Five observations about the first half of the Orioles' 2020 season - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Five observations about the first half of the Orioles’ 2020 season

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

It seems implausible that this eventful 60-game season began just a month ago and is nearly halfway over.

On Wednesday, the Orioles will play their 30th game of the season at Tampa Bay, marking the season’s midpoint.

Here are some impressions from what we’ve seen in the season’s first month:

There is reason for optimism

After a surprising 12-8 start in the season’s first 20 games, the Orioles lost six straight before rebounding with two wins against Boston to even their record at 14-14.

Rightfielder Anthony Santander, who didn’t get his first genuine major league opportunity until June 2019, has blossomed. His 18-game hitting streak is the team’s longest since Nick Markakis’ 18-game run in 2014.

Cedric Mullins, who has been playing center field since Austin Hays went on the injured list because of a fractured rib, is providing speed, energy, exceptional defense and surprising offense.

Friday’s addition of prospect Ryan Mountcastle has placated a restive fan base. In his first three games, Mountcastle has looked comfortable at the plate and in left field.

Hays could return on the team’s next homestand, which begins September 1st. Last week, manager Brandon Hyde said Hays’ rib injury could keep him out another week or two.

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Catcher Chance Sisco is looking better offensively and defensively. Hyde said that Sisco has been taking ground balls at first base, as has Pedro Severino, who injured his right hip on Sunday.

The left-handed-hitting Sisco could add that position to his skill set, which would increase his value.

What about the starting pitching?

The Orioles have gotten only three starts of at least six innings, two by Tommy Milone, and one of 6 2/3 innings from Alex Cobb.

In a 162-game season, starts like that would tax an eight-man bullpen. But, with two extra arms, the Orioles have been able to get by with multiple short starts.

However, if the team is going to make a run at the playoffs, they’re going to need longer starts from John Means and Asher Wojciechowski.

Means got a late start because of arm fatigue and then missed time after the death of his father. He hasn’t yet completed five innings. In his most recent start on Friday night, Means completed just three innings. If he can be extended to five innings in his final half-dozen starts this season, that would be progress.

Left-hander Wade LeBlanc’s elbow injury, which forced him out of Sunday’s game after 14 pitches, adds another level of intrigue to the rotation. LeBlanc will have an MRI on Monday. Thomas Eshelman, who didn’t give up a hit and retired 13 in a row in 4 1/3 innings of relief on Sunday, has experience starting.

Trading might be tricky

In his video conference call on Saturday, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias wouldn’t say whether the Orioles would make trades. He said the team would listen.

Cobb and reliever Mychal Givens might draw interest.

Dealing Cobb is going to be difficult because he has another year left on a four-year $57 million contract and teams are wary of adding payroll in a baseball economy wrecked by Covid-19.

Although Cobb hasn’t sparkled this season, he has been effective with a 3.76 ERA and 1.139 WHIP in five starts.

It probably won’t be easier to make deals this offseason and, if the Orioles wait until next July to deal him, they might be left with a package similar to the one they received for Andrew Cashner in July 2019 — two young Dominican Summer League players.

Givens has thrived in a setup role this season, throwing nine scoreless innings until he allowed a run in the ninth inning on Sunday. Actually, he was charged with a run when Tanner Scott gave up a two-run ninth-inning homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the ninth.

Givens will enter his final season of arbitration eligibility this winter. If he’s traded before the August 31 deadline, an acquiring team gets Givens for 2021, too, and relieves the Orioles of a salary they might not want to carry next season.

Givens probably wouldn’t fetch a huge haul, either, but the Orioles have a decent bullpen with the emergence of Shawn Armstrong and the improvement of Dillon Tate, who could slide into Givens’ role.

2020 has presented some interesting baseball

The Orioles have won three of four extra-inning games played under the rule that places a runner at second base to begin the 10th inning and beyond.

They’ve already pulled off Major League Baseball’s first leadoff double play and first leadoff inside-the-park home run in two of their wins.

A 28-man roster with 15 pitchers has helped make up for some of those short starts.

Other sports have added players to their roster in recent years, but it took until this year for baseball to add an extra man and have 26 on their rosters. When the shortened season began, teams were able to play with 30 for the first two weeks.

Rosters were supposed to be cut from 28 to 26 on August 20th but because of injuries and illness, Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed to keep them at 28.

The Orioles have already played — and lost — a doubleheader with two seven-inning games and have another scheduled for September 4th against the New York Yankees.

Next season, it’s likely that the dreaded day/night doubleheaders will return. Teams aren’t likely to give up revenues from another gate with paying fans returning.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde likes the three-batter minimum. Relief pitchers must pitch to three batters or conclude an inning. While that’s a new rule for 2020, it’s not a one-off like the others. Hyde would like the ability to switch pitchers if pinch-hitters are used for the second or third batters of a relief stint.

There’s still work to be done in the infield

Since Trey Mancini isn’t playing this season because of surgery for colon cancer, the Orioles don’t have a single homegrown infielder.

Going back to Jonathan Schoop’s arrival in 2013, they’ve had only one starting infielder at second base, third base or shortstop developed in their farm system — Stevie Wilkerson, who isn’t playing because of a broken left ring finger.

The Orioles have tried to make up for the lack of team-developed infielders by signing inexpensive free agents or claiming them on waivers.

Shortstop José Iglesias, who should return this week from the 10-day injured list because of a sore left quadriceps muscle, is an exception. Iglesias was signed to a one-year contract for $2.5 million with a $3.5 million option for next season.

Iglesias could be traded, but he’s been a valued stabilizer when he’s been able to play.

The Orioles don’t have any major league-ready infielders in the high minors.

They have plenty of young outfielders, the best catching prospect in baseball, Adley Rutschman, and a number of promising pitchers at various levels.

The loss of Richie Martin with a season-ending wrist injury during summer training has hurt their infield play. Martin could have been a valuable piece with Iglesias out.

Gunnar Henderson is the only infield prospect there, and he’d likely be playing at Delmarva this season.

Elias has tried to rectify this shortfall in his first two drafts, adding three infielders (Henderson, Joey Ortiz, Darell Hernaiz) in the first six picks in 2019, and drafting three more (Jordan Westburg, Anthony Servideo and Coby Mayo) in the six-player draft this season.

However, none will be playing with the Orioles any time soon.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 24, 2020 at 7:40 am

    Yes Rich, I’ve been “placated”. But for how long?

    It’s time to see what Akins & Kremer have.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 24, 2020 at 8:30 am

      Ken, It’s Akin, not Akins. If LeBlanc misses time, the guess here is that you’ll see him.

      There have been many fans on Twitter and Facebook who pleaded for Mountcastle, and you were far from the only one on here who wanted him up.

  2. OrioleMaze

    August 24, 2020 at 7:57 am

    I like the idea of Sisco playing 1st. Please don’t trade Iglesias. The team just lacks energy without him.
    Rich, do we know if Hays can even swing a bat yet rehabbing? Iglesias?

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 24, 2020 at 8:32 am

      Hyde said the other day that Hays had to rest. If he were swinging, he would be able to come off sooner. He said Iglesias should be able to come off on this trip. He’s eligible on Wednesday.

  3. Orial

    August 24, 2020 at 8:41 am

    Nice to see Sisco and Severino getting work at 1B but how many 1st basemen do we need? Is it a given that Hays supplants
    Mullins in the OF upon his return? Does he push Mountcastle aside? Mullins and to a lesser degree Mountcastle have solidified an OF that looked awful just a week ago.Rich you mentioned the lack of IF depth in higher MiLB then mentioned some brought on in the amateur draft who are a few years away. What about the International Draft? Have they been “chopped liver”? Overall it’s been a streaky first half but much more entertaining than anticipated.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 24, 2020 at 8:50 am

      Orial, there’s no international draft. There is an international signing period, which has been deferred from July to January.

      The teenagers signed in the first crop of signings in 2019 were unable to play in the Dominican Summer League this year. They’re even younger and farther away than the draftees;

    • NormOs

      August 25, 2020 at 2:14 pm

      Everyone knows one 1st baseman we can do without. Too bad he’s still on the team and serving no purpose except taking up a roster spot.

  4. Birdman

    August 24, 2020 at 9:20 am

    I think the smart “business” decision would be to hold onto Cobb and Givens, at least through the completion of this season. If the O’s can make a real run at the playoffs (or somehow sneak in), that could be a boost for attendance in 2021 (assuming fans are able to return in 2021). Trading Cobb and Givens now would certainly reduce the chances of making a playoff run.

    • GSISDANNO

      August 24, 2020 at 9:50 am

      Kudos to the Orioles for picking up useful parts like Nunez, Alberto, Severino and sone others. A few years ago, we “dumped” Machado, Schoop, Brach, Britton and O’Day for all these promising prospects from the Dodgers, the Braves and the Yankees. What happened to those guys? To my knowledge, none of them have done well. Did we het hoodwinked?

      • Jbigle1

        August 24, 2020 at 9:58 am

        We traded Brach for a small amount of intl cash so he shouldn’t be included.

        Those deals netted us Carmona, Zimmerman, Villar, Kremer, Yusniel Diaz, Evan Phillips, Cumberland, JC encarnacion, Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers.

        Diaz and Kremer have the two highest ceilings. Haven’t seen them yet. Villar was better than Schoop had been the last 2 seasons. Tate/Carroll might be two relievers. Ditto w/ Phillips but I really don’t like him. Zimmerman is a potential #5 starter. The rest of the names are long shots. Can’t grade the trades yet.

      • BirdsCaps

        August 24, 2020 at 8:19 pm

        It seems like there are no blue chips or high end prospects from the fire sale. It seems like whenever the birds make an acquisition they pay a premium and they sell when there is no demand, so they get pennies on the dollar.. Hopefully this changes.

    • Jbigle1

      August 24, 2020 at 9:53 am

      If they can get someone to take on Cobb’s salary he’s going to be gone. I don’t have a problem with that if that money can be used in a different direction this offseason. It wasn’t long ago that everyone hated the Cobb signing and he was pitching like complete garbage.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        August 24, 2020 at 10:04 am

        Not everyone hated’ the Cobb signing. I for one, loved it. Injuries have a way of skewing perception.

        • Bancells Moustache

          August 24, 2020 at 10:33 am

          I liked the Cobb signing initially, most people took it as the sign the 18 Orioles were going for it. That team pretty much quit mid-season and Cobbs health has made the contract a disaster. The Machado trade was a year too late. The Orioles could have Gavin Lux, Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo or even a combination of two of them right now, but they waited too long to pull the trigger.

          • Jbigle1

            August 24, 2020 at 11:38 am

            We’re talking about Cobb who is now going into his age 33 season. Odds are we’ve seen the best of Cobb. He hasn’t been very good as an Oriole other than this season. I’m perfectly okay with shipping him away and signing a new arm this offseason

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            August 24, 2020 at 11:50 am

            I’m thinking the Machado trade has a ways until we can truly judge it. 1st off, I think Machado is not the true superstar he should be. The talent is undeniable, but he’s lacking something upstairs and is wasting it up to this point. And I don’t doubt his power numbers were skewed in his favor by playing in OPACY.

            On the O’s side of the trade we’ll have to see if Diaz turns into anything more than average guy as we will with Kremer. Both have star potential I’m told. Another key to this trade is Rylan Bannon. I don’t know why everyone is forgetting about his guy. Frankly, I’d like to see him given a shot at 3B next year. I’m not a fan of Ruiz.

            And if Zach Pop can make it back from Tommy John? I know that’s a reach, but …

            But you’re right, they should have pulled that trigger a year before they did.

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            August 24, 2020 at 7:00 pm

            I liked the signing of Cobb initially also but I think they probably keep him this year. But there are a couple of teams that might come calling for him at the deadline who would/could splurge on a pitcher they need for making the playoffs or a playoff run. Those teams would be the White Sox or Angel’s. Another couple of prospects to be named later that are not on their 60 man for them. A Bundy, Heaney, Teheran and Cobb has some potential for the Angel’s for a possible playoff run. As would the Sox for a deep playoff run.

  5. Bman

    August 24, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Stick to the plan. Trade Cobb and Givens. Maybe let Davis retire at the end of the season. Os can still make a run at the playoffs this year. Fans want to see Hays, Mountcastle, Sisco, Severino, Santander, Diaz, Harvey, Kremer, etc

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 24, 2020 at 10:06 am

      By “let Davis retire” do you mean “eat his contract”? If so, I’m with you on that.

      I assure you that at what …. $46+ million (?) still owed …. he’s not going to ‘retire’. And who can blame him?

      • Jbigle1

        August 24, 2020 at 11:40 am

        You have to eat it next year. The rosters move back down to 26. Mountcastle has arrived and Mancini will be back. Sisco and Nuñez can put a glove on and call themselves 1B. There’s no space for that dead weight.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          August 24, 2020 at 11:53 am

          I agree with you. But does the Angelos family?

          • Birdman

            August 24, 2020 at 2:17 pm

            Boog, we agree on this one. As I noted recently, I think Davis is probably the one personnel matter that Elias doesn’t have full autonomy to decide. (can’t imagine Elias sees any benefit to keeping Davis on the roster at this point). It isn’t really a financial decision, since they have to pay Davis whether he is released, or they keep him and he rides the bench. So I think it really boils down to more of an emotional/pride issue with the Angelos sons – I suspect they are afraid that if they release Davis outright, it would be interpreted as an acknowledgement of their father’s blunder.

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            August 24, 2020 at 6:27 pm

            I agree with you both, next year is the year we see a major decision on CD. Probably in spring training. I think the Angelos family was hoping CD would get tired of looking like a fool with that way below the Mendoza line batting average and just retire. But I think the stair down ends next spring. Hopefully, a buyout for the small to mid market Orioles with CD doing the right thing and realizing he can’t play anymore but ultimately a release if a compromise can’t be worked out.

    • ClayDal

      August 24, 2020 at 12:25 pm

      Not to be argumentative (ha ha), but I don’t quite get the idea that you keep Davis because the roster is expanded to 28. If the roster was expanded to 35, would you keep 9 players who aren’t producing? Of course not. If you are allowed to carry extra players, it makes more sense to carry someone who helps you. So when Davis is healthy, put someone on the roster who might actually help you win a game

    • CalsPals

      August 24, 2020 at 8:33 pm

      I think their stare down is happening right now…go O’s…

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        August 24, 2020 at 8:43 pm

        Yeah, my bad – “stare down” – you’re correct! I don’t do a lot of writing in English in my line of work. My writing is is code all day. Lol

  6. willmiranda

    August 24, 2020 at 11:39 am

    Playoffs? Did I read playoffs? We just managed to eke out two one-run wins in four tries against the worst team in the league. I see 25 wins, depending on how other teams are affected by the bizarre protocols.

    • Jbigle1

      August 24, 2020 at 11:47 am

      The fact that we’re even talking about a potential playoff appearance is a huge shock. I thought this was a 60 win team (if we played 162)

      I would imagine most of you felt the same way. We’ve been far more competitive than I would’ve thought.

  7. Phil770

    August 24, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    It could be that 28 wins will qualify for the expanded playoffs. In a shortened season (10% of the season will be played this week!), even a few games games can make quite a difference; we’ll learn a lot this week. An 0 and 6 or 1 and 5 record on this road trip will make you point, 2W and 4L or better will continue to give rise to being playoff hopeful, unless they sell off parts this week that make being competitive less likely. Cobb and Givens would be fine, but if there were to also trade Milone, and/or any of the position players as well… that would be what Boog (and Cal) would call TANKING. They would be right. At least we would see our young pitchers.

  8. Tony Paparella

    August 24, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    Seems like to some people Mullins has made the grade but I don’t see that at all,and mainly because of his bat.He has convinced me he has everything so far but the bat. He cannot keep depending on the bunt to get on base so I think he has to show more consistency.Some salary connected with Cobb so he may still go next week though the Orioles lacking for dependable starters.Not many of the relievers have really impressed me either as far as consistency, but hopefully they are getting the experience necessary.I am thinking Davis pretty close to being cut from the team before end of the year but just an opinion like everything else.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 24, 2020 at 1:49 pm

      Hey Tony, I’m this sites biggest Mullins supporter, but I agree with you 100%, Cedric needs to continue to hit the ball. One little hot streak does not a successful major league make. BUT …. I do like his ability to bunt. It will do nothing but help the team and help his all round offensive game. Imagine if all the guys could bunt!

  9. TxBirdFan

    August 24, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    I hate to say it, but I think we’ve already seen the best of J. Means. He was a flash in the pan last year and I don’t think he’ll put up those numbers again. Why not trade him if you could get a good return? If you can’t get a good return my point is proven.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 24, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      I wondered the same thing long ago. He may have already had his career year.

    • Phil770

      August 24, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      I disagree. He has not been right this year – I would not think about trading him, even for a good prospect. The O’s almost gave up on Palmer (back in the day), due to sore arm and bad results. I am not saying Means is Palmer, but in this crazy season, I think a couple of bad starts and missing two weeks of a truncated season is too small a sample size.

  10. willmiranda

    August 24, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    I don’t see this year as a good one for making trades. With the expanded playoffs, good teams won’t be looking for a useful veteran to help get a couple extra wins. With no minor league activity, prospects can’t show if they’re making the big steps you’re looking for. And no one has the cash flow to take on merely competent players with big salaries. Most players are more or less streaky, so taking one on for fewer than thirty games is a bit risky. Since everybody’s playing it safe about so many things these days, I don’t think they’ll start to get risky here. As for the O’s, they seem to be bringing enough new faces to keep us all happy already.

    • Bancells Moustache

      August 24, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      I agree. I think the amount of uncertainty with this season will depress the trade market substantially. They may still unload Cobb for peanuts just to get the money off the books, but I don’t know that they can move Givens and I think Inglesias should stick around. He’s cheap and with them having young pitchers coming up but few middle infielders, elite defense at the shortstop position makes him absolutely worth the price tag. Severino could also be a chip, if he keeps hitting the ball. Solid defensive catchers who can rake are great thing to have in a playoff run.

      • Birdman

        August 24, 2020 at 6:07 pm

        Would hate to see Severino go (unless Elias gets an offer he can’t refuse). Severino has three more years of team control, and Rutschman has only 37 games in the minors, so not sure how soon he will be ready to take over.

  11. Bhoffman1

    August 24, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    I would definitely trade Nunez. Mancini should play first next year and Sisco and Serverino could share catching and DH. AR we won’t see till 2022 most likely. I love the outfield of Hays, Santlander and Mountcastle but where do you play Diaz is ceiling is too high for a fourth outfielder unless you DH Ryan. Obviously the playoffs would be great for us as the universal opinion was that we would be the worst team in baseball but it’s not Elias main focus. I’m starting to trust him way more then DD and see this team being very relevant for many years. What you have to say to CD and his agent is your not playing do you want to be remembered as a guy that sat on the bench for two more years or have a quality life at home with your family and whatever you want to do. Simply a buyout instead of 44 mil maybe 20 mil. I’m sorry it just really bothers me that he should get his full contract even though there is no non performance clause in it

    • Bhoffman1

      August 24, 2020 at 4:12 pm

      I know you won’t get much for Nunez maybe a little more for Alberto but I would like to see him here next year along with Iglesias.

    • Phil770

      August 24, 2020 at 7:20 pm

      BHoff – I agree with you, but there is no way CD agrees to a buyout. MLBPA would put pressure on CD not to “cave” and his agent is Scott Boras, who bamboozled PA to sign the contract, “at a discount” will also insist on “his share”. There will be no buy out. O’s will just have to just walk away. I think the CD contract will be the owners’ poster child for needing to include performance clauses in contracts.

    • Bhoffman1

      August 24, 2020 at 10:31 pm

      Let him just stay injured for the rest of the season he’s of no use anyway and after the season meet with Boras and see if anything can be worked out if not just release him and pay him I think it’s for the next ten years or so. Another Bobby Bonilla if you remember him

    • CalsPals

      August 25, 2020 at 10:22 am

      Remember him every July 1st…crazy…go O’s…

  12. BirdsCaps

    August 24, 2020 at 8:15 pm

    They need to hold on to players unless they are totally blown away. It’s kinda nice to have an in between yr (playoffs or no playoffs). There is no pressure to win and no urgency. This has been fun, especially after the caps were a no show in the nhl playoffs. This is the definition of a “why not” year!

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