Even after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Orioles are still four games ahead of last year’s pace. At 32-69, the Orioles are heading for more than 100 losses again. It would take a 31-30 record over the season’s final 61 games to avoid the franchise’s first consecutive 100-loss season.
But, all isn’t negative. The Orioles, who are 10-11 since June 28, are heading in the right direction. That might not be apparent for the rest of this season, which has a brutal few weeks coming. It may not be obvious next year, which could be nearly as challenging.
However, it looks as if the worst is behind the Orioles. Even if the Orioles trade reliever Mychal Givens and infielder Jonathan Villar, the team is beginning to head north.
This year’s record probably will be a bit better than last season’s horrific 47-115. The Orioles would have to go at least 16-45, which is attainable.
Winning five more games than last year won’t look like much, and it shouldn’t. At that pace, it would take six more years to be a .500 team, and that’s not acceptable.
At some point, the team is going to have to take a big jump. The 2020 season might feature many of the players you’re watching this season, but by 2021, things should be looking up.
The Orioles’ farm system now features more interesting players at every level than at any time in recent memory.
At Triple-A Norfolk, there’s first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, left-handed pitcher Keegan Akin and outfielders Austin Hays and DJ Stewart.
Double-A Bowie, which has been playing well, has promising starting pitching: left-handers Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and Bruce Zimmermann along with right-handers Michael Baumann, Dean Kremer and Cody Sedlock.
The Baysox also have outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna and infielder Mason McCoy.
Frederick left-hander DL Hall, Delmarva right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and recent draftees catcher Adley Rutschman, shortstop Gunnar Henderson and outfielders Johnny Rizer, Kyle Stowers and Zach Watson have shown promise.
Rutschman is likely to debut at Aberdeen this weekend, and Rizer and Watson have been promoted to Delmarva.
Not all these prospects will make the Orioles let alone make an impact, but it’s clear that the players general manager Mike Elias drafted as well as some he inherited from the previous regime make for some intriguing candidates over the next few years.
Things look much brighter than they did a month ago when the Orioles were in the midst of their roughest stretch of this decade. They lost 10 straight and 13 of 14 before perking up.
They have four games at the Los Angeles Angels, beginning tonight, followed by two more at San Diego before returning home for four games with Toronto.
Then, a potentially bruising stretch awaits with 13 consecutive games with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros.
If they can withstand this stretch without huge damage, they’ll still have some difficult opponents in the season’s final six weeks: seven games against Tampa Bay, two with the Nationals and three against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with baseball’s best record.
But they’ll have games with teams that aren’t in playoff contention: Toronto, Seattle, Kansas City and Detroit.
The recent stretch has given the Orioles a winning percentage of .317 ahead of the Tigers, who are at .309. The teams play four games at Comerica Park in mid-September and the top draft pick for 2020 probably will be at stake.
September could bring Hays and Stewart as well as Cedric Mullins, who could earn a return trip if he has a hot few weeks at Bowie.
One of the reasons the Orioles have played well in recent weeks is the offense provided by outfielder Anthony Santander and catcher Chance Sisco, who were June additions.
Santander is hitting .299 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 40 games while Sisco has a .261 average with six homers and 17 RBIs. Both are getting on base. Santander’s OBP is .345, and Sisco’s is .364.
Sisco’s defense could use work. He’s allowed 21 of 24 baserunners to steal.
Because of where the Orioles are, manager Brandon Hyde has been able to give extensive playing time to Santander and Sisco, and it’s paid off.
These are relatively small sample sizes, and not every prospect called up will play as well, but these few weeks have shown Oriole fans that there is something to look forward to in the coming years.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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