It’s time for our monthly mailbag. We’ve gotten lots of good questions, and I’ll be answering them today and on Tuesday. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: With a losing streak and poor play that is frustrating the Orioles’ fan base, is there any chance that the O’s replace Brandon Hyde as manager before the end of this season? It seems like his message and motivational techniques with the players may be stale. From: Glenn Fuller via email
(Glenn submitted this question just before the end of the 14-game losing streak.)
Answer: I don’t think the Orioles will replace Brandon Hyde at any time during the season. The team wasn’t expected to contend this season, and while a 14-game losing streak wasn’t expected, either I can’t see the Orioles making a change.
Question: What are the elements involved in this losing streak? From: Jeff Mose via Facebook.
(Jeff submitted this question just before the end of the 14-game losing streak.)
Answer: The most interesting facet of the losing streak was that the team wasn’t blown out in many losses. In four of the first five losses, the Orioles allowed 44 runs, but in seven of the 14, they lost by one or two runs. In only two games during the streak did they lose by five or more runs.
In the four-game sweep in Chicago, the Orioles were 0-for-24 with runners in scoring position and scored just seven runs. While the starting pitching was shaky early in the streak, and there were some bullpen breakdowns, had they gotten a few clutch hits in some of the close games, there wouldn’t have been a 14-game skid.
Question: The Orioles’ offense has struggled mightily during this losing streak. Obviously, it is on the players to produce, but at what point do the hitting coaches shoulder some blame or the analytics (if any) being given to the players questioned? From: Michael Fleetwood via Facebook
(Michael also submitted this question just before the end of the streak.)
Answer: Players have continually lauded Don Long, their hitting coach who’s in his third year with the team, for his steady work. Long is an experienced major league hitting coach,who’s also been with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
As with Hyde, I can’t see the Orioles making a change with Long or his assistant, José Hernandez, who has a long history in the organization.
Question: Hey Rich, It looks like the O’s could lose 110 games. Why not bring a couple of the top prospects up for the second half of the season? Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, Yusniel Diaz, or are there any moves that can be made? From: Kevin in Connecticut via email
Answer: Kevin, your question is a popular one. Rick Trommer asked about Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson. Russell Wallace asked if more prospects will make their major league debuts this season.
As for Rutschman, I think the Orioles will hold off until 2022, although it wouldn’t shock me to see him play here at the end of the season.
I think that Grayson Rodriguez’s debut will also come in 2022.
As for Diaz, he played only six games for Norfolk before he suffered a leg injury and hasn’t played since May 9th. The Orioles would love to get a look at him, but injuries have held him back. Once he’s healthy, perhaps they can think about promoting him.
Gunnar Henderson has played well for Delmarva, and I think a promotion to Aberdeen might be coming soon.
I think that right-hander Mike Baumann, who’s working his way back up the minor league ladder and left-hander Alexander Wells could move up this season. If right-hander Kyle Bradish, who was recently promoted from Bowie to Norfolk, pitches consistently well for the Tides, perhaps he’ll make his debut later this season.
Question: Hello, I am a massive Orioles fan from the UK and would like to know how you think the Orioles’ farm system is progressing? From: Paul Tyson via email
Answer: Paul, the bright spot this season has been the performance of the prospects in the farm system, a number of whom have already been promoted.
The good news is that the Orioles should be more competitive in 2022 and 2023. There are more good prospects in the farm system than at any time I can remember in the last several decades.
Question: Who are the top prospects the Orioles are looking at for the July draft? Shortstop Brady House, who many have linked to the Orioles, seems like a strikeout and home run player. We don’t need a .230 hitter. From: Bman from BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: I’ve read several mock drafts, and in the next several weeks we’ll be devoting more space to the draft. Baseball America’s latest mock draft has the Orioles taking Louisville catcher Henry Davis.
House, a high school shortstop from Georgia, is projected to be taken third by Detroit. It seems to be a great year for high school shortstops. Two others, Jordan Lawlar from Dallas and Marcelo Mayer from Chula Vista, California, could also be high picks.
For some time, Vanderbilt pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker were considered the top two prospects in the draft, but Baseball America has Leiter going to Boston fourth and Rocker to Kansas City seventh.
Unlike last year when Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson was considered the consensus No. 1 pick, there are several contenders for the top pick. With the draft more than a month away, there’s a lot of time for speculation.
Question: With a little over a month to go to the draft the Birds are well positioned for several talented players. With the minors brimming with pitching talent, do you see them drafting a position player? Or, given their recent on-field struggles, do you think they go after a more MLB-ready talent. I’ve seen several mocks linking them to shortstop Brady House. Given Gunnar Henderson is tearing up Delmarva, a shortstop might not seem like the right pick. House is built like a third baseman and with his athleticism he could play any of the corner spots. Thoughts? From: Brian Sturm via email
Answer: Brian, obviously, there’s a lot of interest in the draft from readers. I don’t think the record of the major league team affects the Orioles’ draft planning.
I find it interesting that in Mike Elias’ first two drafts, he’s stayed away from pitchers as high picks. Perhaps that changes if Leiter or Rocker is available this year.
As for House or other shortstops, the Orioles have drafted several middle infielders in the past two drafts. Infield was the weakest position in the minor leagues, and the belief is that shortstops are the best athletes and can play anywhere in the infield or outfield. They’re also in demand by other teams and can be used in trades to shore up weak spots.
Question: Can we get a detailed update on Heston Kjerstad? Is his heart issue career threatening? Will he play this year? Will he be 100 percent? Why did Elias take him over Austin Martin? From: Damon Stout via email
Answer: Damon, I wish I had more to tell you and MikePete73, who submitted a similar question via the BaltimoreBaseball.com comments.
Heston Kjerstad, an outfielder from the University of Arkansas, was the Orioles’ first-round pick in 2020 and the second overall pick in the draft. Kjerstad has yet to play because of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. He’s down in Sarasota at extended spring training.
We haven’t been able to interview Kjerstad about his condition, but Boston pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who had the same illness last season, has been able to pitch for the Red Sox this year.
Kjerstad was slotted, picked higher by the Orioles than he was projected, so that they could have more money to sign other prospects. Infielder Jordan Westburg, who was selected 30th, is off to a strong start and was promoted from Delmarva to Aberdeen.
The Complex League teams don’t start play for another three weeks. Perhaps Kjerstad can play sometime this season. It’s far too early to worry about his future.
Question: Brian Gonzalez, who was drafted in 2014, became a minor league free agent last winter. Am I correct that those drafted in 2015 are eligible this winter? Do you think that might convince the Orioles to add Gray Fenter, Jaylen Ferguson, Nick Vespi, or Steve Klimek to the 40-man roster? From: @themadbehemoth
Answer: Good question. The Orioles considered protecting Brian Gonzalez but didn’t, and he was quickly signed by Colorado. He’s pitching well as a reliever in Double-A for the Rockies.
The Orioles have a number of players they’ll need to put on the 40-man roster, including pitchers Kyle Bradish, DL Hall and Kevin Smith, and infielders Adam Hall and Terrin Vavra. Another pitcher, Blaine Knight, who’s now at Bowie, could also be considered.
Fenter was drafted in the Rule 5 draft last year, then returned to the Orioles late in spring training.
Last fall, the Orioles added six prospects to the 40-man roster, and I think it might be hard for Fenter, Ferguson, Klimek and Vespi to be added. If they’re not, they’d be eligible for minor league free agency.
Notes: The Orioles optioned left-handed pitcher Zac Lowther to Triple-A Norfolk. Lowther was recalled before Wednesday’s game, but not used… The All-Star ballot was released, and the Orioles on it are: Trey Mancini, first base; Pat Valaika, second base; Freddy Galvis, shortstop; Maikel Franco, third base;, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander, outfield; Pedro Severino, catcher; and Ryan Mountcastle, designated hitter. The first round of voting concludes June 24.