Before the first game of the Spring Training season gets underway on Saturday, I think a fun experiment would be a sort of projection for the Orioles’ biggest question mark this year: the rotation. In this article, I will outline the players I feel will crack the Opening Day roster as the prototypical ‘starting five’ (yes, for the purpose of the piece I will assume that Brandon Hyde won’t use openers at the onset of the season).
There are a lot of holes in the rotation this year, and that’s seemed to be the case for the past decade or longer. If this rebuild is going to work, those holes will have to be filled. This year, General Manager Mike Elias has gathered a variety of candidates, prospects and veterans alike. I withhold all right to change my opinions at the end of Spring Training, but here’s how I believe it will shake out right now:
There’s not too much to write about here. John Means is coming off an incredible rookie season with Baltimore, becoming the team’s ace and All-Star representative. I do believe there’s room for an unfortunate drop-off, but either way, he will enter the season as the team’s Opening Day starter.
For me, Alex Cobb is actually the biggest question mark for the Orioles this year. He could bounce back and have a healthy, strong 2020 – in which case he’ll be traded. Or, he could fall off a cliff again and stink up the joint – in which case he should be designated for assignment and replaced with a prospect. Regardless, Elias will be sure to see what he has in Cobb from the start.
In all honesty, I don’t know this Kohl Stewart guy whatsoever, so I’m excited to see what he does in Sarasota. At the same time, the Orioles invested in him to a certain degree, probably slightly more than most of their signings this offseason. With that in mind, I think he’ll slot in behind Means and Cobb in the Opening Day rotation.
This is where things get really interesting in terms of the names involved. The final two spots of the rotation could be a competition between the likes of Wade LeBlanc, David Hess, Keegan Akin, and the Rule 5 Selections, among others. With the most experience and a left-handed arm, I believe LeBlanc makes it out of camp alive.
Finding himself in a competition with fellow Rule-5 Selection Brandon Bailey, I feel Michael Rucker is better prepared to break camp with the team. Elias should be compelled to keep at least one of these names until they completely prove themselves incapable of finding success at the Major League level. To that point, I believe one of them will travel back to Baltimore with the team, and considering the need at the back-end of the rotation, it’ll be Rucker.
You might be asking, “Hey Aidan, what about Woj-Bomb?” Well, reader, trust me when I say he’s still relevant, and I haven’t forgotten my excitement for his success. He’ll be in the bullpen and – especially if Hyde brings out openers – he’ll start numerous games on the bump for the O’s in 2020.
Let me know what you think in the comments section or on Twitter (@aidan_griesser). I can’t wait for Saturday.