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2019 MLB Preview & Predictions

Carlos Correa and George Spinger celebrate.
I wasn’t going to do my MLB predictions piece this year, but after writing my AL East preview and predictions, the juices were flowing and I figured, what the hell? So here it is, my MLB predictions, 2019 edition.   American League East New York Yankees (100-62) The best lineup in baseball. The best bullpen in baseball. A solid rotation. The Yankees have turned baseball games into five-inning affairs in 2019. Good luck to everybody else. Boston Red Sox (98-64) A good rotation and a great lineup will give way […]

2019 AL East Preview & Prediction

Mookie Betts of the Red Sox in the on deck circle.
Every year since 2013, I have written an American League East preview. This year will be more of the same, but with one key difference: this is the first season in which I will be doing my preview/prediction with no hope that the Baltimore Orioles will play worthwhile baseball beyond Opening Day. With that sobering fact in mind, I will also add my All-Star representative predictions for each AL East squad just so this can be at least a little fun. So without further ado, I give you the American […]

Mike Elias is the Personal Trainer Birdland Needs

Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde at the press conference introducing Hyde.
As we sit here on the eve of another Opening Day in Birdland, the feeling is a bit different than that to which we’ve become accustomed around here. Generally, as recent seasons approached, sentiment around Birdland ran from one end to another of a pretty short spectrum: MOST fans found themselves in one of two camps: either “they didn’t do enough to build upon last year” or “this is the year they finally take that next step!” There was a third group though. A minority, to be sure, but a […]

Roster Moves Show Elias Takes No Shortcuts

Austin Hays slashed .351/.385/.892 with five home runs in 40 plate appearances. Chance Sisco posted a .382/.533/.765 line with four homers in 45 trips to the plate. Evan Phillips didn’t give up a single run over 9 ⅔ innings on the mound. These are just a few of multiple young players in the Orioles’ organization who played extremely well during spring training but won’t break camp with the club. So why in the world did the O’s option each of them to the minors? I’m here to try to make […]

Orioles Opening Day(s) Forecast

sun setting over camden yards
Orioles “Opening Away Day” vs. Yankees   Thursday March 28 Partly Cloudy First pitch temp: 50F GFS Model outlook for “Opening Away Day”. Images from GFS model showing dry conditions and temps around 50 for NYC. All models showing dry conditions so confidence in this forecast is high.   Orioles Home Opener “First Look” It appears that a warmer weather pattern will be in place, but the first week of April looks potentially stormy for the U.S. For good opening day weather we have to hope that the Baltimore area […]

Thursday Thoughts: Buckling Up is Done, Now We Strap In

Cedric Mullins in the batter's box.
1. As we all come out of hibernation and rub our eyes to awaken before baseball season, let’s not be too afraid of what we’re expected to encounter as Orioles fans. This one is going to be rough. Like, really rough. Let’s also remember that baseball is fun, and actually, already underway. The Mariners and A’s have taken care of that over in Japan with a pair of regular season games. 2. The only thing I’ve been able to think about regarding the 2019 Orioles thus far is how painful […]

The Payoff Pitch Episode 2 w/Ken Weinman

David Hess pitches.
In the second episode of The Payoff Pitch presented by D&L Professional Window Tinting, I go over some of the recent roster moves, including the somewhat surprising demotion of Austin Hays to minor-league camp. I’ll also try to figure out what’s going on with the Birds’ rotation, and I’m joined by Ken Weinman of 105.7 The Fan to get his thoughts. Later in the show, I debut a new segment: Nerd Stat of the Week. Thanks for listening!

Mike Elias on International Scouting: “You Have to Go All In”

Yusniel Diaz rounds the bases.
In the new issue of PressBox, Stan “The Fan” Charles sat down with Mike Elias for an interview on a range of topics, from Elias’ background, to his feelings on analytics, his thoughts on manager Brandon Hyde, and more. One answer from Elias that caught my attention was in response to a question about international scouting. SC: The Orioles have never dedicated many resources to international scouting. You clearly have a very different view of that. Can you talk a little bit about that and what international scouting director Koby […]

Bundy’s Slow Spring Start Has Shades of 2018 Nightmare

Dylan Bundy throwing a pitch.
If the Orioles have any chance at being remotely competitive in 2019, their pitching staff is going to have to improve by leaps and bounds over the last two seasons. At the forefront of that needed improvement stands Dylan Bundy. The Orioles drafted Bundy with the fourth overall pick in 2011, when he was touted as the best high school pitching prospect in the country. In his first season of professional baseball in 2012, Bundy went 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA in 23 starts between Delmarva, Frederick, and Bowie, prompting […]

Will Crowded Outfield Push Mullins to New Heights?

Cedric Mullins runs the bases.
On August 10 of the 2018 season, Orioles fans experienced quite a bittersweet feeling — the passing of the center field torch from Adam Jones to Cedric Mullins. The former moved from center to right field to accommodate the latter, with the expectation that Mullins would be the long-term answer for the O’s in center field. The switch-hitting rookie made an immediate impact in the lineup after taking over, slashing .317/.386/.556 for the remainder of his opening month. September was not as kind to the newcomer, however, as he batted […]

Hays, Santander Homer in Win Over Tigers

Anthony Santander in the Batter's Box.
In their second of seven televised Grapefruit League games, the Orioles overcame two deficits to win their fifth game of the spring, outlasting the Detroit Tigers 7-5 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. The offense was paced by outfielders Austin Hays and Anthony Santander, who each homered and combined to go 4-5 with four RBI, four runs scored, and two walks. Santander’s three-run home run tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, erasing a 4-1 deficit. Andrew Cashner made his first start of the spring, throwing 54 pitches […]

Predicting the O’s 25-Man Roster

Anybody up for a roster prediction? Why not, right? At Dillon’s suggestion, I asked our writers to submit their predictions for the 25-man, then tallied up the votes to put together a master prediction. You can see individual submissions down below the main list. We’ll do the same thing again as Spring Training comes to a close, to see how much our minds are swayed between now and then. – Derek Arnold   Starting Pitchers GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld Dylan Bundy (7 out of a possible 7 votes) Alex Cobb (7) […]

O’s Spring Training Sleepers

Mike Yastrzemski leads off first base.
The regular season is only one month away. It sure doesn’t feel like spring yet, at least not in Maryland. Nonetheless, Spring Training games are here and players are stating their best case as to why they should make a big league club. Interestingly enough for the Orioles, they have many jobs open. Coming off a historically abysmal season, Mike Elias will eye diamonds in the rough that could make an impact in 2019. Below I’ve assembled a list of names of sleeper players to watch as Spring Training progresses, […]

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: https://twitter.com/WaveItByeBye/status/1096194371983011840 Last week, Baltimore Baseball’s Rich Dubroff posted that this announcement was imminent, but having heard nothing official, we Birds fans held out hope that Dubruff’s information would be proven false. […]

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

Embed from Getty Images

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.