Whenever the Orioles lose a few games in succession, there are comments that the team is tanking so it can secure a high draft pick in the 2022 draft.
Obviously, the Orioles aren’t a contender. They’re not spending much money on free agents. But that’s not the principal reason the team will be entering the second half of the season with a 28-61 record.
Perhaps the signing of some medium-priced free agents to short-term contracts could have boosted the record somewhat, and the signings of right-handed pitcher Matt Harvey and third baseman Maikel Franco haven’t worked out well. But before he injured his right quadriceps, Freddy Galvis had been a solid shortstop.
However, a far more important reason for their record is that several players they’ve been counting on to be key contributors have disappointed.
Let’s start with the starting rotation.
After Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer pitched well at the end of the 2020 season, the Orioles hoped that they’d show they could be bona fide starters in 2021.
Akin had such a rocky spring training that he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. Since he’s been back with the Orioles, he’s been 0-4 with a 7.54 ERA.
After the left-hander allowed four runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings in relief on July 10th, manager Brandon Hyde was asked if Akin would be better off as a reliever.
Hyde could only chuckle and demonstrate his patience with the questioner, as he reminded everyone that he has enough trouble finding legitimate starters before removing them from the rotation—even if Akin’s future might eventually be in the bullpen.
Kremer had a meltdown on June 24th against Toronto in Buffalo when he faced eight batters, retired just one, and walked five. He allowed six runs and was sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
On Tuesday night, Kremer had a decent outing for the Tides, allowing three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven without a walk.
After Kremer was sent down, Hyde said that he wanted the right-hander to stay in Triple-A for an extended period. His 0-7 record and 7.25 ERA in the majors baffles the Orioles.
If Akin and Kremer didn’t have ERAs of more than seven runs per nine innings, the team’s record would be better. It doesn’t help that John Means and Bruce Zimmermann are on the 10-day injured list, though Means is expected back next week and Zimmermann could return by the end of the month.
The Orioles also have given Zac Lowther some looks, but he has a 10.80 ERA in five games.
Akin, Kremer and Lowther were considered top pitching prospects when the season began.
The Orioles ran out of patience with catcher Chance Sisco, who batted .154 in 23 games before they put him on waivers. The 2013 second-round pick had every opportunity to prove himself and establish himself as a backup to Adley Rutschman when he joins the Orioles.
With injuries to Austin Hays and Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart, their top draft pick in 2015, has gotten far more playing time in the outfield this season than in any of his three previous partial seasons.
Stewart hasn’t delivered. He’ll begin second-half play with a .204 average, though he continues to draw walks and has a .311 on-base percentage. His play in the outfield also has been erratic at best.
Like Akin, Kremer and Lowther, Stewart will get more chances in the second half to prove himself.
Because the Orioles are a non-contender, they’re allowing these players opportunities, and their disappointing numbers are much more of a contributing factor to the record than the team’s inactivity in the free-agent market.
Notes: The Orioles placed right-handed pitcher Jorge López on the bereavement list on Wednesday. … Over the weekend, the Orioles acquired right-handed pitcher Hugo Beltran from the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations and assigned him to the Dominican Summer League. … According to his Twitter account, catcher Creed Willens, the Orioles’ eighth-round draft choice, will forgo a scholarship to Texas Christian University and sign with the team. … The Orioles signed three undrafted free agents: right-handed pitchers Carson Carter, from Oklahoma, and Daniel Federman, from Miami, and catcher Logan Michaels, from Virginia.