Had there been a 2020 season, it would be four weeks old, and the Orioles would have completed 24 games—15 percent of the schedule.
After a trip to Kansas City and Los Angeles, the Orioles would have had a day off on Thursday before opening a home series with Toronto.
By now, some things would have been apparent, and there were five questions we were eager to see answered.
- Would Chris Davis’ hot streak have continued?
Davis was the feel-good story of spring training. In nine games, the first baseman was hitting .467 (7-for-15) with three home runs and nine runs batted in.
It was a welcome turnabout from his previous two seasons, when he hit .168 and .179. With 12 games left in spring training, Davis would have had ample opportunity to continue his resurgence.
If baseball returns in 2020, there will be another spring training, which could come in late spring or early summer, and Davis will be watched closely again.
If there’s no season, Davis will enter the sixth season of a seven-year, $161 million contract next February.
- How would Austin Hays have performed in center field?
The Orioles were depending on Hays to be their Opening Day centerfielder after two injury-marred minor league seasons in 2018 and 2019. Hays hit only .179 in spring training but displayed his speed and defensive skills. ‘
Baseballreference.com is simulating team players’ stats. While Davis is hitting just .194 in their make-believe games, Hays is batting .302 with six home runs and 13 RBIs.
Cedric Mullins, who was sent to Triple-A Norfolk after the shutdown, hit poorly early last year, and Stevie Wilkerson played gallantly, but the Orioles were looking for a more accomplished centerfielder and believe they have one in Hays.
If there is some sort of season, Hays’ play will merit strong watching.
- Could the Orioles have avoided losing 100 games for the third straight season?
In January, Sportsbetting.ag tagged the Orioles with an over/under of 55.5 wins, narrowly ahead of their 54 wins in 2019.
This week, the online betting service slightly revised their forecasts. They predicted the Orioles would have a winning percentage of .350, which equates to a win total of 56.5 over a full season.
Baseballreference.com’s simulated standings have the Orioles with a .375 winning percentage and a record of 9-15. That has them them in fourth place in the standings, a game ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
Watching the Orioles for the first month of spring training, I thought their bullpen was greatly improved and thought they had a chance to avoid 100 losses.
- Where would Adley Rutschman have played?
Rutschman was the least experienced and most hyped player in spring training but because there was so much talk about the Houston Astros and their sign-stealing scandal, the catcher wasn’t the subject of national attention.
In his spring training games before he was reassigned to minor league camp at Twin Lakes Park, Rutschman didn’t look out of place, although he was only 1-for-9 at the plate.
The Orioles hadn’t decided whether to send Rutschman to High-A Frederick or Low-A Delmarva, where he concluded his 2019 season, his first.
Rutschman, the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2019, probably would have gone to the Keys, but with a minor league season looking more doubtful and Frederick’s future as an Orioles affiliate in doubt, Frederick’s loyal fans might not get a chance to see him.
In 2021, the Orioles’ minor league system could be changed radically if Minor League Baseball agrees to MLB’s proposal to limit each club to four affiliates in addition to a team-operated rookie league squad.
Rutschman seemed on the way to a possible major league debut in May or June of 2021. Now, that timetable has been altered.
- When would the Orioles have promoted some of their young players?
It was assumed that pitchers Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann were going to make their major league debuts in the second half of the 2020 season.
If it turns out that there is a season and rosters are expanded, it will be interesting to see if the Orioles are as conservative in accelerating players as they were last season?
The additions of Hays, relief pitcher Hunter Harvey and outfielder Anthony Santander energized the team in 2019. That was expected to happen again this year with their young pitchers.
Now, we’ll just continue to wait.