I was talking to an Oriole on Saturday afternoon about the club’s start and how its record was pretty good, yet the team certainly hasn’t hit its stride.
At one point, the player pointed to Manny Machado’s locker and said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Once that guy gets going offensively, watch out. And he will get going.”
It says plenty when veterans look at a 24-year-old kid and, without hesitation, acknowledge his importance to the team.
It also says plenty that Machado, who hit his 10th homer of the season Saturday night, hasn’t really revved up offensively.
Still, he is leading the team in homers. RBIs (24) and is second in walks (20). The problem is his average has been low (.218 heading into Saturday) and he has struck out more times than any Oriole not named Chris Davis.
We’ve watched Machado enough to know that the hit barrage is coming. In his previous five seasons, his final average has been: .262 (as a rookie), .283, .278, .286 and .294 last year.
And if you want more advanced statistical proof that Machado is a sleeping giant this season, consider that his batting average on balls in play heading into Saturday night was .223, 82 points lower than his career BABIP of .305. So, there’s definitely a dose of bad luck going on for Machado in the first six weeks of 2017 that should even out by season’s end.
Oh, and the guy can play a little third base, too. The spinning snag of a Russell Martin rocket in the fourth that Machado turned into a 5-4-3 double play was another thing of beauty.
The inside scoop on Katz
The Orioles made a trade Saturday, and if it didn’t immediately come to your inbox or you missed it on the television news scroll, it’s OK.
It was one of those trades, not just under the radar, but off of the radar. Yet these are often the ones that have made Dan Duquette’s stint as executive vice president a success.
On Saturday, Duquette sent two international bonus slots 45 and 75 to the Chicago White Sox for 22-year-old lefty Alex Katz, a former 27th rounder who has a career 3.09 ERA in parts of three minor league seasons. Katz will pitch in relief for High-A Frederick.
The Orioles had a bit of an inside look at Katz this spring when he played for Team Israel of the World Baseball Classic. Orioles’ advanced scouting coordinator Ben Werthan was part of Israel’s scouting team and watched Katz play for several weeks. Duquette said that scout Jim Howard also liked what he saw of Katz, a 27th rounder out of St. John’s University in 2015.
“He’s got a good curveball and we got good scouting reports on him from the WBC,” Duquette said. “Good fastball and an excellent strikeout record. Our guys like him and they project him to be a major league reliever.”
The trade makes sense for the Orioles simply because they do not spend much on international amateurs and the slot money would go to waste. It’s an ownership philosophy – that pre-dates Duquette – not to give large bonuses to foreign amateurs because it’s not deemed a worthy investment.
The Orioles would rather spend money on players in the amateur draft or on more proven players (free agents, minor leaguers).
It’s a faulty philosophy in my opinion – there should be a diversification of all potential avenues – but if they aren’t going to use the money, Duquette might as well get some value for the slots.
Bourn, Jackson, Janish, Flaherty updates
Outfielder Michael Bourn can opt-out of his minor-league contract Monday if the Orioles can’t find a spot for him on their 25-man roster. And it doesn’t look like they will – especially with a full outfield and only a four-man bench.
Bourn, 34, hit just .188 in his first nine games at Triple-A Norfolk. But his defensive versatility and speed make him an asset in the minors if the Orioles would need him later on. Duquette basically said the call was Bourn’s, though the club could recall him if they wanted.
“We’ll have to see what he does with his out. We can decide,” Duquette said. “We’ll probably stay at 12 pitchers on the roster.”
Right-hander Edwin Jackson, 33, has allowed two earned runs in six games (one start) and likely will get a call to Baltimore at some point. But Duquette said the organization would like to see him make a few more appearances in the minors.
Shortstop Paul Janish’s contract was purchased from Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday and he was in the starting lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays. He took the spot of utility infielder Ryan Flaherty, who was placed on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain (retroactive to May 19). Flaherty has dealt with occasional shoulder issues much of the year. Janish, 34, is a defensive whiz who was hitting .255 in 34 games with Norfolk.