It’s time for our monthly mailbag. We’ve gotten a lot of good questions, and I’ll be answering more of them on Tuesday. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: With Freddy Galvis, John Means and Anthony Santander dealing with injuries as we approach the All-Star break and, more important, July 30th, who is most likely to be trade bait? And for whom, if anyone, will the O’s refuse to entertain offers? From: Martin Bakner via Facebook
Answer: This was the most popular question I received. @IfollowonlyOs and afterp had similar questions.
Martin, you’re correct that Galvis and Means aren’t going to be traded. Don’t be so certain that Santander won’t be. While the effects of his sprained ankle have prevented him from playing as well as last year, he still has long-term value to a team, three-plus years of club control.
The rub is that the Orioles’ return might not be as great as it would be if he were playing better, and they can revisit that over the winter or a year from now.
I think the players with the highest trade value are relievers Paul Fry and Tanner Scott. Both have three-plus years of club control. Last year, the team got good packages for relievers Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens.
They’re not trading any of their top prospects. Nor do I think they’re trading Trey Mancini and certainly not Cedric Mullins.
Question: Have the O’s taken a step back this season in the rebuild process? They won their 27th game Wednesday night. They’ve lost 54 as of this moment. Last shortened season they went 25-35. I know many factors other than win-loss record need to be taken into account, so what say you? From: Dave Gruber via email
Answer: Dave, last year was a difficult year to evaluate. That record still would have equated to about a 95-loss season. However, at the end of last year, pitchers Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer showed promise, and Austin Hays played well in the outfield.
In the second half of this season, if Akin, Kremer, Dillon Tate, Bruce Zimmermann or some others pitch decently and Hays, Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna play well, then the won-loss record won’t matter as much.
For the moment, it looks as if this year is disappointing, but if the second half features some breakout performances, then 2021 looks better.
Let’s revisit this question in three months.
Question: Rich, I completely understand how the lack of starting pitching depth, the injuries, and the skill level has contributed to the team’s record this year. But my primary criticism surrounds the shockingly poor level of fundamentals the team plays with (missing cutoff throws, swinging at poor pitches, etc). I understand that wins and losses are not playing into Hyde’s evaluation (so says Elias), but with a proven MLB skipper in the dugout (Fredi González), I have to wonder how much runway Brandon has? From: Brian Sturm via Facebook
Answer: Brian, as you imply, Mike Elias says that Brandon Hyde won’t be judged on the team’s place in the standings this season. I take this to mean that Hyde will be back for 2022.
A common misconception is that fundamentals are easy to master, but what’s misunderstood, I think, is that at the major league level, the speed of the game is so much faster and the pitching so much better than in the minor leagues.
Some players who might have performed well in the minors don’t in the major leagues because the game speeds up.
Better players are better at the fundamentals. It’s rare for a less skilled player to excel at the fundamentals. The Orioles had two players in recent years, Ryan Flaherty and Paul Janish, who weren’t skilled players but never made mistakes. They weren’t good hitters, so they didn’t try to hit home runs. They knew their fielding and mastery of defense and fundamentals kept them in the majors.
But players like them are rare. Flaherty now coaches for the San Diego Padres, and Janish is a coach at Rice University, showing that others took notice of their fundamental skills.
Question: Where does Oriole pitching rank in the American League for hits given up on an 0-2 count and hits given up when the pitcher is ahead in the count? From: Jeff Mose via Facebook
Answer: Overall, the Orioles ERA of 5.44 is last in the American League, and they’re at or near the bottom in the major pitching categories.
Opposing batters are batting .199 on an 0-2 count and are hitting .226 with the pitcher ahead in the count.
Let’s compare their stats with Chicago’s, the pitching leader through Wednesday’s games.
Opposing batters are batting .146 against White Sox pitchers with an 0-2 count and .189 with the pitcher ahead.
Question: Does Adley Rutschman get called up before September? O’s are terrible and their catchers have been terrible, so what do they have to lose? Also, what would you consider a successful career for Rutschman to be considering the high expectations? Similar career to Buster Posey? From: Greg Fuchs via email
Answer: Greg, Rutschman is another popular subject here. We also are asked when we should expect DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez.
I think you should expect all three to make their debuts in 2022.
Neither Rutschman nor Rodriguez needs to be put on the 40-man roster until November 2022. If there is a labor dispute that delays the start of the 2022 season, the Orioles can keep Rutschman and Rodriguez active in the minor leagues.
Rutschman is doing well at Bowie, and I would expect that he’d be moved up to Norfolk sometime this month and play the rest of the year there.
The San Francisco Giants won World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with Buster Posey behind the plate, and they lead the National League West this year with him, so I think the Orioles would be thrilled with a similar outcome.
Question: What are the chances the Orioles skip a potential impact player like say Louisville catcher Henry Davis in the draft, and go under slot to take someone like Boston College outfielder Sal Frelick? Is that wise? The return later in the draft would have to be worth it. From: bman via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Like you, I’ve read a lot of mock drafts and many of them think the Orioles will draft a player who ordinarily wouldn’t be drafted as high as fifth, where the Orioles pick, and instead select, say, the 10th-rated player.
They’d use the money saved to spend on bonuses for high school players who might go to college otherwise.
I’m no expert on the MLB draft and, instinctively, don’t like underslotting because it seems that so much has to go right for it to be successful. I’d prefer that they draft the best player on their board when they draft.
This year, there seems to be no consensus top pick as Rutschman was two years ago, so it looks ripe for underslotting.
Question: I noticed that Adley has been playing some at first base. Elias has stated that he wants to get Adley time there for longevity. I’ve also seen some mock drafts for this year that have O’s taking a catcher at Number 1. Could you give some insight on Adley at first and our draft possibilities? From: Joe Paden via email
Answer: Joe, so far, Rutschman has started 30 games behind the plate, 12 at first and seven at designated hitter. With the minor leagues being off every Monday this season, it’s helped regulate Rutschman’s schedule.
I have seen some mock drafts that link the Orioles with Henry Davis, the Louisville catcher, but even under the most optimistic circumstances, he’d probably have to spend two years in the minor leagues while Rutschman presumably would be in the majors.
The Orioles are fond of versatility. Their infielders are generally not playing just one position in the minors and having Rutschman at catcher and first as well as designated hitter keeps his bat in the lineup.
It might seem strange to take two catchers as top picks so close together, but they’re not the same age; Rutschman is 23, Davis is 21. It’s possible that Davis will be gone within the first four picks.
Question: What impact, if any, does Camden Yards have on attracting pitching? Would the team ever consider changing the dimensions of the park to make it more pitcher friendly? From: Seth Mendelsohn via email
Answer: Seth, I’ve heard no serious talk about changing the dimensions of the park. I’m not even sure how it could be accomplished without a major overhaul that would change the character of Oriole Park.
It’s true that it’s hard to attract free-agent pitching to Baltimore, particularly on one-year contracts, but if the team becomes a contender in the next few years, perhaps it becomes more of a destination.