It’s time for our monthly mailbag. We’ve gotten a lot of good questions. I’ll be answering some of them today and more on Tuesday. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: Could you review the changes to the September callups and what impact it may have for the Orioles? From: Cedar via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Cedar, this was a popular question. It was also submitted by Tom from Elkton and BirdsCaps.
This will be a much different last five weeks of the season. Unlike past years, when the roster limit was increased from 25 to 40, this year the limit rises from 26 to 28 on September 1st, and it’s compulsory.
Also, Norfolk’s season will also be concluding the same day as the Orioles’ — on October 3rd, so the time between September 1st and October 3rd will be different.
In the past, the Triple-A season ended on Labor Day, but with the Tides playing longer, I wouldn’t be surprised if players were sent up and down, just as they have been throughout the season.
If there’s an injury to a player, perhaps that player might be put on the 60-day injured list, which creates room on the 40-man roster.
I’d guess one pitcher and one position player would be added. Right-handers Michael Baumann and Dean Kremer, if he isn’t called up before, and left-hander Zac Lowther would seem to be the top pitching candidates. Second baseman Jahmai Jones and outfielder Yusniel Diaz, if healthy and productive, could get a look.
Question: What are your thoughts on whether and when Jahmai Jones will be promoted? In addition, do you think Kyle Stowers or Robert Neustrom get a cup of coffee this year? Both have been terrific. From: Andrew Bassan via email
Answer: I think Jahmai Jones will be promoted, Andrew. The Orioles are eager to see him, but they want to see his defense at second base improve. Whether that’s in August or September, I’m not sure, but I know they’d like to see what they have.
Kyle Stowers, a second-round pick in 2019, has done well at Aberdeen and Bowie, but he doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man roster until after next season, and it would be surprising if he were added this year.
Robert Neustrom, who was the fifth-round pick in 2018, must be placed on the 40-man roster. If the Orioles have another injury or two in the outfield, I think he could get a chance, but he might have to wait until next spring training because roster space is so tight.
Question: Do you think the O’s would ever tinker with moving Cedric Mullins down in the order? He’s hitting so well and it would be interesting to see him with more RBI chances? From: Dylan Streibig via Facebook
Answer: Dylan, good leadoff hitters are hard to find, and Mullins has excelled there. I’m not sure the Orioles have someone else who easily fits, though I guess Austin Hays could hit there.
Mullins creates lots of RBI opportunities for other players, and the Orioles have Hays, Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle after him in the order to drive him in.
I’d leave him there until or unless another player with the attributes he has comes along.
Question: I’m starting to wonder about all the hype for Adley Rutschman, the number one prospect in minor league baseball. I base my doubt when comparing him to Matt Wieters. While he had a nice career, Matt really didn’t come close to living up to the hype. Comparing their minor league stats, Wieters hit over .350 at AA and .300 at AAA. Adley hasn’t come close to that this year. Should we get ready for a letdown? From: Bill Nelson via email.
Answer: Nellie, good hearing a question from a frequent commenter. I’m afraid that unless Rutschman hits better than any other catcher in baseball history, fans will be disappointed.
As you know, I have always been a fan of Matt Wieters, and it bothered me when people said he was a disappointment. While he didn’t live up to the hype, he was a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner. He also was a key component in working with the Orioles’ pitching staff, particularly in 2012.
Yes, Rutschman should be better than Wieters, and I think he will be excellent, but if he isn’t Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra, please don’t be hard on him.
Question: Will Heston Kjerstad, the number one pick from last year, ever be able to play? I know they were hoping for this year, but will he have to give up his dream? From: Jim Bronakowski via Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Jim, and for your help over the years. Jim was an outstanding press box attendant at the ballpark. A similar question was also submitted by @BurnerDowney.
Kjerstad has myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Last week, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias had no news on his progress but expressed optimism. “We’ve still got a lot of time left and this is something we think will pass,” he said on July 30th.
The good thing is Kjerstad is only 22 and has a lot of time to get healthy and prove that he was worthy of the pick.
Question: Why did the O’s recall Richie Martin instead of bringing up Jahmai Jones? If Ryan McKenna isn’t going to play every day in the majors, shouldn’t he be at Triple-A playing every day to further his development? From: Greg Fuchs via email
Answer: Greg, I think when the Orioles bring Jahmai Jones up, they want him to play regularly. With their higher-ceiling prospects, they’ve given them extended looks. Martin has already played in the majors, and they want to see how he’ll play after not playing at all last year and little this year.
As for McKenna, he gives the Orioles a dimension they were lacking. He can be used as a pinch-runner and a late-inning defensive replacement because he plays all three outfield positions.
Question: What can the Orioles do about DJ Stewart? It’s really painful to watch. From: Beth Torres via email.
Answer: Beth, a similar question was asked by BirdsCaps, who notes that he doesn’t think that the Orioles want to give up on a first-rounder.
The Orioles are giving Stewart a long look because they’ve invested so much in him. It doesn’t matter that he was a first-round pick in 2015, more than three years before Mike Elias’ arrival. It matters that he was a first-round pick. He has great power, and he’s a left-handed hitter, and when they have top prospects, they’re giving them extended opportunities.
With Thursday’s acquisition of Jorge Mateo, perhaps you’ll see him as well as Ryan McKenna used as a defensive replacement in the outfield.
Because Mancini and Mountcastle are on the roster, it’s hard for Stewart to get time at designated hitter.
He’s not arbitration-eligible for another season, so it’s possible that Stewart will get another look next year, but Yusniel Diaz and Robert Neustrom and perhaps a veteran outfielder from outside the organization might challenge him for a roster spot.