Five questions about the 2019 Orioles as spring training begins -

Spring Training

Five questions about the 2019 Orioles as spring training begins

Brandon Hyde and Mike Elias
Photo Courtesy of Baltimore Orioles

SARASOTA, Fla.—The most curious Orioles spring training in many years will begin later today as pitchers and catchers and more than a few position players report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex for the beginning of the Mike Elias/Brandon Hyde era.

Elias and Hyde are unknown quantities. Neither has been a major league general manager or manager before, and there are huge questions for both heading into the six weeks in Sarasota.

  • Will the Orioles be better in 2019 than they were in 2018?

Elias has implied that the team’s record this year is irrelevant. This year is about acquiring as much talent through the draft, free-agent signings and trades as possible.

Of the 60 players on the roster — which includes Eric Young Jr., whose signing to a minor league contract was reported by — most were with the organization last year.

Just five of the players on the 40-man roster are new: pitcher Nate Karns, the only major league free agent signed by Elias, and infielders Hanser Alberto, Drew Jackson, Richie Martin and Rio Ruiz.

Thirteen of the 20 non-roster players were in the organization last year, too.

If the team is going to get better, it will need improved performances from players who struggled last year.

  • Who will be the other two starting pitchers?

Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb are the first three starters. Karns should have the fourth if he’s healthy.

David Hess and Yefry Ramirez, who finished the season as starters, will get a chance. So will Jimmy Yacabonis, who performed creditably in his first year as a starter.


John Means, Luis Ortiz and Josh Rogers will also get looks. Rogers and Means are the only left-handers in the group of potential starters.

Dean Kremer and Dillon Tate, in their first major league spring training, are long shots at best but both should spend time with the Orioles later this season.

  • Who will catch those pitchers?

Perhaps the most intriguing question in camp is figuring out the identity of the two catchers who’ll appear at Yankee Stadium for the March 28 opener.

For the first time in franchise history, the Orioles will have a different Opening Day catcher for the fourth straight year. Matt Wieters (2016), Welington Castillo (2017) and Caleb Joseph (2018) are gone.

Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns are the safest bets, but Sisco will have to show that he’s improved defensively, and Wynns must show that he’s better in each facet of the game.

The second tier are minor league signees Carlos Perez and Jesus Sucre, who have significant major league experience.

Less likely are Andrew Susac, who played briefly for the Orioles last year, and Martin Cervenka, who hasn’t played above Double-A.

Would it be a shock if all six saw time in the major leagues this season? It probably wouldn’t.

  • Who is the starting right fielder?

If we assume that Trey Mancini starts in left and Cedric Mullins begins in center, there are lots of choices for right field, but no obvious ones.

Young hasn’t been a major league regular since 2014, and last year hit just .202 in 41 games with the Los Angeles Angels.

Joey Rickard is certainly a possibility, but in the last two years he regressed from the promise he showed in the first half of 2016 before his season ended with a thumb injury.

Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 draft pick two years ago, has yet to show he can hit major league pitching.

DJ Stewart hit well in his September audition, but the Orioles might think he’ll be better off getting more time at Triple-A Norfolk.

Austin Hays, who showed great promise in 2017, had an injury-marred 2018 and probably has to play on a lower level to begin this season.

Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna disappointed at Bowie last season and will be in their first major league camps.

  • What can fans expect from this team?

According to Hyde, the Orioles will be a more fundamentally sound team in 2019. Elias has tried to improve the team’s infield defense and has ignored free agents who are offense-first.

The team lost 115 games last year, so a 10-to-15 game improvement would still mean consecutive 100-loss seasons for the first time in franchise history.

Last year, a team-record 56 players performed for the Orioles, and the guess here is that perhaps another 50 or more players will appear this season.

This season is likely to be as grueling as last year, but breakout performances by a player or two would be a successful start.

It won’t be a surprise if the Orioles again have the worst record in baseball, securing the No. 1 pick in the First-Year Player Draft in 2020 as well.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Ekim

    February 12, 2019 at 7:21 am

    Why only five?

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 8:03 am

      I wanted to save space for your questions.

  2. Fareastern89

    February 12, 2019 at 8:25 am

    I’m guessing that an improved defense will add a few wins to the total. Plus, Chris Davis will either hit better or spend more time on the bench, so that should help a bit as well. An MLB-worst record still is probably in the cards, but I would think that a willingness to experiment with roster changes will make the club more interesting to watch.

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:11 pm

      That’s my hope, too, FarEastern.

  3. JoeFundo

    February 12, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Clarification, Josh Rogers is a lefty.

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:13 pm

      Thank you, Joe. Correction made.

  4. ClyOs

    February 12, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Rich, will the Orioles be better in 2019 than 2018 is a bit of a loaded question. Will the level of play be as good? I doubt it! Will they lose 115 game again? I doubt it! You touch on the important thing however. Who will improve they performances from last year. Understand, Mancini, Mullins, Hays, Villar, Nunez, Mountcastle, Castro, Givens, Hart, Harvey, ect. aren’t just audition for the 2019 season. Elias/Hyde will be looking at who will be here when this thing turns in 3/5 years. People like Trumbo, Cashner, Cobb are gap fillers who will be traded for prospects if they preform. I give Chris Davis 200ab this year and if he doesn’t hit, I think the Orioles eats part of his salary to move him. Baltimore is doing the right thing by rebuilding from the foundation up, which will be both exciting and painful to watch. Good news is 2012 isn’t that far away!

    • ClyOs

      February 12, 2019 at 9:31 am

      2022 isn’t that far away!

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:14 pm

      You make some good points, ClyOs.

  5. DevoTion

    February 12, 2019 at 10:59 am

    Obviously 5 questions isn’t nearly enough! My question is what are they going to do with t
    Trumbo? I feel like they should put him in right field. Yeah he’s not a good defensive player, but when he plays in the field he has historically hit better. And if he has better numbers at the plate someone will want him for the stretch run

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:15 pm

      Trumbo’s future is an important question, to be sure, Devo.

  6. Bman

    February 12, 2019 at 11:03 am

    The number 1 pick two or three years in a row would definitely improve the talent stream in the organization. Losing 100 games this year might not be a bad thing! With that said, Os will be younger and hungrier this year, they may surprise a little. Last two spots: Karns and Hess. C: Sisco and Wynns. RF:,Stewart. SS: Martin. Utililty: Jackson

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:16 pm

      Check back in six weeks, Bman!

  7. Orial

    February 12, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Build the defense. Score from second. Move from first to third on hits. Hit the cut off man. Cut down on strikeouts. Teach the pitchers to NOT be afraid of the hitter. Good luck Mr Hyde.

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:17 pm

      Orial, you’re fundamentally sound.

  8. bmorebirds

    February 12, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Question 6:
    Which will best alleviate the searing pain and embarrassment of 2019 for Orioles fans — Jack Daniels or Natty Bo?

  9. Bhoffman1

    February 12, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    I’m anxious to see Harvey, Mouncastle, Diaz, Kramer, Stewart and Hays this Spring. Fill-ins like Young, Richard, Santander in the outfield do nothing for me and let’s hope Mike Wright is finally let go.

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:18 pm

      Lots of questions, Bhoffman, and it’s Joey Rickard–not Richard. I’m Richard.

    • Bhoffman1

      February 12, 2019 at 9:40 pm

      Yes Richard its Rickard. Can you play right field.

  10. willmiranda

    February 12, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Another question: Who will be overrated on the basis of an over-the-top
    spring training performance? Usually one or two guys have a blowout spring
    and then fade by June or even May. How well will the new regime evaluate
    spring training performances vis-a-vis regular season ability? And with so many
    players of apparently similar ability, will we let the wrong guy go?

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:20 pm

      Letting the potentially wrong guy go is hard. In Houston, where Elias worked, they let J.D. Martinez go. He blossomed elsewhere, but the Astros still won the World Series.

  11. cedar

    February 12, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    The question I hope gets answered is which of these players will be major league ready in the next year or two.

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 12, 2019 at 6:18 pm

      Tbat’s what this year is all about, Cedar.

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