We had a lot of good questions this month, and while I can’t get to all of them, we decided that since it’s the offseason to answer as many as we could in two days. If your question wasn’t answered this month, please resubmit it next month. Some questions were edited for length.
Question: Who do you think should win the Most Improved Oriole award (if there were one)? I’d say Mullins, Scott, and Tate, in that order. Maybe Santander. From Tony Blank via email
Answer: Tony, in my explanation of my Most Valuable Oriole vote, which went to Anthony Santander, I wrote that my third-place vote went for Tanner Scott, whom I thought was the Most Improved Oriole.
If there was an award, I would vote for Scott, Cedric Mullins and Paul Fry.
Santander had an excellent three-plus months in 2019, so he was already established in my mind. Scott had been up and down with the Orioles in 2018 and 2019 and while everyone knew he had potential, we hadn’t seen him pitch well consistently. He more than did that this year.
Mullins improved significantly from last year’s forgettable season, and is a pleasure to watch.
Fry was 1-9 with a 5.34 ERA in 2019. This season he reduced his ERA to 2.45 and had a 1-0 record.
I’m a fan of Dillon Tate, and I’d vote him fourth because the others played bigger roles.
Good suggestion for an award.
Q: I was very pleased with the season with the young team and now I think they should get a good starting pitcher. Do you think they will try and get one or just build from within? From Rob Jefferson via email
A: Rob, this was a popular question. Assuming the Orioles don’t trade Alex Cobb, he’d join with John Means, Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, Jorge López, Bruce Zimmermann and perhaps Thomas Eshelman and Kohl Stewart, if they’re retained, to contend for starting spots.
If next season is a conventional 162-game season, remember that none of the starters pitched close to a full season, and the Orioles might limit their innings.
They’re going to need more than six starters, and while it’s possible that Michael Baumann and Zac Lowther will debut sometime next season, I think it’s likely that Mike Elias signs a veteran starter or two as he did with Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone this year.
Q: Do you think the O’s will make any Rule 5 picks for the 21 season? From David Evans via email
A: The Orioles have made at least one Rule 5 pick since 2006, David. That’s the longest run in baseball, and while 40-man roster space is likely to be tighter this year, I would say they’ll take a player. The Orioles tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the fifth-worst record in baseball and will have the fifth or sixth choice in the Rule 5 draft.
Q: A few questions: People are calling for a Gold Glove for Mullins, but did he play enough games? Urias impressed in the final week … will he be a solid second base contender? Will Alberto be re-signed after arbitration? From Orial via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
A: Orial, I think Brandon Hyde was boosting Cedric Mullins for a Gold Glove because that’s what good managers do. They talk up their players’ accomplishments. There are some excellent centerfielders in the AL East — Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier. I would be surprised if Mullins won the Gold Glove.
Ramón Urias played well in the last week of the season, but he’s only played 10 games. If he’s kept on the 40-man roster, he could contend for a utility spot next year, but I think the full-time second base job seems unlikely.
Hanser Alberto is eligible for arbitration for the second year, and it’s possible that the Orioles trade him instead of paying him. An extension beyond arbitration isn’t going to be considered.
Q: Assuming things are at least close to normal next season, is there a likelihood of a surplus of Orioles minor league players relative to roster slots on farm teams? If we lose at least one farm team next year and the prospects gained in trades and the draft keep rolling in, how will they all get team assignments? A huge crowd at extended spring training? From Steven Cohen via email
A: Steve, there is always a surplus of Orioles minor league players relative to roster spots on farm teams. The Orioles will lose a team next year. We don’t know which one. Players are always kept back at extended spring training because of injury, inexperience and oversupply.
There were only six players drafted this year instead of 41, and eight non-drafted free agents. I think they have a good idea of how many players they need to fill out what’s likely be to four affiliates instead of five.
Q: My main concern with the Orioles ever since Buck was fired is the play on the field. Without seeming like I’m living in the 2010s glory days, Buck hammered the importance of defense, playing the Oriole Way and doing the little things to win the game within the game. Now there have been a lot of veterans gone from that era and a lot of young new faces. The play on the field has significantly taken a step back. There are so many baserunning blunders, missed cutoff men, fielding errors, throwing errors, etc. These are basic things that are taught in 10-12 baseball. Why are professional baseball players making these blunders seemingly on a nightly basis? Is it lack of proper coaching in the minors? Is it that the players just aren’t very good? I don’t get it, and it’s frustrating to watch. From Dave Hersl via email
A: When Buck Showalter was here, he had Manny Machado at third base, J.J. Hardy at shortstop, Jonathan Schoop at second base and Chris Davis at first. That was an excellent fielding team and, as Buck would tell you, good players make good managers.
Some readers have also written, saying that Buck handled a bullpen better than Hyde, too. He had Zack Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day for much of the time he had that great infield.
Hyde just doesn’t have the players Showalter had. As the talent level increases, the play on the field will improve. Good players are generally strong fundamentally.
When Hyde was hired, I heard from many fans who wrote that they weren’t concerned with the won/loss record, they just wanted the team to play well fundamentally. That’s unrealistic.
Most players who aren’t skilled major leaguers can’t perform the basic skills. Some of the less skilled players who are fundamentally sound become managers and coaches.