Five More Orioles with Plenty to Prove in 2019

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

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.

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