Orioles' talent base is better than a year ago, but questions remain - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ talent base is better than a year ago, but questions remain

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

If you’re going to measure the Orioles’ 2020 season by how many promising players they’ve found, it’s a success.

A year ago, the Orioles were happy to find that John Means was an effective starter, that Anthony Santander was a power-hitting rightfielder and that Austin Hays was a major league centerfielder.

Means, who more than any other Oriole starter was handicapped by the shortened season, experienced arm fatigue to begin 2020 and then lost his father, who was only 57.

In his last two starts, he’s pitched well and likely has two starts remaining. Means, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer appear to give the Orioles a base for their 2021 rotation.

Santander had 11 home runs and had played well in right field before his season-ending oblique injury.

Hays, who has missed nearly a month because of rib fracture, could return this week, and there’s little he has to do to show manager Brandon Hyde that he’ll be a key component in 2021.

“I’m not looking to really evaluate,” Hyde said. “I’m looking for him to just play. I believe in the player, and I like the player a lot. I don’t think he get off to the start that he had in mind. He finished the year so well last year.”

Before he was placed on the injured list, Hays hit .203 in 19 games. In 2019, when he played the last three weeks of the season for the Orioles, he hit .309 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 21 games.

“I think he’s extremely talented,” Hyde said. “I like him defensively. I like him offensively. I like that he’s able to hit the ball to all fields. I think he’s got some juice where he can really drive the ball to the opposite field. I’m not looking for him to put pressure on himself to play well these last couple of weeks like he’s getting evaluated.

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“I just want him to go play. I think the organization is really high on him. I think he’s going to be a really good major league player.”

The Orioles like what they see in the outfield. They won’t have Hays, Santander and Ryan Mountcastle playing together this year, but they’ve discovered that Mountcastle is a competent leftfielder and that DJ Stewart also brings a power bat to right.

Cedric Mullins has played well in center field and, suddenly, the Orioles seem to have a surplus of outfielders.

“It might be crowded, but it seems to always work out,” Hyde said. “I think we’re excited about our outfield corps.”

The Orioles also have Ryan McKenna, who accompanied the team to New York on the taxi squad, and Yusniel Diaz, who’s at the Bowie alternate site. McKenna is on the 40-man roster.

Last year, Stewart missed most of the season because of an ankle injury that required surgery. Mullins had a 6-for-64 start with the Oriole, and was sent to the minor leagues in April, never to return.

“Stewart and Mullins … the improvement they’ve made from last year, it’s incredible,” Hyde said.

Stewart, who didn’t have a hit in his first 17 at-bats this season, is hitting .250 with six home runs.

“It’s confidence,” Hyde . I think that there’s a little bit more upright in his setup. He’s more on time with the fastball than I’ve ever seen him.”

One of the more puzzling Orioles is catcher Chance Sisco. In 28 games, Sisco has a .230 batting average but a .380 on-base percentage. In 92  plate appearances, Sisco has walked 14 times and been by a pitch four times.

“I think Chance is only going to improve,” Hyde said. “He’s improved a lot from last year, and I think that’s going to continue. I like the swing mechanic changes that he started this past offseason. I think that’s going to continue to get more comfortable. I think you’re going to see more power and drive …

“What makes Chance different than a lot of others is the ability to really not chase out of the strike zone. We talked about that a little last year when he first got here, the ability to take a walk, the ability to get in hitter’s counts, lay off borderline pitches, not chase. Because of that tool that he has, and as his swing continues to improve, I think you’re going to see a guy that’s always going to have a high on-base and hit with a little higher average.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Orial

    September 14, 2020 at 8:48 am

    Well I’m first up again. Yeah us old people tend to rise a little early. Solid and true synopses Rich. Interesting how you mentioned the OF,pitching,and catching but left one big one off–the IF. Yes none of Alberto,Nunez,Ruiz fit into future plans. Too streaky,over aggressive. Until Elias drafts a young SS stud who STAYS at SS the IF will be in a continuous state of flux. Maybe Brannon,maybe Hill,maybe Henderson,or maybe International signee will start to fill that void. I thought early on Ruiz/Alberto gave them a starting block but not anymore. Kjerstad seems like a decent draftee BUT—-he’s another OFer.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 14, 2020 at 8:57 am

      I’ve written multiple times about the infield, Orial, and will continue to do so.

      Alberto, Nunez and Ruiz were all waiver pickups and all had some major league experience.

      Each of the players I’ve referenced has played only for the Orioles as a major leaguer. Santander was a Rule 5 and Kremer, along with Diaz were trade acquisitions.

      The others were drafted by the Orioles. Until they have some young, home grown infielders, they’ll have to mix and match.

    • dlgruber1

      September 14, 2020 at 2:02 pm

      You gave no mention of Richie Martin. I believe I’m in the minority of people but I believe he should be given every opportunity to win the job next year, although I’m sure Iglesias option will be picked up. Martin improved dramatically from the beginning of the ‘19 season to the end. I don’t know if he can play 2nd base but maybe they should give him a look there.

  2. CalsPals

    September 14, 2020 at 9:15 am

    That’s were they may have to draft & FA sign, they definitely have the money, not until they need to though…go O’s…

  3. AZ ORIOLES Fan

    September 14, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Rich, always thought Nunez and Ruiz were place holders. Hanser though love the attitude and he can hit. Ruiz until recently was doing good with glove would like to see the average closer to .250 at least.
    Everyone out there remember Nunez was slotted as the DH and now we have asked him to learn a new position on the fly. Going forward the future looks a lot better

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 14, 2020 at 10:23 am

    For the future infield, let’s not forget about Richie Martin. I’m not sure, but Rylan may not be too far off from coming up, and could be a possible future 2nd baseman. I think most agree that Ruiz needs to be replaced. I know the Nevin kid is listed at 1st base, but I know I’ve read that he also plays 3rd. And how far off is Gunnar Henderson? 2 years maybe? And of course, I ‘m in no hurry to send Alberto packing,

    With Mancini (and Mountcastle) manning 1st base, I don’t think the infield is in that bad a shape.

    • Bhoffman1

      September 14, 2020 at 11:54 am

      I sure hope that Mancini is fully recovered and mans first base next year his rightful position. Will CD be here next year it’s seems it’s up to the brothers and out of Angelos hand. Why not see if Sisco can play second or even third. AR is here at the end of 2021 or 22 so I Hyde is as high as he says he is on Sisco find a position for him.

    • Bhoffman1

      September 14, 2020 at 11:55 am

      I mean out of Elias hand

  5. Bhoffman1

    September 14, 2020 at 10:25 am

    If Hyde is so positive about Siscos improvement why doesn’t he play him more. Sevy has come down a lot lately and looks more like the second string catcher he was picked up as

    • CalsPals

      September 14, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Totally agree, worst part is you can’t expect Sisco to improve with the sporadic starts & at bats…now is the freebie time to figure it out…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      September 14, 2020 at 12:29 pm

      I’ve been asking that question all year Bruce.

    • Birdman

      September 14, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Its fine that Hyde is talking up Sisco, and I have no problem giving him as many AB’s as possible the rest of this season. I think Sisco still has some promise, but projecting him as a starter, either at catcher or any other position, is way premature, until he can substantially cut down his 40% strikeout ratio.

  6. Tony Paparella

    September 14, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    No has addressed the horrific base running by this team this year.How many times Did they fail to move a runner from second or third that either could have scored or was thrown out because he shouldn’t have made an attempt in the first place. A lot of basics and most of them are around the third base bag, just saying.As far as the team offensively it looks like they are going to have a nice nucleus next year and in the future. I think Alberto could stick as a pretty good contact hitter if he developed more discipline at the plate. Ruiz and Núñez still have to develop but like Núñez ’ power if he can pick up his average to some consistency.As far as pitching Harvey and Scott have to start living up to their hype though A little early to really evaluate Harvey right now .

    • CalsPals

      September 14, 2020 at 5:27 pm

      Comes back to baseball IQ, or lack of it…go O’s…

  7. WorldlyView

    September 14, 2020 at 8:18 pm

    CD has been put back on the IL. Is this the beginning of a one-way trip out the door?

  8. mlbbirdfan

    September 14, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    Or third base coach is a disaster. Goodbye!

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