sign him would only have to pay a prorated portion of the league minimum salary, which at this point would be roughly $343,000 (give or take a few grand).

While a last place ball club with the worst record in baseball should be focusing on the future, they are still a business, and the main priority should always be winning ball games, first and foremost. Also, good luck getting a bunch of veterans and former All-Stars on board with tanking the rest of the season in the hopes of bettering the future of an organization most of them will no longer be playing for in the coming years.

With those things in mind, signing Hanley Ramirez absolutely makes sense. His .254 BA would rank third on the Orioles amongst players with a minimum of 150 PA. His 29 RBIs would rank second, and his six home runs would rank fifth, ahead of the likes of Schoop, Trumbo, and Davis.

For $343,000, the Orioles would be getting a cleanup hitter that would actually make pitchers think twice about walking Manny Machado, which would mean more pitches for Manny to hit, and ultimately improve his trade value (if it could conceivably get any higher).

Ramirez is versatile and can also play first base, third base and left field in a pinch. In addition, falling just behind the effect on Manny in terms of importance, a Ramirez signing should mean significantly less playing time for Davis, who, when it is all said and done will go down as the worst contract signing in the history of Major League Baseball.

Yes, the fans are correct, the Orioles need to get younger and start planning for the future. Everybody knows that. There just isn’t any help on the horizon in the minor leagues. Cedric Mullins is the only viable option as Austin Hays has struggled at Double-A Bowie and he, along with D.J. Stewart, is currently on the disabled list.

The team has no middle infield depth at any minor league level, and the best arms are all in low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick, save for Hunter Harvey, who isn’t exactly thriving at Bowie (5.57 ERA in 9 starts), and Keegan Akin, who is only in his second full season of pro ball.

Signing Ramirez doesn’t mean that the Orioles expect to get back into contention, nor does it mean that they aren’t looking towards the future. Ramirez simply gives the team a viable chance to play better baseball than they have to this point. At this juncture in his career, the risk is greater for the player than it is for the team anyway.

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Series Preview: Orioles (17-41) @ Mets (27-30)

Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones celebrate while Manny Machado looks on.

After losing both games of a rain-shortened series against the Yankees, the Orioles will now head to Queens to take on the Mets for a quick two-game set before traveling to Toronto.

The Orioles (17-41) are looking to snap a seven-game losing streak tonight at Citi Field, but wins have been hard to come by on the road this season. The Birds went just 4-13 while on tour in May and have compiled a woeful 7-23 record away from Camden Yards.

The Mets (27-30) came into 2018 with high hopes but now face a possible fire sale after a disappointing first two months. After getting handed a four-game sweep by the visiting Cubs over the weekend, the Mets have lost six straight contests at home and own a dismal 3-11 record over their last 14 games.

Alex Cobb (1-7, 6.80 ERA) will take on Jason Vargas (2-3, 8.53 ERA) in the series opener.

Cobb took the loss against the Nationals despite allowing just three runs on five hits over seven solid innings. He has been getting progressively better as the season rolls along. Cobb has posted quality starts in four of his last six attempts and has given up three runs or less on five separate occasions during that span.

Vargas notched his second win of the season after holding the first-place Braves to two hits over five shutout innings during his last outing, and will be looking to build on that going forward. Like Cobb, Vargas has shrugged off a nightmare start to his campaign by going 2-0 with a stout 3.46 ERA over his last three starts.

Dylan Bundy (3-7, 4.46 ERA) will match-up against Zach Wheeler (2-4, 5.14 ERA) in Wednesday’s series finale.

Bundy battled hard during his last start against the Nationals and allowed just three runs over six innings despite giving up 11 hits. After going through a rough stretch that has resulted in a 7.05 ERA over his last seven contests, Bundy looks to be back on mend as of late. He owns a solid 3.60 ERA over his last two starts while striking out 20 over 15 innings of work.

Wheeler held the dangerous Cubs lineup to just two runs on seven hits over six innings his last outing, but took the no-decision in the Mets eventual loss. Bad luck has been the story of Wheeler’s season. He’s held opponents to two runs or less in three of his last five starts, but doesn’t have a win during that span to show for it. He owns an impressive 3.50 ERA over eighteen innings of work during his last three starts.

Notes:

— Adam Jones is simply crushing it at the moment as he’s posted multi-hit contests in five of his last eight contests. During that span, he’s gone 14-for-34 (.412) at the dish with five runs, two doubles, one homer and four RBI.

Manny Machado comes into Queens on a seven-game hitting streak. He’s hitting .321 with five runs, two doubles, three homers and three RBI over that stretch.

— Mets highly-touted shortstop Amed Rosario is starting to heat up with the weather. He’s posted four multi-hit contests over his last 10n games and is hitting .303 with four runs, one double and three RBI during that span.

— Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo is red-hot at the moment. Over his last 10 games, he’s hitting a solid .270 with eight runs, three doubles, four home runs and eight RBI. He’s also posted four mutlihit performances during his current streak of excellence.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing skid.

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Tuesday’s O’s Links: Welcome to the O’s, Grayson Rodriguez

Grayson Rodriguez pitches.

It’s very likely that the only thing that kept the O’s from getting swept in a four-game home series against the New York Yankees was the weather. Two of the four games were postponed, which is, apparently, all the mercy we can expect from the baseball gods here in 2018. The Birds now head to Queens to take on the other New York team for two before going up to Toronto. Maybe they’ll surprise us and win some games on the road trip?

Now that the team is on the road, the forecast in Baltimore is quite pleasant. There’s some poetry there, if you care to find it.

To the links.

O’s Take Grayson Rodriguez & Cadyn Grenier in Draft

The Orioles nabbed Grayson Rodriguez, a high school pitcher from Texas, with the 11th overall pick in last night’s MLB Draft, and Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier with pick 37. Rodriguez was only ranked 22nd on MLB Pipeline, which had some O’s fans upset last night. It’s high school pitchers – it’s the MLB Draft…nobody knows. Don’t get too worked up over prospect rankings. The draft continues today with Rounds 3-10.

Bird’s Eye View Baltimore Episode 240: Swinging in the Rain

Jake & Scott won’t let a little rain slow them down. They fight through some less-than-ideal conditions to bring us another show, with some depressing predictions, upsetting stats, and downright miserable lack of insight and baseless opinion. Misery loves company, so give them a listen.

Signing Hanley Ramirez Would be a Smart Move

I’ve never heard of WBLZ Media before, but here’s an article someone over there wrote about the O’s and Hanley Ramirez. It’s worth reading just to point and laugh at, I suppose. We O’s fans can use any smiles we can get these days.

Machado vs. Harper & the Frenzy for the Largest Contracts in Pro Sports

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reminds us just why – in addition to the standings – we’re so depressed as Orioles fans: because the one thing good about this franchise right now is going to be gone very soon. But hey, Manny may have passed Bryce Harper as far as value heading into free agency, so…good for him.

Buck Showalter Likes his Guys Too Much

Camden Chat’s Brice Young takes Buck to the woodshed a bit, focusing on his continued use of Craig Gentry, and his insistence on putting Chris Davis in the middle of the lineup even as he proves again and again that he’s the worst hitter in baseball. Throw in Buck’s refusal to give Chance Sisco even a sniff against left-handed pitching, and I’m right there with ya, Brice.

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Tides Split Rain-Shortened Series with Rochester

Orioles pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis on the mound.

LAST SERIES RECAP

The Tides entered the series against the Rochester Red Wings stuck in a four-game losing streak and fresh off of a sweep at the hands of the Pawtucket Red Sox. Norfolk scored only six runs in the three games against Pawtucket, though the bullpen posted a 1.98 ERA over 13.2 innings pitched. The Orioles promoted one of their top prospects, outfielder Cedric Mullins, to the Tides from Double-A Bowie before Saturday’s game against the Red Wings.

As of June 1, the club held a 28-23 record and remained just a half-game behind the Durham Bulls for first place in the IL South.

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: ROCHESTER RED WINGS

The Rochester Red Wings are the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Rochester features seven of the Twins’ top 30 prospects: left-handed pitcher Stephen Gonsalves (No. 3); shortstop Nick Gordon (4); right-handers Zack Littell (15), John Curtiss (20), and Luke Bard (27); and outfielders Jake Cave (25) and Zack Granite (26). The Red Wings entered Saturday’s game with a 27-23 record, good for third place in the IL North and just one game behind Lehigh Valley for the division lead.

 

GAME RECAPS

Rochester 3, Norfolk 1

Tides starter Yefry Ramirez pitched six strong innings on Friday night, but back-to-back home runs from the Red Wings’ Jake Cave and Chris Carter coupled with a slumping Norfolk offense doomed the Tides to their fifth straight loss.

Ruben Tejada got the Tides on the board in the fourth inning after hitting a bloop single to left-center field, scoring Caleb Joseph and giving Norfolk a 1-0 lead. Ramirez, who breezed through the first four innings, got into trouble in the fifth after Rochester opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Though Ramirez managed to get Nick Buss to fly out, he would then hit Taylor Featherston to load the bases. The Tides escaped the jam with help from first baseman Garabez Rosa, who made an excellent throw home on a ground ball to nab the lead runner for the second out of the inning. Ramirez would then strike out Nick Gordon to end the Red Wings’ threat.

Cave and Carter launched a pair of long home runs off of Ramirez to open the sixth inning and put Rochester on top – a lead they would not relinquish. Ramirez finished the sixth inning without allowing another run, but exited prior to the seventh inning having struck out six Red Wings and walked one. Rochester added another run in the top of the ninth after Gordon singled home Zack Granite from second.

Cedric Mullins, the No. 6 prospect in the Orioles organization, made an immediate impact on defense in his Tides debut with a diving catch in center field to rob Rochester’s Taylor Motter of a base hit. Mullins, a switch-hitting outfielder best known for his speed and defensive prowess, went 0-for-4 at the plate and struck out twice. The 23-year-old is expected to make his major league debut at some point this season.

 

Norfolk 7, Rochester 3

After four games of sluggish offensive production to start the homestand, the Norfolk bats exploded in the fifth inning of Saturday night’s game for six runs – helping the Tides snap a season-high five-game losing streak.

Jimmy Yacabonis, the Tides starting pitcher, threw five strong innings and yielded just one run while striking out two Red Wing hitters.

Yacabonis and two Rochester pitchers, Gabriel Moya and Jake Reed, were locked in a 1-1 pitcher’s duel through four innings. The Red Wings’ scheduled starter, Zack Littell, was promoted to the Twins earlier in the day – forcing Rochester manager Joel Skinner to mix and match pitchers throughout the night. Nick Anderson relieved Reed in the fifth and immediately gave up a bunt single to Mullins. Anderson proceeded to walk the next hitter, Renato Nunez, on four pitches and then surrendered a long three-run homer to third baseman Drew Dosch. Garabez Rosa would immediately follow with another base hit, and following another walk to Mike Yastrzemski, Caleb Joseph hit the inning’s second three-run homer to send the Harbor Park fans into a frenzy.

Left-hander Joely Rodriguez took over for Yacabonis to start the bottom of the sixth and pitched the next two frames, giving up two runs. Righty Jhan Marinez finished the game by shutting out the Red Wings in the eighth and ninth innings.

Tides first baseman Garabez Rosa also had a strong offensive showing, finishing the night 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored.

 

Sunday’s game was postponed due to rain. It will be made up at a date TBD.

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The Rundown: Time to Move AJ…or At Least, His Position

Adam Jones throws the ball in the field.

The Orioles will attempt to shape the future of their organization over the next three days with the MLB Draft beginning tonight. This should continue over the next two months as Dan Duquette’s recent comments to the Baltimore Sun indicate he is ready to embrace a rebuild. I emphasize he as we really don’t know who is calling the shots, but at least it appears Duquette understands this season is a disaster and that now is the time to pivot.

We know (well, we hope) the organization can’t screw up the Manny Machado trade and hopefully Zach Britton proves he is healthy before the deadline as well. It will be interesting to see if they would move Adam Jones and if they can get anything of value for Mark Trumbo.

 

Jones Is Not a Centerfielder Anymore 

Speaking of Jones, it has become painful to watch him patrol centerfield. Moving Jones off centerfield isn’t a new idea and at the age of 32, it really shouldn’t be a surprise. It was roughly around this age that Torii Hunter was moved to a corner spot. Jones’ inefficiencies could be hidden a little if he didn’t have corner outfielders who were inadequate on a nightly basis. It was only a couple of years ago that Jones talked about needing more help in the outfield and that fell on deaf ears as the outfield defense for the O’s continues to be subpar. I think there are flaws with defensive sabermetrics, but those stats and our eyes agree here. Jones ranks near the bottom in all the key stats and the outfield as a whole is embarrassingly bad.

This could all be a moot point as there’s a chance Jones will be moved before the deadline and an even greater chance he will leave via free agency after the season. I am actually on board with bringing Jones back as I think he brings more to an organization and community than just his on-field production.

Also, Jones can still hit which these days in Birdland is hard to find. However, he would have to sign off on moving to a corner spot and with Cedric Mullins inching closer to the big leagues, that decision is coming sooner than later.

 

Mancini and Schoop’s Offensive Struggles

If I wrote down all the things that I thought could go wrong this season, I’m not sure I would have written down the offensive regression of Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop. You could use injuries as an excuse as Schoop landed on the disabled list and Mancini has dealt with a knee injury. Mancini has become a different hitter since crashing his knee into the brick wall, but Schoop has pretty much struggled since the start of the season despite a strong spring training. Hitting can be contagious in either direction and unfortunately, two of the most consistent hitters from last year have been part of the problem in 2018.

It remains to be seen if the organization will try to lock Schoop up long-term and we may be having trade conversations about him beginning in the off-season. Mancini is here for the long haul and the team needs to make it a priority to get him back on track.

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Bats Go Cold as Tides Swept by Pawtucket

The Norfolk Tides logo.

A QUICK TIDES ROAD TRIP RECAP

The Tides returned to Harbor Park on Tuesday night having gone 6-2 on their most recent road trip, which saw them make stops in Charlotte and Toledo to play the White Sox and Tigers’ affiliates, respectively.

The team’s 17-10 record in the month of May propelled them into the lead in the International League wild card race and left them only a half game back of Durham for first place in the IL South entering Tuesday’s game. Outfielder D.J. Stewart, the Orioles’ No. 11 prospect, was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring strain prior to the Pawtucket series. Stewart was arguably the Tides’ hottest hitter over the past three weeks, having reached base in 15 of his last 17 games while posting a .431 OBP with four home runs and five doubles in that span. INF Steve Wilkerson, who slashed .305/.375/.423 in 2017 with Frederick and Bowie, was added to the Tides’ roster after serving a 50-game suspension for a violation of MLB’s drug policy.

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: PAWTUCKET RED SOX

The Pawtucket Red Sox are (unsurprisingly) the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The pitching-heavy PawSox boast six of Boston’s top 30 prospects: first baseman Sam Travis; left-handed pitchers Jalen Beeks, Bobby Poyner, and Williams Jerez; and righties Chandler Shepard and Ty Buttrey.

I was most impressed by Beeks, who looked absolutely dominant in his start on Thursday night. He struck out seven hitters while working into the eighth inning and allowing just one run. Last year, the Red Sox named the 24-year-old Beeks their Minor League Pitcher of the Year after he went 11-8 with a combined 3.29 ERA and 155 strikeouts between Double-A and Triple-A.

It’s a scary thought to imagine that sort of talent joining guys like Chris Sale and David Price on Boston’s big league pitching staff in the near future.

 

GAME RECAPS

Pawtucket 5, Tides 1

W: Justin Haley L: Tim Melville

Tides starter Tim Melville struggled in the first inning, giving up two home runs to the first four Red Sox batters, as Pawtucket breezed past Norfolk by a score of 5-1. Melville worked three innings, giving up five runs while walking three and striking out two. PawSox starter Justin Haley yielded just three hits, striking out five Tides hitters in seven innings of work. His only blemish came in the third inning when center fielder Mike Yastrzemski doubled home catcher Austin Wynns for the lone Norfolk run.

Tides relievers Paul Fry, Ryan Meisenger, and Andrew Faulkner combined for six shutout innings and five strikeouts. Pawtucket reliever Kyle Martin pitched the final two innings out of the bullpen to seal the win for the Red Sox.

Pawtucket 4, Norfolk 2

W: Fernando Rodriguez L: John Means SV: Ryan Brasier

Pawtucket third baseman Jordan Betts reached base four times and drove in a run as the Red Sox were able to squeak by the Tides on Wednesday night. Ruben Tejada put the Tides up 1-0 in the second inning with an RBI single, but Pawtucket was able to tie the game in the fourth with an RBI base knock of their own from Mike Ohlman. The Sox struck again in the following inning, stringing together two hits and a walk to chase Tides starter John Means and then working another walk and a hit by pitch from reliever Jhan Marinez to force across two runs and take the lead. Both runs scored in the fifth inning by Pawtucket were credited to Means.

The Tides were able to rally in the bottom of the sixth with base hits from Renato Nunez, Caleb Joseph, and Steve Wilkerson. A throwing error by Pawtucket shortstop Mike Miller on Wilkerson’s hit scored a run and put runners at second and third, but pitcher Fernando Rodriguez bounced back to strike out Garabez Rosa and end the Norfolk threat. The Red Sox were able to add a run in the top of the ninth after another RBI single from Ohlman to make the score 4-2. Ryan Brasier pitched the ninth inning for Pawtucket to pick up his fourth save.

Renato Nunez went 2-for-4 with a run scored for the Tides and Steve Wilkerson had one hit in four at-bats in his first game of 2018 following a 50-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamine in December of last year.

Pawtucket 4, Norfolk 3

W: Jalen Beeks L: Asher Wojciechowski SV: Williams Jerez

Pawtucket starter Jalen Beeks cruised through seven innings on Thursday night, striking out seven Tides hitters and walking none in a 4-1 Red Sox victory. Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin had two hits and two RBIs, including a home run in the third inning, and third baseman Mike Olt added a home run of his own in the fifth.

Asher Wojciechowski started for the Tides and lasted six innings, striking out five and working around four walks to allow just two runs. Matt Wotherspoon relieved Wojciechowski in the seventh inning and immediately found himself in danger following a pair of bloop hits by Oscar Hernandez and Mike Miller, who would both come around to score later in the inning. Wotherspoon would remain in the game to pitch the top of the eighth before handing the ball off to Andrew Faulkner in the ninth.

Williams Jerez relieved Beeks in the eighth after the latter allowed a single and a double to open the inning. Jerez would retire D’Arby Myers on an RBI groundout to short before getting Mike Yastrzemski to fly out and then striking out Drew Dosch to end the Norfolk threat. He would stay on to close the game for the Red Sox in the ninth inning, but surrendered a long two-out, two-run homer to Austin Wynns to close the Norfolk deficit to 4-3.

Renato Nunez, who the Orioles claimed off of waivers from the Texas Rangers on May 13, recorded a base hit in the first inning and has now hit safely in 12 of the 16 games he’s played with the Tides. Catcher/DH Caleb Joseph went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .220 in 50 at-bats since his demotion.

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Series Preview: Yankees (35-17) @ Orioles (17-39)

Kevin Gausman of the Orioles pitches on the mound.

After getting dealt a three-game sweep in the “Beltway Series” against the Nationals, the Orioles will now take on the Yankees for a four-game set before hitting the road again.

The Orioles (17-39) will look to snap a five-game losing streak in tonight’s series opener, and have gone just 4-11 over their last 15 contests. They’re also trying to avoid a 20-loss month with a record of 9-19 going into the final day of May.

The Yankees (35-17) will be feeling good after taking two of three from the reigning champion Houston Astros in the Bronx before. Just two games off the pace of the division-leading Red Sox, the Yanks are in fine form and have posted an impressive 17-7 record this month.

Andrew Cashner (2-6, 5.07 ERA) will take on Sonny Gray (3-4, 5.98 ERA) in the series opener.

Cashner took the loss after giving up five runs on 11 hits over five innings against the Rays during his last start. He’s recorded just one quality start in his last seven attempts and owns a 5.47 ERA through five starts in May.

Gray was tagged for five runs on seven hits over just 3 2/3 innings in his latest outing against the Angels. After posting a horrid 6.67 ERA over six starts in April, Gray has seen a slight turnaround this month with a 2-2 record and a 5.16 ERA through four starts. The Bombers are surely hoping for better results from their star pitcher going forward.

Kevin Gausman (3-4, 4.31 ERA) will take the mound against Masahiro Tanaka (6-2, 4.62 ERA) on Friday.

Gausman coughed up seven runs on six hits over just 2 2/3 innings during his last start in Tampa, and will need to bounce back quickly against the Yankees. Despite being in excellent form for most of the season, Gausman has allowed thirteen runs over his last 13 2/3 innings after two rough recent outings. His ERA has jumped from 3.18 to 4.31 over his last three starts.

Tankaka notched his sixth win of the season after holding the Angels to one run on three hits over six innings in his last start. It was the only time this month in which he’s held an opponent to three runs or less. In five starts in May, Tanaka has gone 2-0 despite ownining a 4.94 ERA.

Alex Cobb (1-7, 6.80 ERA) will match-up against Domingo German (0-3, 5.45 ERA) on Saturday.

Cobb turned in a very solid outing his last time out and held the Nationals to three runs on five hits over seven innings, but took the loss in the 6-0 Nats’ win. Cobb has recorded an impressive month in which he’s posted four quality starts in six attempts. The hope is that he will only get better from this point on.

German took the loss after giving up three runs over 5 2/3 innings against the Astros, and is still searching for his first big league win. Through four starts in May, German has went 0-2 with a 5.55 ERA.

Dylan Bundy (3-7, 4.46 ERA) will go up against CC Sabathia (2-1, 3.73 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Bundy battled admirably during his last start against the Nationals, but took the loss after allowing three runs on 11 hits over six innings. Bundy looks to be back in-form after allowing just six runs over his last 15 innings of work, but still owns a 2-4 record and a 6.12 ERA through six starts in May due to his prior struggles.

Sabathia took the no-decision against the Astros after giving up three runs on eight hits over five innings in an eventual Yankees win. The Yankees veteran hurler has come back down to earth after an incredible month of April and owns a 5.92 ERA through five starts in May.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing streak.

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Thursday’s O’s Links: There is No Bottom

Buck Showalter scowls from the dugout.

The Orioles got swept by the D.C. team in a three-game set at HOME, and scored just two runs in the entire 27 innings of the series. You keep thinking they’ve hit rock bottom, and they keep plummeting through the floor.

Links.

Orioles 2018 Rotation has Been Nearly as Awful as 2017’s

The O’s set a franchise record for starting-pitching futility in 2017. They got rid of Ubaldo, and Miley, and cut the Chris Tillman experiment short. They added actual decent MLB starting pitchers…and they’re still horrible. Yet, somehow, through ALL OF THIS, Roger McDowell keeps his job. Flabbergasting.

The Memorial Day Deadline is Here

Have you guys checked out The Warehouse Pod yet? Tyler, Jesse, and Marcus (Eli, this week) are Birds fans who just started up this show (this is episode 10), and so far I’m a fan. I’m always looking for more Birdland podcasts, though these days it’s just because misery loves company. Anywho, give them a listen.

Poor Roster Construction Dooms O’s Again

Dan Connolly has taken the kid gloves off when it comes to detailing just how flawed and awful this team is.

Cliff Lee was Drafted by O’s, but Went to College Instead

20 years ago, the Orioles saw something in a high school lefty, picking him in the 20th round. He didn’t sign, and went on to have an amazing career elsewhere. It was actually he second time getting drafted and eschewing the big league squad, so whatever. The O’s would have ruined him anyway.

Mike Trout Somehow Got Better – This is How

What the hell is this Mike Trout link doing here? I dunno man, I’m sick of depressing stuff. Let’s read about the best player of our generation, who could actually be the best player in history. His commitment to getting better – when he was already damn incredible – is something I sure wish some Orioles shared. But again, this isn’t to bash the Birds. I just want to read about good baseball, and good baseball players. If you agree, check out this article.

 

Four against the Yankees on deck. Yippee.

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Thursday Thoughts: O’s Fans Should Stuff the Ballot Box…for Nick

Nick Markakis tips his helmet.

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. I’ve been scouring the internet all week to look for potential Twitter burner accounts used by Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. I mean, hey, I hear it’s a popular thing to do these days. We’re talking about the same guy who once had his personal cell phone number posted on social media, so who knows what is out there. I’ll keep you posted.

I figured that’s the best place to look for clues at this point when it comes to trying to find out what the Orioles might be doing between now and July 31st. They certainly haven’t announced any plans and haven’t given any clues. Memorial Day, which as you know was this past Monday, was supposed to be the demarcation day for when the O’s decided what kind of chance they had this season. Obviously they didn’t need to wait that long, but now that the day has come and gone, I’m waiting on pins and needles for some kind of direction. Any hint of a plan, or who is in charge of the plan or whether or not the Orioles realize there should be a plan would be nice.

In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of potential Twitter handles that could be out there just revealing any speck of information from the Warehouse.

2. One part of any plan for the next few months should involve Zach Britton, who got his injury rehab stint underway last night with Frederick. The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli was on hand in Wilmington, Delaware last night (with his trusty radar gun) for the Keys’ game against the Blue Rocks.

(As a side note, a wonderful place to take in a ballgame).

Zach Britton looks in for a sign.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Meoli reported that Britton was sitting at 92-94 on his fastball during a scoreless inning in which he recorded three swinging strikeouts. Britton is going to be a crucial part of the Orioles’ plan to rebuild. They need to ensure that he comes back to the big league club fully healthy and with enough time to build back some value before the deadline. They aren’t going to get a haul for Britton, but they should be able to get something. It’s the same with basically every other player that has an expiring contract on this team. The value won’t be super high, but they have to be able to acquire something from these pieces, rather than just letting them walk in the winter.

3. I’m doing my best to temper my expectations, but each time David Hess takes the mound, it’s hard not to be a little impressed. Hess seems like the perfect candidate to make Chris Tillman just float away into the abyss this season. The Orioles don’t need him to become a top-line starter this season, or next. Hess just needs to continue developing into a decent pitcher. That’s all. That’s all they need from a player where there really aren’t any expectations. He’s not Tanner Scott or DL Hall. He’s certainly not Hunter Harvey. Hess can settle in and give the Orioles quality where they aren’t even anticipating it.

What’s probably most important in the near future is that Hess is giving the Orioles cover to keep Tillman away from the mound. As long as he can continue to do that, I’ll be more than impressed.

4. Voting for the All-Star Game starts tomorrow, and Orioles fans may think they don’t have much motivation to stuff the ballot box (virtually of course). Manny Machado will likely be the O’s lone representative (as long as he isn’t traded before teams are announced). There really isn’t any other player that’s close to deserving of a trip down the street to Washington, DC for this July’s AL-NL tilt.

But there is another reason O’s fans should spend some time on MLB.com voting for the players that will get in the game.

It’s time to remove Nick Markakis from the “best players to have never been an All-Star” list. The boys from the Birds Eye View podcast were all over this earlier in the week, and I encourage you to give a listen to their thoughts on Markakis. The former Oriole is having a great season in Atlanta alongside his brother-in-law, Ryan Flaherty. Markakis is on pace for more than 200 hits, which would be a first in his career. The 34-year-old also already has seven home runs after hitting eight all of last year. He’s also on pace to have more walks than strikeouts this season, in an age where that is virtually impossible.

Markakis has been a key veteran on a young, surging Braves team that looks poised to make a playoff push in the tough NL East.

O’s fans should get him to the All-Star Game, or at least root for it to happen. It’ll make cheering for him during his induction into the Orioles Hall of Fame someday that much sweeter.

5, There was a ton of fervor on social media this week regarding the Orioles wearing gear in support of the Washington Capitals. I say all of this as an actual real life Caps fan from the Baltimore-metro area – who cares?

None of this really does anything for me, even though I’ve been a fan of the hockey team since the mid-90s, when I actually learned what hockey was. There are a lot of anti-Washington people in Baltimore, and I get that. I also understand fully how weird it is that the O’s players and coaches were wearing Caps colors this week while playing against another Washington team (which happens to rock the same colors). It’s all weird. But it also doesn’t really matter.

Folks were getting so worked up about this, probably just because they are tired of getting worked up about how bad the baseball team is this year. I guess it gets under my skin because I’m tired of being called a bad Baltimore sports fan because I support a team from Washington. The Capitals are the closest hockey team to Baltimore, and their games have aired in the region forever. They are the team I got to grow up watching, therefore I support them. I find it weird that the Orioles have been throwing their support behind them, but I also don’t really care. It also makes a bit of sense for the organization, considering they are trying to encompass as much of the Washington, DC market as possible.

It’s easy to forget that before the Nationals were around, the O’s could draw fans not only in DC, but deep into Virginia as well. The Orioles are likely just still trying to siphon some of that support, which from me, gets the biggest of shoulder shrugs.

6. The MLB first-year player draft gets underway on Monday, and I have a simple reminder to fans who have any interest: Whoever the Orioles happen to select with the 11th overall pick isn’t going to be the replacement for “Player X.” If they pick a third baseman or shortstop, it won’t be because they are planning on losing Manny Machado this offseason. If they select an outfielder, the same goes for the future of Adam Jones. If it’s a pitcher, don’t think it’ll be that guy replacing Chris Tillman in the near future. What’s important to remember when it comes to these prospects is that they are mostly malleable. Mychal Givens, for example, used to be a shortstop. There are certain tools and traits each draft pick will have, and what’s more important is how they are developed.

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