Spring training begins in five days, and we have our final mailbag of the offseason. We’ll have monthly mailbags during the season. Thanks to those who had questions.
Some questions have been edited for clarity and grammar.
Question: “I really enjoy your website and insight into the Orioles. Thanks for writing it. I’ll keep reading it! One question I have about the Orioles is about the next surprise homegrown starter. John Means was really good last year and didn’t have much hype coming up in the minors. Who in your opinion hasn’t been a top-30 prospect but has a good shot at a real MLB breakout when the Orioles return to competitive status in say, 2023? I like Ryan Conroy and Dallas Litscher.” –Matt Patterson, from email.
Answer: You’re an avid minor league watcher if you know about Ryan Conroy and Dallas Litscher, Matt. Conroy was the Orioles’ eighth-round draft pick in 2018, and Litscher their 10th-round pick that year.
Conroy pitched mostly for Aberdeen last year with 9 2/3 innings for Delmarva and Frederick. What’s most impressive about him is his ability to avoid home runs. He’s allowed just one homer in 107 1/3 minor league innings. Conroy has also given up less than a hit per inning.
Litscher has the same amount of experience as Conroy, 106 1/3 innings, and he also pitched for Aberdeen and Delmarva.
Both could start the season at Delmarva, and if they do well, advance to Frederick. A big season from either could make them a Top 30 prospect.
My pick for top prospect not among the 30 is Gray Fenter, who was interviewed here last fall.
Fenter had Tommy John surgery in 2016 but last season had an excellent year at Delmarva, going 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 94 1/3 innings. He averaged less than six hits per nine innings. Fenter needs to cut down on walks. Last year, he allowed more than four per nine innings.
Question: Do you see any of the following making the Opening Day roster? Kremer, Akin, Mountcastle, Bannon, Diaz? -@MojoTilty
Answer: Mike, my guess is that Keegan Akin, Rylan Bannon, Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer and Ryan Mountcastle will all start 2020 at Norfolk, but it’s possible that all could play for the Orioles sometime during the season. It will be a disappointment if Akin, Kremer and Mountcastle don’t play for the Orioles in 2020.
Question: What is the state of the Orioles’ bullpen? I believe if we are anywhere near .500 or better this year it will be a much much improved bullpen! Your insight and views on this will be great. -Steve Burgan, from Facebook
Answer: Steve, I think the Orioles’ bullpen will be improved over last season, but I would be surprised if the team’s record is anywhere near .500.
If Hunter Harvey is the closer and Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier are set-up men, then the bullpen could be better. Dillon Tate’s arm is intriguing in the ‘pen, and I like the additions of waiver claims Travis Lakins and Cole Sulser.
Lakins and Sulser have multiple options remaining, and that could mean time in Norfolk and Baltimore.
I’m also interested to see if Miguel Castro and Tanner Scott are better this season.
The bullpen competition could be an interesting story in spring training.
Question: If the owners approved a $3 million purchase: who would you get? I would try for Tiaquan Walker. Is that still possible? Are 60 or more wins reasonable? Will Givens stay with us the entire season? Thanks. –Johnaton Meekins, from email.
Answer: Walker had an audition on Tuesday for about 20 major league scouts, according to USA Today. The Orioles don’t generally get into bidding wars with multiple teams, so I would think Walker signs elsewhere soon.
My guess is that the Orioles could re-sign Andrew Cashner to fill a rotation hole.
Sixty wins is possible, but that still means 102 losses, which isn’t a huge improvement. In order to bump up their record from where it was last year, the young players they have must shown improvement, and the starting rotation must be somewhat better.
If Mychal Givens has a strong first half as a set-up man, then I think another team might be interested in him.
Question: Can you ask the owners to make a firm statement or commitment that they will not move the team, no matter how low the attendance? –Mike B, from email
Answer: As Orioles executive vice president and chief operating officer, John Angelos said in a speech to Baltimore business leaders last September, “As long as Fort McHenry is watching over the harbor, the Orioles will be in Baltimore.”
I think that’s a firm statement, Mike.
Commissioner Rob Manfred weighed in on the future of Baltimore at the Winter Meetings in December.
“I think Baltimore is a viable baseball market,” Manfred said. “It’s got a great facility. I think that the uncertainty surrounding the MASN situation is on the road to resolution. We’ve got an [Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee] decision that’s been confirmed. That decision should move the process along in terms of getting MASN into a more stable situation, and I’m sure that as the team becomes more competitive — which I think it will with the great baseball operations people they have hired — that the attendance in Baltimore will pick up.”
Question: Going into spring training, what would you like as the O’s starting lineup? This isn’t a gotcha or an “I’ll remind you of this in April” thing, just curious about your personal favorites. There seems to be a lot of fluidity out there, but you can only pick nine for a game, so I thought it would be interesting to know whom, if you had to go with them every day, you would pick. Just 8 position players and a DH. No need for pitchers or reasons for your choices. I don’t mean to put you on the spot since you have to deal with all the players in your job, but I think your answer would be good to have and might even encourage discussion. -Will Miranda, from BaltimoreBaseball.com
Answer: I think the most likely Opening Day lineup is Chris Davis at first, Hanser Alberto at second, José Iglesias at short and Rio Ruiz at third. In the outfield, Anthony Santander in left, Austin Hays in center and Trey Mancini in right. I think Pedro Severino will be the catcher, and Renato Nunez the designated hitter.
Check with me on March 26, Will.
Question: My son and I go to Spring Training in Sarasota every year and are preparing for this year’s trip. We spend a lot of time there, meeting players and getting autographs. The one thing I have not seen any talk of is a Fanfest event at Ed Smith Stadium. There has been one in each of the past few years ,and it’s usually the week before games start. Have you heard of anything this year or could you find out? –John Troland, from email
Answer: The Orioles say there should be a return of Springfest early in spring training. The date hasn’t been announced.
Question: Been a lifelong O’s fan even through the really terrible years. I’ve been enjoying getting out to the MiLB parks the past two seasons and am totally on board with the rebuild. My question is this: Do you think Chris Davis plays a full season with the Orioles? I feel like they should have cut him last year. He doesn’t offer anything on offense, not much on defense anymore, and he is blocking Trey from starting and developing at his natural position. If Trey is going to remain the “face of the club,” to me it makes sense to allow him to do so at first base. You already owe the money to Davis for many years yet … why keep him around, using up a roster spot that could go to a young player with potential in the rebuild?
Again, thanks for your great articles. With the weather lately going from teasing spring to cold and rainy, reading about baseball is keeping me sane! Lauren Kuta, from email
Answer: Lauren, as I explained in the last mailbag, this could be an important year in the Davis-Orioles relationship. He’s owed $93 million, $17 million in salary in 2020, 2021 and 2022, and $42 million in deferred money beginning in 2023.
If he again struggles at the plate, the Orioles could decide to bring up Ryan Mountcastle, and that could change things.
In July, the amount of deferred money owed Davis will exceed the money they’ll pay him in present-day dollars, and that could be a turning point, too.
Kline, Wilkerson remain with Orioles: Pitcher Branden Kline and utility man Stevie Wilkerson cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.
Because Wilkerson was outrighted a year ago, he had the option to declare free agency but chose to remain with the Orioles.
Kline and Wilkerson were invited to major league spring training, and the team’s roster grew to 66. There are 26 non-roster invitees.