As I write this before the first pitch is thrown in the series opener between the Orioles and Padres on Monday night, the Birds have enjoyed a decent stretch of baseball.
Since their last series with San Diego, in which the Friars secured a two-game sweep at Camden Yards, the O’s are 13-12, and in search of their first winning month since August of 2017.
In the process of winning those games, they’ve actually forfeited their hold on the worst record in baseball, which for those closely following the rebuild, sadly means losing their grip on the top selection in next year’s MLB Draft.
As we all know by now, Mike Elias got his hands on the centerpiece of his rebuild in Adley Rutschman with this year’s #1 pick. Obviously, having that same spot in the draft next year would be just as exciting.
However, this recent string of games has had me thinking about a prediction I had before the season began – long before I started writing for the Eutaw Street Report. While it may seem out there, I’m actually still convinced of it, making it the perfect Hot Take Tuesday for this week.
As I believed before Opening Day this year, I still believe that the Baltimore Orioles will not finish with a top-3 pick in the 2020 draft.
I prefaced that statement by saying it might be a bit out there, so I understand that many of you reading this probably think it’s a bunch of hogwash, but my reasoning is not so much predicated on stats as it is with the attitude of the club.
This year has been all about opportunity, as the Birds are simply filtering guys through until different ones stick. As we’ve seen with players like John Means, Renato Nunez, Hanser Alberto, and a couple others, there actually are serviceable men to be found and keep on the squad.
Make no mistake, the team is still downright awful, but skipper Brandon Hyde has worked some decent seasons out of a few people in the clubhouse, and I think those who have been given opportunities more recently are riding that train.
One specific guy I wrote about before is Asher Wojciechowski, who has now strung together a few strong starts and (as I predict) could be on his way to a very impressive finish to 2019.
Looking at position players, the same sort of recognition could be given to Anthony Santander.
Through the success of these names, others who are called up presumably for a short stint could feel they’re the next to rise to the occasion. I believe this generates a tremendously exciting atmosphere for young players to find themselves in, and I feel that the continuation of those sentiments will help the team find more success on the field.
Now, a logical counterpoint to my first argument is that the Orioles may lose some important pieces at the deadline. I’m fully aware of this, but I maintain my argument despite it, assuming Trey Mancini doesn’t leave the club.
We’ve already seen short but promising success from infielder Jace Peterson upon his return to the club, and with the improved health of DJ Stewart, it’s possible Stevie Wilkerson could fill a role that Villar vacates. With these guys, I think the Orioles would actually be alright.
When it comes to the bullpen, things may seem bleaker because it’s already so darn bad. However, in a bit of a foreshadowing of what may come in an upcoming change-of-the-week article, I think there is an arm Mike Elias could count on at the back-end: Hunter Harvey.
Harvey has excelled in the bullpen at Norfolk, and given his age and the decrease in stress on his arm after moving away from a starting role, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to call him up in the near future.
And, even if the Orioles decide to let Harvey continue to dominate in that spot at AAA, there are other candidates like Dillon Tate who made his MLB debut on Monday night, who could provide relief and help lessen the blow of losing Givens.
In addition to just those two spots, I find it likely that one or two September call-ups could enjoy real success with the Orioles because of the atmosphere surrounding the team. Just off the top of my head, a few names to look out for are Keegan Akin, Austin Hays, Zac Lowther, and possibly even Ryan Mountcastle.
At the same time, of course, for the O’s to fall out of the top-3 in next year’s draft, they’ll have to watch a few other teams jump above them in that pecking order. As it stands, the Orioles would pick 2nd, with the Detroit Tigers currently a few games worse.
Before Monday’s games, the Orioles are four games worse than three other teams in the majors; The Blue Jays, Royals and Marlins all sit at 40-67, with the O’s at 35-70.
For me, the Blue Jays are a team that will have a significantly worse end of the season than the Orioles, as they’ll suffer the loss of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. Moreover, the Orioles and Blue Jays will play 10 more times before season’s end, and with the Birds holding a 5-4 advantage in matchups thus far, it’s reasonable to think the O’s will make up a few games in the standings there.
So, with the Blue Jays jumping in front of the O’s in the draft order, just one more team has to do worse than them to receive pick #3. In my opinion, between the Royals and the Marlins, two teams with equally bad rosters, I find it extremely plausible to think that will happen.
The Orioles are a bad team headed in the right direction. As a result of that, they have an atmosphere that breeds healthy competition which will inevitably turn into a few wins here and there.
To get a top-3 pick in the draft, you need to win fewer games than I think the O’s will from here on out, and as a result, they’ll end up with the 4th pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.