The season is a few innings short of one-quarter complete, and the Orioles are playing better than many thought they would. There are lots of questions to get to, and a number of them are about Ryan Mountcastle.
Question: What has to happen for Ryan Mountcastle to get an everyday shot at first base? This is getting ridiculous. From: Jeffrey Walter via Facebook
Answer: Fans are incredibly impatient about Mountcastle’s arrival, and I’m eager to see what he can do, too. The guess here is that you’ll see Mountcastle within the next week or two.
I don’t think he’s going to play first base, Jeffrey. One of the reasons the Orioles say he’s been at the Bowie alternate site is to improve his play in left field, and that’s where he’ll probably play, at least to start.
Question: Why not try Mountcastle at second if he’s a natural shortstop? I get the arm at this, but theoretically second should be doable. From @Chrost
Answer: Mountcastle was drafted as a shortstop, and he was tried both there and at third base in the minor leagues. More recently, he’s played left field and first base.
If the Orioles thought Mountcastle could play second, he would have been tried there by now. His future in the field is in either left or first.
Question: If for some reason, Ryan Mountcastle were not brought up to the big club this season, could the Orioles play the same waiting game next year, thereby gaining yet another season of control? Boog Robinson Robinson via email
Answer: I seriously doubt that could happen, but yes. Each team gets six years of control over a minor league player and another six of a major league player. Mountcastle is in his fifth full season of minor league control, even though there’s no minor league season.
If the Orioles didn’t bring him up until early in the 2021 season, they could control him through the 2027 season but, as I wrote earlier, I expect him to come up shortly.
Question: With DJ Stewart being demoted and Ryan Mountcastle probably being promoted sooner rather than later, what do you think the team’s next move is with him? Keep him? Try to trade him? If they try to trade him do you think they get much for him? Do they just outright release him? Thanks in advance for your answer. Blake Robinson via Facebook
Answer: Blake, Stewart was a No. 1 pick in 2015 and, even though that was long before Mike Elias arrived, the Orioles have invested a lot in him.
They wanted to give him an extended look, but he looked lost at the plate in his first two weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back here later in the season and, if they don’t like what they see from him, they may move on from him, but I can’t see them releasing him.
Because this year has been so strange, and the offseason is likely to be, too, predicting trade value is impossible. They could bring him back in 2021, but they have some interesting young outfielders with Mountcastle, Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna coming along.
Question: Any word on how Blaine Knight is looking? @Osandthedead
Answer: Blaine Knight was the Orioles’ third-round pick in 2017 and had a spectacular start of the season at Delmarva in 2019. Knight’s time after his promotion to Frederick was awful, going 1-12 with a 6.13 ERA.
He has not been added to the 60-man player pool but is someone who could have benefited from intense instruction without the pressure of games at Bowie.
Question: Do you see teams being more aggressive in promoting minor leaguers next year since they will be a year older but without that continuity of a season? Tom McLaughlin via Facebook
Answer: Excellent question, Tom. My guess is that teams will be less aggressive, especially with young pitchers. Even though they’ve either been working out under strict supervision at Bowie or coached via Zoom, they haven’t gotten authentic game innings, and I think it sets them back.
I think position players’ development won’t be held back as much.
Question: How has the shortened season, tighter restrictions on player/roster movements, and cancellation of minor league seasons impacted the development of the likes of Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, and others in the pipeline that aren’t MLB ready? Michael Fleetwood via Facebook
Answer: Your question is related to Tom’s, but it’s regarding the players who are in the pool.
Since Rutschman lost three months of playing time when he could have been at Frederick or perhaps Bowie, let’s say that this sets him back about that long.
For Rodriguez, the lack of competitive innings is a real concern. He was developing nicely at Delmarva last year and would have started the season at Frederick.
Because of the lack of innings this year, the Orioles will closely watch his innings in 2021, and that may set him back longer than Rutschman and other position players.
Question: The relief pitchers have done very well this year so far. Do you think Mike Elias would trade Castro or Givens? Plus Cobb is 33 years old. If he keeps pitching well someone who’s going to playoffs might want him and we could get someone younger for him. Rob Jefferson via email
Answer: Predicting trades is tricky this year. I think that Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens could be traded, though Givens’ salary is a concern. He’s coming up on his final year of arbitration.
Castro could be an attractive commodity for a contender.
As for Cobb, he still has another year on his four-year, $57 million contract, and he might be hard to trade. But if he keeps pitching well, a contender in need of a starter could be interested.
Question: What is the biggest obstacle to the Orioles making it to the playoffs this year? @oriolespodcast
Answer: Even though the team is off to a better-than-expected start, they need consistent starting pitching. If they get that, then perhaps they could sneak into the expanded postseason, but they’re going to need lots of good starts from John Means, Alex Cobb, Wade LeBlanc, Asher Wojciechowski, Tommy Milone and others.
Question: Is ownership going to extend the contract with the Maryland Stadium Authority & OPACY before the end of the 2021 season or possibly leave town for someplace like Nashville? @MichaelFosterOC
Answer: The Orioles are not moving. The pandemic could delay negotiations on a new lease with the state of Maryland, but I fully expect one in place by the end of the old one.
The main reasons teams move is because they’re unhappy with their stadium situation. The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics are both working on getting new stadiums to replace their inadequate ones, and they could be candidates to eventually move, perhaps to Nashville.
Major League Baseball considers Oriole Park at Camden Yards a gem, and there’s no chance they’ll abandon this wonderful ballpark. Besides, I don’t want to write for NashvilleBaseball.com.
Question: Is the official scorekeeper at the park? Sean O’Connor via Facebook.
Answer: No, they’re not, and I think it’s a shame. MLB wants to keep strict social distancing in press boxes, and some of the scorers fall into the at-risk category.
Scorers work remotely, and sometimes the announcement of their decisions is delayed. An MLB.com statistician, who inputs information into Gameday, remains at the park.
Question: What’s with Givens? From Sherry Agee Michaleski via Facebook
Answer: Mychal Givens has pitched well this season, with four scoreless innings. Last year, Givens pitched horribly in the ninth inning (6.69 ERA) and brilliantly in the eighth (1.93 ERA).
If a contender thinks he can help them as a setup man and the Orioles get an acceptable offer, then perhaps he’ll be traded.
Question: Has analytics caused the death of small ball? There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a runner on second with no outs not even make it to third. Why is there such a reluctance to sacrifice an out for a base? Seth Mendelsohn via email
Answer: Small ball is certainly not in vogue these days, and analytics is a major reason why. But even Earl Weaver wasn’t a proponent of small ball. Perhaps someday bunting and the hit-and-run will be back in favor, but it’s not likely any time soon.
Question: Without the fans, what happens to all the foul balls/home runs? Are all the stadiums dealing with them the same way? Is there a Covid-19 protocol?
And speaking of protocols, I seem to remember reading something about only the pitcher and catcher touching the baseball, which seems pretty stupid, but is there a protocol concerning the actual baseball? Are they still rubbed down before the game or sterilized from the factory and used right out of the box?
I haven’t seen the Oriole Bird! Is he in the stadium and TV just doesn’t pick him up anytime or is he not there? Steven Schwarz via email
Answer: Some teams are using foul balls for batting practice. Others are auctioning them off for charity. Some have given them to season-ticket holders if a ball lands at their seat.
Home run balls are often authenticated and sold as game-day merchandise.
Any clubhouse employee touching a ball must wear gloves and a mask.
I haven’t seen the Oriole Bird.
Question: Are we back on the tanking track? @bentylka
Answer: The Orioles are building for the long term and, if they make the postseason, that will help them sell tickets for next year, or whenever fans return to the ballpark. They’re trying to win and build for the future, but I can’t see them taking on additional salary for September if they’re in the playoff chase.
Notes: The Orioles placed right-handed pitcher Jose López on the injured list in a procedural move. He was acquired on waivers from Kansas City on Sunday … The Orioles released left-handed pitcher Ty Blach, who underwent Tommy John surgery. Their 60-man player pool is at 59 … Sunday’s suspended game against the Nationals will resume at 5:05 p.m. on Friday ahead of the regularly scheduled game between the teams. The Orioles will be the road team for the suspended game.