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Let the Kids Play!

Keegan Akin throws a pitch
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
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The Orioles just completed one of the worst months in franchise history and are currently in the race for the first pick to get Elijah Green in next year’s draft. We will see if that sustains (hey, they’ve won two series to start June!) as this season goes on. 

For me, this season was always going to be about development, and we are seeing a lot of great things happen in the minors so far.  On the MLB side of things, the development has been inconsistent at best.  The young pitchers have taken a step back, Ryan Mountcastle started off terribly and outside of Cedric Mullins, none of the other younger OFers have been able to stay healthy and perform at the levels at which they should be capable.

What this all spells out is that this season has been a bust so far.  Yes, we knew this year was never going to bring us a title, or even 75 wins, but there was some promise that this team would be a lot more competitive and show a lot for the long term.  This has yet to happen but obviously, there is still a lot of time left to right that ship.

Part of righting that ship falls on the shoulders of Orioles GM Mike Elias.  I have to say, I am very puzzled by the way Elias is handling the roster this year.  I was unhappy in the offseason that he made no effort to make the team better through trades or FA, outside of cheap deals for Freddy Galvis, Matt Harvey and Michael Franco.  I know his hands are tied by ownership, so there is only so much blame I have for him there. 

That being said, the way they are handling the young players, specifically the pitchers, is terrible to me.  Take a guy like Zac Lowther for example.  Zac was just called up the other day, didn’t appear in a game and was sent down.  He has been up and down multiple times this year and has been on the taxi squad as well.  All in all, Lowther has pitched less than 15 total innings all year and has only appeared in one game since May 19.  How is this developing him?  How is he learning and getting better? 

Guys like Keegan Akin, Bruce Zimmerman and Dean Kremer have also been yo-yoed up and down.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I get that some of these guys have struggled up here but so what, so has everyone else.  You have told your fans you do not care about winning games in 2021 and you acknowledge that the continued development of these guys is vital, so why aren’t we developing them? 

The Orioles have told us how great Chris Holt is.  People talk about him as being one of the best.  If that is true, why aren’t these guys up here working with him (Yes, I know he was gone for a few weeks but still)?  Guys like Akin, Kremer, Zimmerman and Lowther are old enough, mature enough and have accomplished enough in the minors to justify being here.

The current rotation has Harvey and Jorge Lopez in it.  The clock has struck midnight on Harvey and despite Lopez having a solid month of May, we all know he isn’t a ML starter in all likelihood.  So, why are we delaying things with these guys?  Let these young pitchers get a chance to play at this level for an extended period of time.  Akin and Zimmerman are in the rotation now and hopefully it stays that way. Get Kremer and Lowther up here too.

On offense, when he is healthy, get Yusniel Diaz up here.  Second base is a black hole and Tarrin Vavra is playing great in Bowie.  He is old enough and has to be added to the 40 man this offseason anyway, so let’s take a look for half a season.   And, of course, get Adley Rutschman up here.  The current talk is Adley will not play in the majors this year (a point made by Roch Kubatko and Brett Hollander on the latest Inside the Yard podcast).   To me, this makes zero sense.  At some point, I assume we want to start to win games.  You aren’t just going to bring all of these guys up at once and say ok, go win.  They need experience.  Give it to them in a year where you are terrible and aren’t trying to win.

The Orioles do not have many tough decisions to make with the 40-man roster this coming offseason.  They could cut/not re-sign as many 15 players rather easily and you could potentially add a few more to that list, not to mention guys who could be traded.  You don’t have to add that many guys this offseason.  The must adds are DL Hall, Kyle Bradish, Vavra and Kevin Smith.  There are probably about another half a dozen guys who could force their way on the roster and you also have Rutschman, who will be on the roster in 2022, if not before.  You also likely see Grayson Rodriguez, who is arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball, on the 40-man in early 2022, if not before.

The reason I mention this is because the next wave of players will be coming soon and a lot of these young arms that are ready now could easily be passed by.  That may not be a bad thing but it could also mean you have wasted them and you don’t get anything out of the resources you have. 

Not all of these guys are here to be part of the next good team.  Some of them will be but many will spend their careers elsewhere.  The O’s need to start weeding these guys and not risk losing them the way they lost Zach Pop. 

Elias loves to talk up the talent of the farm system and how we have a lot of good young arms.  Let’s stop talking about it and show them to us. 

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