Question: The Orioles have about 10-15 starting prospects (for this question please include Akin and Means) who seem like future starting rotation possibilities. Of their pitching prospects who do you foresee filling out their 5-man rotation?-From Bradan Smith via Facebook
Answer: Bradan, let’s include Keegan Akin and John Means for the moment. I have four candidates: Michael Baumann, DL Hall, Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez.
Hall, their 2017 first-round draft pick, and Rodriguez, their top pick a year later, may not be with the Orioles until the end of 2021 or 2022, but they have the most potential.
I really like Baumann, who impressed me in the two starts I saw in Delmarva and Bowie in 2018 and 2019. Kremer, who hadn’t been called up when you submitted the question, had a terrific debut on Sunday.
Q: If the Arizona Fall league happens, who are the candidates to go out West? Given his production, will they pick up Iglesias’ option for ’21?-From Brian Sturm via Facebook.
A: Brian, I haven’t heard any talk about an Arizona Fall League for this year, but let’s say they did, and I could pick six prospects — three pitchers, a catcher, an infielder and an outfielder.
I would pick three pitchers from my future rotation: Baumann, Hall and Rodriguez, all of whom worked at the Bowie alternate site.
The catcher is easy, Adley Rutschman. The infielder would be Terrin Nevin, the first baseman they just picked up from Colorado for Mychal Givens. Yusniel Diaz, who’s also at the alternate site, would be my outfielder.
I think the Orioles should and will pick up the option on José Iglesias for 2021. Iglesias has a $3.5 million team option that can be bought out for $500,000.
The Orioles don’t have an obvious successor as an everyday shortstop and, even if they want to trade him this winter, at least they can get something for him if they bring him back for 2021.
I’ll guess they pick up the option and look to move him next July.
Q: Rich, I was really impressed with Richie Martin down the stretch last season. I thought he was the most improved player on the team from the beginning of the season to the end. I haven’t heard a word about his recovery and am wondering what you think his chances are of being with the big club next season. From David Gruber via email
A: David, Richie Martin is no longer part of the 60-player pool. When it was decided he needed season-ending surgery, he was put on the 60-day injured list, which removes a player from the pool, and that’s why you haven’t heard anything about the recovery from his fractured wrist.
I think Martin has a solid chance of being with the team next season. They were planning to send him to Triple-A Norfolk this season but, because of the expanded rosters, I think they would have kept him, and he could have helped the team, especially with Iglesias’ sore quad limiting him.
With Iglesias missing time, I think Martin would have been an adequate fill-in, and with no shortstop candidates in the high minors, perhaps he’ll get a shot to play more next year at short and second.
Q: If the Orioles finish at or near .500 this year, is it a sign of good things to come, or more of an anomaly made possible by the unique season and not indicative that the rebuild is in the next steps? Thanks! From Justin Lewis via Facebook
A: Justin, I think that the Orioles’ record could be helped by a short season. I think the rebuild is proceeding methodically, and that if the team gets hot in the final 20 games, as it did in the first 20, and finishes at or near .500, it’s not a sign that contention is near.
They’ve been helped by the expanded roster. Their weakness in the starting rotation has been helped by having a few extra arms in the bullpen, and that’s not likely to be the case next year, but if Akin and Kremer continue their early success, the timetable may speed up.
The team is getting better, but it’s a little too early to declare the rebuild over as Mike Elias indicated last week.
Q: Considering the possible future logjam in the outfield and first base/designated hitter with Santander, Hays, Mountcastle, Mancini, Diaz, Mullins, Núñez and others, how do you envision those positions to look when/if Mancini is healthy and Diaz is finally ready?
Also, other than G-Rod and DL who do you believe is our best pitching prospect and are you most excited for (Akin, Kremer, Baumann, Zimmermann, Lowther, newly acquired Smith, etc) From Justin Crites via email.
A: Justin, I think that an outfield of Ryan Mountcastle in left, Austin Hays in center and Anthony Santander in right would be interesting to see. I’m sorry that we didn’t see that this season because of injuries.
When Trey Mancini is healthy, I think he’s the team’s first baseman. I’m eager to see what Yusniel Diaz can do. I assume it will be 2021 before we find out. As for Cedric Mullins, he can help at all positions, and he’s a plus-defender, runner and bunter. You didn’t mention DJ Stewart, who had three homers this weekend. For now, I guess Núñez projects as the DH.
It’s been a long time since the Orioles have had a true surplus at any position, and it will be fascinating if they do in the outfield.
Akin and Kremer are already here, and I’d like to see Baumann, but that’s more likely to be a 2021 possibility. I’m also eager to see all those you’ve mentioned.
Zac Lowther and Bruce Zimmermann, who are at the Bowie alternate site, are probably 2021 contenders, too. Hall and Rodriguez are obviously intriguing, as well.
Q: For the players to be named later coming to the O’s, does Elias and the executives on the other clubs know who they are? I understand they can’t announce them, but I wonder if they are agreed upon. From @ChicoSalmonFan
A: Elias was asked this question after the Givens trade, and he said the names would be revealed when he was able to.
Generally, the players are either agreed upon beforehand, or a group of names are discussed, and chosen after the season.
Q: Good morning Rich, I was very surprised when Elias didn’t draft any starting pitchers in this June’s amateur draft until the end of the drafting process. He even passed on Asa Lacy, who I thought would have been a very solid and logical pick. It doesn’t seem to me that he has enough front-of-the-rotation pitchers in the system yet. Is it because he feels he already has enough pitching or does he have a longer view on things? From Michael Thompson via email
A: Michael, I was surprised the Orioles didn’t draft a pitcher until the final pick this year. When Elias was drafting for the Houston Astros, he had two No. 1 draft choices, Brady Aiken and Matt Appel, who didn’t work out, and I think he’s wary of drafting pitchers high up unless he’s certain of their futures.
He had much better success drafting position players such as Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman with high picks.
You never have enough top-of-the rotation pitchers and, in the three years before he arrived, the Orioles had success in drafting pitchers — Akin, Baumann, Hall, Lowther and Rodriguez.
When Elias came in, the system didn’t have a lot of high-ceiling infielders and outfielders, and now that they’ve drafted a number of them, perhaps in 2021, they’ll focus more on pitchers.
Q: Here’s a silly question for you Rich, I’ve noticed that the stadium video board is being run during the games as if there were fans in the stands. Players pictures and stats are being shown as if there were someone to read them. Obviously, this takes up one of those precious personnel spots by the video board operator.
Can you tell me exactly why it’s necessary to run the board? Is it simply for a ‘look’ on television or an attempt at normalcy in this very strange year?
A very silly question I know … probably not worth answering, but I’ve wondered about it all year now. From Boog Robinson Robinson via email.
A: Ken, it’s not such a silly question. Teams are encouraged to limit employees in the stadium, and the Orioles are using only about a third of their normal production personnel for each home game.
The stats are there for both the players and the media. Playing walkup songs and videos do help create more of a sense of normalcy at the ballpark, but there’s no between-innings entertainment on the scoreboard as in the past.
One thing that’s missing is the out-of-town scoreboard. For the year, it’s been replaced by static ads for the Social Security Administration and another for a credit union.