Thanks again for sending in your questions. Here’s the second half of April’s mailbag. Questions are edited for clarity and style.
Question: Rich, I really enjoy your updates, but do you actually see progress being made? It seems like the O’s are spinning their wheels. The American League East is like climbing Mount Everest. Too bad baseball doesn’t rotate divisions. From: Kevin in Connecticut via email
Answer: Kevin, there is progress. They have more prospects in the system than they did three years ago, though a number of them were acquisitions of the previous regime.
You’re correct. The AL East is tough, but if this plan is working, more evidence of it should present itself in 2022 and 2023.
While we’re most familiar with the AL East, there are other tough divisions, too. How would you like to go against the Dodgers and Padres in the NL West?
Question: If Keegan Akin can’t secure a spot on this weak pitching staff, his second-round selection is beginning to look like one more in a long list of failed Oriole pitching draft picks the past few decades to go with Mike Paradis, Richard Stahl, Josh Cenate, Beau Hale, Matt Riley, Chris Smith, Alvie Shepherd and Matt Hobgood. At least Adam Loewen had the excuse of getting hurt. Things are so bad with Oriole pitching drafts, that Brian Matusz’s brief career as a mediocre middle reliever is regarded as a relative success.
Aside from Zack Britton and Kevin Gausman, who of the pitching picks has done much of anything? From: Daniel Gray vs. email
Answer: The Orioles haven’t drafted pitchers terribly well, though many of the pitchers you cite were from 20 years ago and several scouting and general manager regimes. It’s not fair to compare picks made in the 1990s and early 2000s with today’s.
Besides Britton and Gausman, Dylan Bundy did well at times for the Orioles, and Jim Johnson set a club record for saves in 2012. Bundy had some outstanding moments, and John Means has done remarkably well, especially for an 11th-round pick. Other draft picks — Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies — performed well after they were traded.
Over the next few years, we’ll have a better reading, Daniel, when we see how Akin, Mike Baumann, DL Hall, Zac Lowther, Grayson Rodriguez and Alexander Wells do.
Question: Are the Orioles second-guessing losing Zach Pop, who made the Marlins as a Rule 5 pick? From: @mugsneil
Answer: I don’t think so, Neil. They knew it was a risk exposing Pop in the draft, but they were hoping to get him back. Baltimore Castaway asked if I thought they could get him back, and I think the Marlins will be able to keep him. It appears the Orioles have had decent success in developing relievers, so I’m not sure it’s a huge loss.
Interestingly, 14 of the 18 Rule 5 picks made an Opening Day roster, which is unusual. Gray Fenter, who was selected by the Cubs from the Orioles, was one of the four who didn’t make a club, and he’s back in the Orioles’ system.
Question: Do the Orioles have Chris Davis’ contract insured in any way and, if so, does that explain why he hasn’t been released? From: @Bkenney247
Answer: Along with @nick_stengel and Marty Adams, you all had Chris Davis questions. I don’t know if the contract is insured. I would think the possibility of a shortened 2022 season in case of a strike or lockout could enter into it the Orioles’ retaining him.
As for not hearing from Davis as Marty wondered, since we’re not allowed into the clubhouse this year, we have no possibility of seeing him and asking him about his injury though we would like to.
Nick wanted to know if I thought he would play this year, and it’s certainly looking as if he won’t, though we won’t know until at least early June.
Question: How far along is outfielder Yusniel Diaz and when do you think he’ll be ready for the big leagues? From: @ccbii2000
Answer: I don’t think Diaz is very far from the majors, and the guess here is that he’ll be with the Orioles for perhaps the last two months of the season.
Question: As an O’s fan, is it difficult to be objective when reporting on the team? I’ll honestly say it would be hard for me to do. There have been players I’d never say a bad word about and others it would be tough for me to say anything good about them. From: Dave Gruber via-email
Answer: It’s not hard, Dave. In order to effectively do my job, I have to think about what information I can provide the reader, and I’m looking for good storylines and not being concerned with personalities.
Fortunately, nearly all of the Orioles in recent years have been good to deal with. The few who weren’t, well, that’s a story for another day.
The pandemic has changed the way we work and, unfortunately, there are now eight players on the 26-man roster that I haven’t had a chance to meet, though I’ve talked to them on Zoom — Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Matt Harvey, Jorge López, Adam Plutko, Mac Sceroler, César Valdez and Tyler Wells.