Orioles aim for continued improvement in final two months - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles aim for continued improvement in final two months

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

SAN DIEGO—Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, it’s time to look ahead to the last two months of this fascinating Orioles season.

The team has shown improvement in the last month. Since they lost 10 straight and 13 of 14 on June 28, the Orioles are 14-13.

They just concluded a 12-12 July, the first calendar month they hadn’t had a losing record since August 2017. And, they finished the month with a 5-4 West Coast road trip.

The debut of Stevie Wilkerson as a reliever occurred in July. He pitched an inning in a 16-4 loss to Tampa Bay on July 12 and eight days later, two innings in a 17-6 loss to Boston.

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On July 25, the few fans who were still awake or just getting up, saw Wilkerson record the first save for a position player in the 16th inning against the Los Angeles Angels in a game that ended at 4:27 a.m. Eastern time.

The Orioles recorded their 36th win on Tuesday in their 107th game, which is 13 games ahead of last year’s pace when the team lost 115 games.

There is still much work to do. The Orioles’ 36-71 record and .336 winning percentage is ahead only of the Detroit Tigers.

Fans who were hoping the Orioles would get the first pick in the 2020  draft for the second year in a row might be disappointed. However, the team is several games behind Kansas City, Miami and Toronto, so it appears likely that the Orioles will pick no worse than second in next year’s draft.

Interestingly, the Orioles have never had the second pick in a draft. In the history of the draft, Reggie Jackson (1966), J.R. Richard (1969), Joe Carter (1981), Josh Beckett (1999), Justin Verlander (2004), Mike Moustakas (2007), and Kris Bryant (2013) were some of the more accomplished second draft picks.

Other overall second picks included Players Association chief Tony Clark in 1990. Former Orioles Will Clark (1984) and Pedro Alvarez (2008) were also notable.

More relevant to Orioles general manager Mike Elias was his selection of Alex Bregman in 2015, a year after the Houston Astros failed to sign pitcher Brady Aiken.

This year, the Royals picked shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. after the Orioles took catcher Adley Rutschman. Witt was in the mix for the Orioles’ choice, too.

The Orioles still have just over a third of the 2019 season remaining, and many challenges ahead. They must duplicate their success over the past month to avoid losing 100 games, needing a 27-28 record in their final 55 games, which will be difficult.

Although their difficult travel is over and they play just three games out of the Eastern time zone, a difficult August looms.

From August 5-18, they play 13 straight games against the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, including a seven-game road trip to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

Later in the month, they also have six consecutive games with wild-card contenders Tampa Bay and Washington.

It seems certain that the Orioles will do better tnan their 47-115 record in 2018. They should easily win more than 12 games in the final two months, and even a 21-34 record would be a 10-game improvement.

As Elias has done throughout the season, he’ll probably add players through minor league deals and waiver claims. A month from now, the Orioles can expand their roster to 40.

It’s the final year teams will have that luxury. In 2020, there will be a 26-player roster limit for the first five months of the season, and after September 1, two additional players can be carried.

While some fans might like to take a look at left-handed starter Keegan Akin and first baseman Ryan Mountcastle in September, their additions aren’t a certainty.

Outfielders Austin Hays and DJ Stewart are likely to get a more extended look — in September or perhaps earlier. Third baseman Rio Ruiz is likely to be summoned back to Baltimore relatively soon, especially since he’s at Double-A Bowie instead of Norfolk.

Cedric Mullins, who had a disastrous .094 start with the Orioles before being sent to Norfolk and then to Bowie, could earn another shot with the Orioles with a productive August.

Manager Brandon Hyde said that John Means, who’s on the injured list with a biceps injury, is likely to return during the Yankees series that begins on August 5.

If Means can maintain his first-half production in the season’s final weeks, that should help the Orioles finish 2019 on a more positive note.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Orial

    August 1, 2019 at 8:24 am

    What’s comforting about this present team is that it’s capable of being competitive yet not solid enough to not add the young talent as this season and next season progress. Yes Rich getting the first pick in next year’s draft is not out of the realm considering who they play. I think the Dodgers in Sept can be added to that list.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 1, 2019 at 9:18 am

      Right you are, Orial, but I was just looking at August’s schedule for now. Four games with Detroit in September, too.

  2. Fareastern89

    August 1, 2019 at 8:36 am

    Despite having Toronto and Kansas City on the August schedule, I’d be surprised if the O’s win more than 6 or 7 games all month. Even with just a handful of wins, it’ll be tough to beat out the Tigers for that first draft pick. But thanks for the list of #2 guys, to help ease the angst of possibly missing out on #1. And I’d be surprised if they bring up Akin, who’s been struggling a bit lately at Norfolk.

  3. AZ ORIOLES Fan

    August 1, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Coming into this year my hope was improvement, I think we can agree that has been accomplished. Personally I am glad we didn’t have another fire sale like last year, there is a plan and we are sticking to it, our farm system is now in the top 10 and we no longer are rushing prospects to the big club. This team never stops playing a scrappy bunch

  4. Bancells Moustache

    August 1, 2019 at 9:06 am

    The first pick is nice and all, but it’s not like there is a Stephen Strasburg, lock number 1 guy out there. There was this year, and he’s napping in Aberdeen right now. The Birds can certainly still beef up the farm system at 2 or 3, I can live with a Bregman, Bryant or Machado. What would be bad is if they get hot and end up picking at 7-13, which we all know is not going to happen.

  5. Bhoffman1

    August 1, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Rios hasn’t got a hit yet at Bowie and Mullins isn’t exactly lighting a fire there after not hitting at Norfolk. Williams deserves a look before Mullins and Rios who fields nice just doesn’t have much of a bat

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 1, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      I wouldn’t be panicked about two games in Bowie for Rio Ruiz, Bruce. Not sure what the story is on Mason Williams, but the Orioles have a lot more invested in Cedric Mullins and Rio Ruiz.

  6. ButchBird59

    August 1, 2019 at 10:36 am

    I’m not concerned at all about draft position. The general consensus seems to be the 2020 crop of players is a bit deeper than 2019 especially in pitching. There are three pitchers in the SEC that rate as potential front line starters.

    For the immediate future, AAA looks bleak. For the fans sake, I hope the Birds continue to play entertaining baseball as they’ve done in July. I’ll be watching for sure!

    Bowie has been exciting lately! They actually executed a double steal last night. I hope that’s an indication of a new Oriole way. There’s a lot of realistic potential in the low minors. I’ll be watching that for sure as well!

  7. Hallbe62

    August 1, 2019 at 11:07 am

    .500 baseball in July. I’ll take it.

  8. chico salmon

    August 1, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Let’s hope the Orioles marketing department makes these two months interesting. Kudos to them for the $6.50 tickets this weekend, the same as 1989, to celebrate the Why Not? team. Memo to the O’s marketing department- keep em coming. Consider free parking and cutting general admission to under $10.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 1, 2019 at 1:36 pm

      Chico, their parking is incredibly cheap compared with other big league clubs.

      • Bancells Moustache

        August 1, 2019 at 3:33 pm

        That just means MLB franchises in general are better at screwing people than the Orioles.

    • CalsPals

      August 1, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      We were disappointed in the Hawaiian shirt give away, got one for our son, in the US Army, needed an XL, someone screwed up the order, all we could get was a smaller sized shirt, or a voucher to get it in October, that would’ve been fine, but we’re not from the area…the experience was awesome though, we’re gonna take him next summer…go O’s…

  9. Orioles fan 4weaver

    August 1, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Where are we with future pitching staff to become more competitive? I feel optimistic for our future with position players but last in ERA is our biggest issue. In many games we are playing from behind early. We have had to score 7+ runs for our last 5 wins in our latest road trip.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 1, 2019 at 9:19 pm

      The Orioles have a number of interesting pitching prospects at Bowie, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells, Dean Kramer, Cody Sedlock and Michael Baumann. DL Hall at Frederick and Grayson Rodriguez at Delmarva are highly thought of, too. We’ve written about most of them on our site. I would encourage you to read them.

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