Orioles face hard decisions on key players - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles face hard decisions on key players

The Orioles have decisions to make on a number of players, and it’s difficult because they had fewer games to watch them. That was known entering the 60-game season. Now that the season has ended, they’ll have to make some educated guesses.

It’s one thing to extrapolate the 25-35 record, which works out to either 68-94 or 67-95 in a 162-game season, but things are never that easy.

Ryan Mountcastle looked great in his 35-game trial, hitting .333 with five home runs and 23 RBIs. Those 35 games were 60 percent of this year’s schedule, so if you think Mountcastle would have played 60 percent of a 162-game schedule, that would work out to 100 games with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs, solid numbers.

John Means had a rough start, but an excellent September with a 2.48 ERA and an 0.828 WHIP.

Once Austin Hays returned from a fractured rib, he finished the season with a .377 average and .988 OPS  in 14 games, his second straight strong September.

Although these players performed well in September, a month when the Orioles went 10-16, there were some who had months to forget and their futures are in doubt.

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Take catcher Pedro Severino, who on the surface seemed to perform as well in 2020 as he did in 2019.

A year ago, Severino was a happy surprise who was claimed off waivers from Washington at the end of spring training. The catcher hit .249 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs in 96 games in 2019. This year, he played in half as many, hitting .250 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 48 games.

Severino threw out just 24 percent of runners attempting to steal against him 2019, and 31 percent (4 of 13) this year.

But Severino struggled in the final month both seasons. In 2019, he hit just .195. This year, he hit only .159 with no RBIs in 63 September at-bats.

Severino will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, and the decision may be tricky. Adley Rutschman is the Orioles’ catcher of the future, but the lack of a minor league season might delay the team’s timetable in promoting him.

If they don’t think Rutschman will play in Baltimore until late in the 2021 season, or at all, they could stay with Severino and Chance Sisco, who also struggled. They also could try to sign another veteran catcher to work with their young pitchers as a placeholder.

With money being tight around the major leagues this winter, there might be some moves made that wouldn’t be contemplated in a normal offseason.

Another decision they need to make is on second baseman Hanser Alberto, who was a happy surprise in 2019 when he was among the American League batting leaders with a .305 average, 12 home runs and 51 RBIs.

This year, Alberto hit .283 with three homers and 22 RBIs, and his average against left-handers dipped from .398 to .375. His average against right-handers increased from .238 to .257.

However, the Orioles faced left-handed starters in 40 percent of their games in 2019 (60 in 162). This season, left-handers started in only 13 of the 60 games (22 percent).

In September 2019, Alberto hit only .237. This year, he hit only .215 the last month.

Alberto made $1.65 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and the Orioles may seek to deal him, though there’s no obvious second base successor, rather than give him a substantial raise.

With Trey Mancini returning, and Hays, Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander showing promise, there may be little room for Renato Núñez.

In 2020, Núñez was the Orioles’ starting first baseman in 28 games and their designated hitter in 21. He started at third base twice.

Coming off a year in which he hit 31 home runs and drove in 90 runs and hit .244 in 151 games, Núñez followed it with a .256 average in 52 games with roughly equivalent numbers of 12 homers and 31 RBIs.

Núñez also slumped in September. Last year, Núñez hit .213 in September. This year, he hit 227.

Núñez may be eligible for arbitration this winter. He’s just under the three-year requirement, but may qualify as a “Super Two” because he may be among the top 22 percent of players who have between two and three years of service.

Complicating matters, it’s not known whether teams will play a full season and if fans will be permitted to attend, and what limits may be placed on their numbers.

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