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In O’s Camp, List of Potential Shortstops is Long

Alcides Escobar of the Royals throws the ball.
For the Orioles, the shortstop position has always been as consistent as they come. One could rattle off a list of superior talent in franchise history without much effort. Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken, Jr., Mike Bordick, Miguel Tejada, J.J. Hardy, and Manny Machado (even if it was only for just half a season in 2018) are all prime examples. Sure, there have been some duds along the way. Deivi Cruz, Juan Castro, Alex Cintron, Luis Hernandez, and Cesar Izturis come to mind, as the Orioles were wont to […]

Wave Him Bye Bye – Joe Angel Retires from Broadcasting

As if facing the prospect of at least one, if not several, more 100-plus loss seasons wasn’t enough here in Birdland, we’ve recently received the devastating news that we won’t even have our favorite radio voice on the call to help soothe any of the misery. Orioles radio voice Joe Angel announced his retirement yesterday via his Twitter account: You may have heard..after 42 years..the game has ended. I wind up “IN THE WINNN COLUMN” Thank you Baltimore for the privilege, memories and Lovely Totals. I will miss you.I am […]

Who Will Catch On for the O’s in Spring Training?

Austin Wynns behind the dish.
Orioles’ pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on Tuesday, with Wednesday marking the first workout of the 2019 season for the league’s worst franchise of a season ago. Therein lies the irony. Pitchers and catchers took to the water-soaked fields Wednesday without a true starting catcher and only three spots nailed down in the rotation. While we will tackle the rotation and the bullpen in this space in due time, today we’ll focus solely on the catchers. Right now, the Orioles open camp with a competition on their hands […]

Thoughts on Proposed MLB Rule Changes

A MiLB pitcher on the mound with a pitch clock behind him.
We all love change, right? According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are in discussion regarding multiple rule change proposals. Eight of the topics were brought to light by Passan, and I’m here to share my thoughts on each. Years ago, I used to be in the crowd that enjoyed baseball just like it was, and felt that no changes are necessary. I still enjoy the game, but I’m always open to changing the game for the better. So, without further ado, let’s […]

Five More Orioles with Plenty to Prove in 2019

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Yesterday, I listed five Orioles who have plenty to prove in 2019. Today…five more!

 

Cedric Mullins

Cedric Mullins in the batter's box.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Cedric Mullins is entering his first full season with the O’s, and figures to be the Opening Day center fielder. In 45 games in the big leagues in 2018, he slashed .235/.312/.359.

In front of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, he may have had a comfortable first full season. But under Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde, he may have to prove to the new staff he deserves to be out there every day.

One aspect that may be addressed is Mullins’ switch-hitting ability. In his 45 games last season, he slashed .264/.319/.432 from the left side, but just .156/.296/.156 from the right.

Back in August, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com wrote that the O’s expressed to Mullins that they may ask him to only bat left-handed going forward if he doesn’t make improvements from the right side. So, it will be interesting to see if the Elias-led staff takes a similar approach with the young outfielder this season. Mullins will have to either prove that he can stay a switch hitter, or prove that he can hit southpaws from the left side of the plate.

Additionally, with the plethora of young outfielders looking to break into the big leagues and stick around with the O’s – like D.J. Stewart, Austin Hays, Yusniel Diaz, Ryan McKenna, and maybe even Ryan Mountcastle (if he makes a position change) – Mullins will need to prove that he can produce enough at the major-league level to make Hyde write his name on the lineup card everyday beyond 2019.

Bold Prediction: Mullins won’t be a top-of-the-order type of hitter, but he’ll play well enough to start every day while batting somewhere in the six-through-nine spots in the order. Also, by the end of the season, he will abandon hitting right handed completely.

 

Renato Nunez

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It seems like he’s older, since he’s been on MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings since 2011, but Renato Nunez is just 24. Formerly in the Oakland Athletics organization, this is how Nunez ranked in the A’s system each year, via MLB Pipeline:

  • 2011: No. 10
  • 2012: No. 8
  • 2013: No. 3
  • 2014: No. 3
  • 2015: No. 6
  • 2016: No. 5
  • 2017: No. 20

The young third baseman was highly regarded in the A’s system through 2016, but played just 17 games total in the majors with the Athletics in 2016 and 2017. The Texas Rangers claimed him off waivers from the A’s in April of 2018 and played him in 13 games before placing him on waivers to be claimed by the O’s.

Nunez played 56 games in Triple-A Norfolk in 2018, slashing .289/.361/.443 with five homers. When Manny Machado was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July, the O’s called up Nunez and gave him plenty of reps.

He rewarded the O’s decision by slashing .275/.336/.445 with seven homers in 60 games.

In 2019, his job is to prove to the new staff that he is the player that scouts once thought he could be, and show that his production in 2018 wasn’t just a fluke. Elias has brought in new infield competition via waivers and the Rule V Draft with Hanser Alberto, Jack Reinheimer, Rio Ruiz, Richie Martin, and Drew Jackson all on the 40-man roster, and Chris Bostick, Jace Peterson, and Zach Vincej being non-roster invitees. So, Nunez doesn’t exactly have the everyday third base job earned just yet. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Elias isn’t done adding low-risk infielders to the organization to join the club in Sarasota.

Bold Prediction: Nunez is the Opening Day starting third baseman, but loses his starting role by the end of May.

 

Tanner Scott

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

As a hard-throwing southpaw, Tanner Scott has shown flashes of being something special out of the bullpen. He has an electric fastball and a nasty slider, which helped him record a 12.83 K/9 rate that was the eighth-highest rate among qualified American League relievers in 2018.

However, he paired that with a 4.73 BB/9 rate, which was seventh-highest among qualified AL relievers, and a 5.40 ERA – albeit with a 3.40 FIP. Another cause for concern was his inability to consistently get right-handed hitters out, as they batted .295/.377/.500 off him last year, as opposed to lefties slashing .214/.317/.322.

There is plenty of reason to be excited for Scott’s future in the back-end of the bullpen in Baltimore. However, he needs to bring the walks down and not be limited to just a LOOGY role. He has the stuff to succeed in the big leagues. Now he just needs the command, something with which we hope a new staff may be able to help him.

Bold Prediction: Scott pitches better against right-handed batters and has a sub-3.00 ERA. He’ll see some closing opportunities, especially later in the season.

 

Chance Sisco

Chance Sisco in the batter's box..

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Not exactly what everyone hoped to see in 2018 for the young backstop.

Chance Sisco was ranked among the Orioles’ top prospects for multiple years leading into his major-league debut, and was ranked 45th among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects in 2017. He was known in the minors for being an average at-best catcher who could still make strides, but his above-average bat was expected to help him succeed in the majors.

He showed that to O’s fans in 10 September games in 2017, when he slashed .333/.455/.778 with two homers in a small sample size 22 plate appearances. With a strong showing offensively throughout his minor-league career and these 10 major-league games in 2017, Sisco figured to be in competition for one of the two catcher spots in spring training of 2018.

After spring training, he earned a position on the Opening Day roster to split time – with a lesser workload – with Caleb Joseph. The O’s were ready for his bat to play well in the majors, while learning to become a better defender with mentoring from Joseph, but things didn’t go according to plan. In 63 games – he made multiple trips back and forth between Baltimore and Norfolk – Sisco slashed just .181/.288/.269.

For those keeping score at home, that’s still better than what Chris Davis produced. But unless Sisco is carrying Davis’ salary with no options available, those are numbers that make it easy to not keep him around on the roster. Sisco’s struggling even continued in the minors, as he batted just .242/.344/.352 in Norfolk.

Sisco’s job in 2019 is to prove why he got so much love as a top prospect. If he’s not going to be known as an above-average defender behind the plate, he needs to hit enough to justify being on the major-league roster. With Austin Wynns sitting above him on the depth chart and three veteran catchers – Carlos Perez, Andrew Susac, and Jesus Sucre – being added as non-roster invitees to camp, Sisco faces an uphill battle to make the Opening Day roster.

He needs to hit enough to play in the big leagues, but also prove he deserves to stay as a catcher going forward. It’ll be interesting to see how Elias and Hyde handle Sisco this season.

Bold Prediction: Sisco starts the season in Triple A, but earns a promotion to the big leagues by May. He’ll have an above-average bat to keep him in the lineup, but talk will begin to circle around him about potential position change going forward.

 

Mark Trumbo

Mark Trumbo in his fielding stance.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

When the Orioles acquired Mark Trumbo from the Seattle Mariners heading into the 2016 season, they received more than what they could’ve hoped for: a .256/.316/.533 slash line with 47 home runs.

The right-handed slugger expected to be rewarded with a hefty contract in free agency, but not many teams came calling. Late into the offseason, the Orioles re-signed Trumbo to a three-year, $37.5 million contract. Some viewed this deal as a bargain for the O’s, while others felt they overpaid.

Heading into the third year of the contract, Trumbo has not come close to earning his annual salary, totaling a -0.9 fWAR in two seasons. In 2017, he slashed .234/.289/.397 with 23 homers. He hit a little better in 2018, though, posting a .261/.313/.452 line with 17 long balls before being shut down with a right knee injury, which led to surgery.

In 2019, Trumbo has three things to prove:

  1. That he’s healthy,
  2. He deserves to be in the lineup every night, and
  3. That he would be a valuable asset to another team in the second half of the season.

The first goal for the power hitter should be to have a full, healthy season. He can’t do anything else if he’s not in the lineup. Next, with a logjam of his type of players – including Davis and Trey Mancini – he needs to prove that he should be in the lineup every night. If he’s slow to start the season, he could be moved to a part-time role very quickly. Lastly, he needs to hit well enough to look like an attractive piece for a contender to trade for. If he plays well enough, he could get dealt to a World Series contender midseason, and hope to compete for a ring. Being good enough should also earn him a decent major-league contract with another club next offseason.

Bold Prediction: Trumbo finds himself in a rotation between first base and designated hitter with Mancini and Davis, and he does a decent job at the plate, slashing around .245/.305/.440 with between 14-and-18 homers heading into the All-Star Break. The O’s trade him away in late July to a contender, which frees up more playing time for Mancini and up-and-coming outfielders.

Five Orioles with Much to Prove in 2019

Dylan Bundy throws in Sarasota.
Entering the first full year of the Baltimore Orioles’ rebuild, all the fans keep talking about is how the Orioles are going to have a few terrible seasons in order to become great. But what some aren’t discussing is the individual aspect of how it’s going to come together. Several players need to improve upon their respective prior performances to be a part of not only an expedited rebuild, but to be an asset for a good team going forward – whether that be with the future-contending Orioles or to […]

Age-27 Rule is a Baseball Myth

Chris Davis trots around the bases.
For a long time, it was said that baseball players reach their prime at the age of 27. It has, of course, been debunked as a myth – there is no rule that can ever state when an individual athlete reaches his or her peak age in sports. Besides, there is the new peak age for athletes in every generation, considering the ever newer and more efficient training techniques and nutrition regimens becoming increasingly widespread. This might be the reason why the peak performance of athletes in various sports has […]

Did You Know These Celebrities are O’s Fans?

Photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil / CC BY 3.0 BR We like celebrities. We love Orioles fans. These are two fine groups of people who usually have nothing in common. So, it’s something special when famous celebs and Orioles fans overlap as one and the same. Get it? We’re talking about well-known showbiz types and athletes who happen to have exquisite baseball tastes of the Baltimore variety. And we especially love seeing famous fans repping the team when they step out in O’s swag. It might be Edward Norton plugging healthy veggie juice on […]

20 Former O’s Remain on Free Agent Market

Adam Jones sunglasses.
Although the offseason has been mostly quiet around Major League Baseball, a few familiar names have found homes via free agency this winter, like Tim Beckham with the Seattle Mariners, Zach Britton with the New York Yankees, and Brad Brach with the Chicago Cubs, to name a few. However, there are plenty of former O’s still without jobs for 2019. It’s very possible that none of these 20 players will reappear in Baltimore, but it’s certainly interesting to look into, especially since some could fill needs around here. So, let’s […]

Couldn’t the O’s Simultaneously Rebuild AND Compete?

sunset view of oriole park at camden yards
As the beautiful sounds of baseball near their return I find myself in a glass case of emotion in regard to the 2019 Baltimore Orioles (and beyond). On the one hand, they have done a phenomenal job this offseason changing their course. It seems that each one of their personnel hires from Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal, to Brandon Hyde and his coaching staff have received great praise both nationally and here in Baltimore. From the perspective of a fan I’m really excited to see what this group can do […]

Thursday Thoughts: Mike Mussina Get His Hall of Fame Nod

mike mussina pitches for the orioles.
Congrats to The Moose In his sixth year of eligibility, former Orioles ace Mike Mussina is finally headed to Cooperstown. “Moose” was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this week with 76.7% of the vote (needing 75%). He’ll be joined in this year’s class by Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez and Roy Halladay, who will go in posthumously after tragically passing away late in 2017. Fellow former Orioles Lee Smith and Harold Baines will also be enshrined this summer in upstate New York after being selected in December by the […]

Can Anything Help the 2019 Orioles?

partial view of brick building and entrance to camden yards
Baltimore finished the season laying on the floor of the AL East. The 2018 season was close to as bad as it gets; less than 50 wins. But the bright side about all of this bad, is there is no where to go but up! Top betting websites such as 5Dimes don’t expect the Os to even be near contention for playing in the Fall Classic. But, with some trades and big moves they can pick themselves up from the bottom of the dredges and wipe the mud off. What […]

O’s Odds and Ends on a Snowy Monday

As we O’s fans in and around Baltimore dig out from our first snowfall of the winter, the sights and sounds surrounding Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Opening Day seem forever away. Let’s check out some Birdland odds and ends to try to pass the time, shall we?   O’s to Hire Long as Hitting Coach According to Roch Kubatko, the Birds are set to hire Don Long as their new hitting coach. Long, 56, has held the same role in Cincinnati for the past five seasons. The hire […]

Expect to See Many Faces on the Mound this Season

Dylan Bundy winds up in a spring training game.
The Baltimore Orioles have had over 25 pitchers throw at least one pitch off the mound in seven of ththe past ten seasons. In 2018? 30 pitchers used. Yes, the list includes Jace Peterson and Danny Valencia. That is definitely a high number of pitchers to have taken the mound in just one season, but there’s reason to believe the Orioles will top even that number in 2019. With castoffs Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, and Darren O’Day no longer wearing black and orange, there are jobs to be […]

The Warehouse Podcast: New Year, New Orioles?

warehouse-pod-logo
The new year brings with it the feeling of a fresh start. The slate is wiped clean. Anything is possible. You can lose those pesky 20 pounds. You will read a new book every week. The juice cleanse you planned to start in 2004 is finally happening. For the Orioles, those “resolutions” started in earnest back in November with the hiring of Mike Elias as the general manager. Flipping the calendar from 2018 to 2019 shouldn’t change much on that front other than the fact that every new day brings […]

Hyde Adds Two to O’s Coaching Staff

Jose Flores of the Phillies.
In what has been a rather quiet offseason for the Baltimore Orioles, for many reasons, new manager Brandon Hyde has begun building his coaching staff for 2019 and beyond. For his first two hires, the first-year Orioles manager recruited a couple of his old colleagues. Philadelphia Phillies first base coach Jose Flores is leaving his position to join Hyde’s staff in Baltimore, according to Joe Trezza of MLB.com. Also, per Patrick Mooney of The Athletic Chicago, Chicago Cubs minor-league field and catching coordinator Tim Cossins is departing from Chicago to […]

O’s Built to Adopt “Opener” Strategy?

On May 19 of this past season, the Tampa Bay Rays shocked the baseball world when they took veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo and made him the starting pitcher against the Los Angeles Angels. He didn’t proceed to pitch the game like a traditional starter, however. Instead, the right-hander pitched just the first inning against the top three of the Angels’ order – Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, and Justin Upton – striking all three of them out. He was pulled after the first inning, with southpaw starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough […]

Should O’s Pursue Troy Tulowitzki?

Troy Tulowitzki throws the ball.
Free-agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who hasn’t played in a Major League Baseball game since July 2017, held a workout that 11 teams attended, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. In the report, Brown wrote the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants were the teams in attendance. The Toronto Blue Jays released the 34-year-old shortstop after he sat out the 2018 season because he was recovering from […]

Knee-Jerk Reactions: O’s Hire Brandon Hyde as Manager

Brandon Hyde of the Cubs.
The Orioles have hired their new manager. Brandon Hyde, most recently the Chicago Cubs’ bench coach, will take the reins in 2019. ESR staff react to the news here… Derek Arnold I won’t pretend to know a thing about Brandon Hyde. This hire has a much different feel, obviously, than did the hiring of Buck Showalter. That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing – it just is. The Showalter hire was exactly the type that was needed at the time: an established, successful, big-name manager to take over and […]

O’s Leave Winter Meetings with Two New Infielders

The Baltimore Orioles haven’t been expected to make too much noise in the first offseason of the club’s rebuild under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, especially when there’s still a vacancy at manager (although it sounds like that search could be coming to an end very soon). Once the club officially announces the hiring of their new manager, they will be able to get on with the rest of their offseason plan, which will surely involve the new skipper’s input. However, with the annual Winter Meetings coming […]