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4 Things For Oriole Fans To Keep In Mind In 2019

Alex Woodward
March 27, 2019 - 11:04 am
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By Alex Woodward

 

The 2019 Orioles season is almost here. Baltimore is in the infant stages of a full on rebuild so things won't be as pretty as some fans would like but we must keep in mind that this will be a process over the next few seasons. For those skeptical about the Oriole rebuild, here are a few things to keep in mind throughout the 2019 season:

Don't get attached to who is on the roster

The Opening Day roster will most likely look completely different by the end of the season. There will be a ton of roster turnover this year whether that be because of injuries, getting looks at young players, service time, waiver additions or managing the shaky starting rotation. It's no secret that this team is going through a rebuild which means this year will serve as an evaluation year. Players will get opportunities to prove their worth and I expect Mike Elias has a list of players he wants to get extended looks at to determine if they are part of the long term future while others may just be place holders until the other guys are ready. Elias has even confirmed that there will be a lot of names getting shuffled around the major and minor league rosters, "this is the group we have to start the year and there's going to be a lot of traffic between Norfolk and Baltimore this year."

I wouldn't get too attached to familiar names like Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Trey Mancini or Jonathan Villar. It's unlikely any of these players outside of Mancini will be a part of this team when the rebuild is coming to fruition. As depleted as the starting rotation already looks, I wouldn't be surprised if the Orioles tried to trade one or both of Cobb and Cashner if they end up having strong numbers this season. Elias has preached building from the ground up and if that means flipping some aging veterans for prospects, I'm sure he would be willing to do that for the right price. The same could be said about Mark Trumbo or Jonathan Villar although it will be harder to find a suitor for Trumbo given the fact he is starting the year on the 60 day injured list. I believe if Davis isn't on this roster at any point this season it is because he has been released and Mancini is the longest shot to not be on the roster by the end of the year but if he has a strong year and a contender is looking for a bat, I'm sure no one is off the table for Elias. 

Get ready for a lot of "Opener" games

The Rays started this trend last year and it's starting to get more popular after Tampa Bay used that strategy to help them win 90 games in 2018. First year manager Brandon Hyde is already flirting with that idea as he plans to use Nathan Karns as the "opener" for Saturday's game against the Yankees. He says keeping the bullpen rested is key to utilizing this strategy which might be tough if the starting rotation struggles like it did last year. Nonetheless, there are a ton of arms they need to evaluate both on the major league roster and in the minors. Using someone as an opener could  be their route of doing that. Also, if they end up trading one of the veteran starters in Cobb or Cashner, that might force their hand even more towards using openers. 

Be patient with how they bring along the young prospects

There was a loud portion of the Orioles fan base that was upset the team didn't carry Austin Hays, Chance Sisco, Yusniel Diaz or Ryan Mountcastle onto the Opening Day roster. To me, sending those guys down was the right decision by Hyde and Elias. First off, besides Sisco none of them have much major league experience. Hays has some experience in the majors but he's never played in AAA and I get the feel they would like to see him get more work in center field. Also, he's coming off a serious ankle injury so you want to ease him in.

Diaz is the teams top prospect so I understand the fan frustration in not being able to see the organizations marquee minor leaguer but when you think about the timetable for this rebuild, does it really make sense to start his service clock earlier when you're not expecting to seriously compete for a few years? The more time they can keep Diaz in the organization without having to worry about an extension the better. Plus, extra time in the minors won't hurt his development but rushing him in with high expectations very well could.

Mountcastle doesn't really have a position open for him in Baltimore with Davis expected to play first most days with Mancini filling in here and there. Mountcastle's arm isn't good enough to be a major league third baseman so his only option would be DH'ing but developing his defense is the more important aspect of his game and that's easier to accomplish in the minors.

Sisco is the only head scratcher since he has the most experience in the majors but like Mountcastle, I believe they want him to develop more on defense, specifically at calling games as the catcher and working on throwing runners out at second. I've also read that they worry about if he's mentally ready to take on the pressure of the majors after such high expectations following Matt Wieters. 

Be patient people. Just because they aren't here today doesn't mean they won't be here in a few weeks, a few months or in September. Each player develops at their own rate. 

Development is more important than production

For the past 6 years the organization has focused more on the major league production opposed to minor league development. The team has struggled developing highly touted pitching prospects like Jake Arietta, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey. With new coaching staffs and a more focused approach on keeping a consistent thought process on development, I think we could see guys like Harvey, DL Hall, Alex Wells and Branden Kline make positive steps forward. The Orioles are also developing their team philosophy. Gone are the days of having a major league lineup that resembles a beer league softball team. Gone are the days of hoping for 3 run homeruns to get us back in the game. The team is emphasizing strong defense, the utilization of speed and aggression on the basepaths and focusing more on making contact instead of launch angles and other trends that cause a lot of strikeouts.

We can't forget about their development of the analytics department. New assistant GM and the head of the new analytics department Sig Mijdal admitted that when he took the job, the Orioles had 1 developer in the analytics department with no analysts. That means they had one person compiling the information but nobody to decipher it and make it understandable to the layman. Mijdal has already expanded that department and I'm sure it will continue to develop over the course of time. Mijdal used his analytical abilities to help streamline the Astros rebuild and make proper decisions on player personnel. As the season goes on, the more information and analysts will be available to the Orioles. This department is still in the early stages so we have to allow them time to develop. 

It will be a long few years for the Orioles but it seems they have the proper pieces in place to accomplish their goals. We as fans have to play the role of fans and believe in the plan in place. These people were hired for a reason so let's let them do their jobs and if we lose 115 games in 2023, that's the time to start questioning what they are doing...not before they have even played a regular season game. 

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