It’s time for our monthly mailbag. We’ve gotten a lot of excellent questions. I’ll be answering some of them today and more on Tuesday. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: Do you think Ryan Mountcastle has a shot at AL Rookie of the Year? Kjbs ball via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Mountcastle is putting up impressive numbers, but there are an unusual number of other rookies who could be in the mix.
Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena, who hit an amazing .448 (26-for-58) against the Orioles with eight home runs and 19 RBIs in 13 games, should get some votes. So should two of Arozarena’s teammates, Wander Franco and Shane McLanahan, who recorded four wins against the Orioles in just over five weeks.
Other rookies with strong stats include Houston right-hander Luis Garcia, Texas outfielder Adolis Garcia, Detroit starter Casey Mize and a pair of relievers, Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase, and Boston’s Garrett Whitlock.
In any other year, Mountcastle would have a fine shot, but with a month left in the season and so many other worthy candidates, this is a tough one to call.
Question: Aside from pitching (yes that is a huge aside), how do the rest of the Orioles’ position players compare with the rest of the league? If you look at position by position where do the O’s rank? Which O’s players would start on another team? From: Seth Mendelsohn via email
Answer: Seth, while the Orioles are last in nearly all pitching measurements, their hitting is slightly better. Through Wednesday’s games, they’re ninth in batting (.240) and 11th in OPS (.707).
According to FanGraphs, Cedric Mullins’ 5.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) leads all major league centerfielders.
Ryan Mountcastle’s 1.9 WAR is 15th in the majors among first basemen. Mountcastle is seventh and Trey Mancini (1.1) is ninth among AL designated hitters.
None of their other position players have had enough at-bats to be rated.
Besides Mullins, Mancini and Mountcastle, outfielders Austin Hays and Anthony Santander, who have both missed times because of injuries, could start on some teams. Pedro Severino, who probably won’t return in 2022, will likely be a backup catcher on another team next year. It’s too soon to rate the rest of the Orioles’ infield (Kelvin Gutierrez, Jahmai Jones, Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías). Mateo and Urías have both shown well and should return in 2022.
Question: Are the Orioles considering a managerial change? Night after night I see so many basic baseball fundamental mistakes. It’s three years with Hyde, and it’s amazing the lack of fundamentals the Orioles have. It’s sad to see an organization that once was the standard for developing pitching and defense be so bad. They need someone like Buck Showalter but know that’s not going to happen. You need a different manager to lead this rebuild. Nothing against Hyde, but I have seen enough to know it’s not him. From: T.Famer via email
Answer: This was a popular and not unexpected question. James Warren and Woodrow Rogers also asked about Hyde. James also wants to know why the press is so soft on Hyde.
Nothing makes me think the Orioles will change managers after the season. Mike Elias hasn’t explicitly said that Hyde is coming back, but from Elias’ comments, you could infer that he is.
So many player performances have been disappointing, but I think Hyde has managed the clubhouse well. I’d like to see him get a shot with some better pitching talent.
I was a big admirer of Buck’s, but in his final year, they lost 115 games, so I’m not sure how many wins he could coax out of this bunch.
Many fans would like us to ask more pointed questions in the postgame press conferences, but how many different ways can we ask to explain a 19-game losing streak? We ask questions to get information for the readers, and by asking them the way we do, we’re getting the best information.
Hyde has been critical of his team’s play. He hasn’t made excuses.
Question: Rich, how much difference do you see in the way Buck, who had some real success, handled losing compared to the way Hyde, who has only had losing teams, handles it? From: Dave Gruber via email
Answer: I have been fortunate over the last decade, Dave. I very much enjoyed working with both Buck and Brandon, but they are different.
Both men are intense, but Buck was much more so than Brandon. Both despise losing, and while Hyde hasn’t had experience with winning as a manager, he did coach on the 2016 Chicago Cubs, and Showalter never had a team in the World Series.
Postgame news conferences after tough losses with Showalter could be tense, but Hyde’s aren’t. Both tried hard to explain losses, and Hyde is endlessly patient, even with uninformed questioners.
Showalter never had to deal with Zoom. He liked personal contact, and I don’t think he’d like to answer questions virtually.
Question: Why is Austin Hays sitting on the bench and DJ Stewart plays left, in his place! Hays has shown that he can play every day (coverage, arm and bat) especially in left and center field. From: Perry Campaneris via email
Answer: Perry, there’s quite a difference between how Hays hits against right-handers (.211 with a .611 OPS) and left-handers (.302 with an .883 OPS).
Stewart’s batting average against right-handers is about the same as Hays’, .209, but his OPS is much higher, .753 because he’s shown more power. Stewart has 11 homers and 27 RBIs against right-handers while Hays has six homers and 26 RBIs.
Hays is a superior defender, and that’s why you’ve seen him used as a defensive replacement, but in order to be an everyday player, he’ll have to hit more consistently against right-handers.
Question: Besides the “Big 5” in the minors, are there any other minor leaguers we should know about? My Big 5 are Adley Rutschman, DL Hall, Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson and Colton Cowser. From: Jerome Cone via Facebook
Answer: Jerome, that’s a good Big 5. My next five would be right-handed pitcher Mike Baumann, who could get a call to join the Orioles soon; infielder Jordan Westburg, who was the 30th overall pick in last year’s draft, has jumped two levels this season and is at Bowie; right-handed starter Kyle Bradish, who’s at Norfolk; outfielder Kyle Stowers, who’s at Bowie; and second baseman Connor Norby, who was the team’s second-round draft pick behind Cowser. Both are at Delmarva.
Question: Which top prospects could debut this season, and which ones could debut next season? From: Cristian Sena in Guayabal Dominican Republic
Answer: Cristian, it’s good to know we have a reader in the Dominican. A similar question was posed by Greg Fuchs.
I think the most likely prospect to debut in the final weeks of this season is Mike Baumann. He’s on the 40-man roster, and he’s had some strong outings at Norfolk.
I think that the only top prospect that could start the season with the Orioles next season is Adley Rutschman. I think Grayson Rodriguez will probably get his shot relatively early in the season, but perhaps not on March 31st. DL Hall was set back by his elbow injury, but you could certainly see him next year.
It’s also possible that infielder Jordan Westburg could make the jump to the Orioles later in 2022 as well.
Question: What’s up with Bruce Zimmermann? From: Sean O’Connor via Facebook
Answer: Zimmermann, who hasn’t pitched since June 13th, was originally on the 10-day injured list because of left biceps tendinitis, Sean. While working out at Norfolk, preparing for his return to the Orioles, Zimmermann sprained his right ankle working out, and is now on the 60-day injured list.
The Orioles are hoping that Zimmermann could get a start or two in the final week of the season, but that’s far from a likelihood.
Question: Any news on Dean Kremer? From: DiNardi via email
Answer: Kremer is still at Norfolk, but I expect that the Orioles will call him up for another look in the final weeks of the season. Kremer has started and in recent weeks, pitched in the bullpen. He could be tried both as a starter and as a long-relief option.
Question: Can you help me understand why Mickey Jannis hasn’t gotten another shot? They left him out to dry in his debut, 3 1/3 innings and clearly getting ripped. From: Scott Birtman via email
Answer: Scott, Mickey Jannis was a cool story, a 33-year-old knuckleballer who had waited for years to get a shot at the major leagues. The Orioles hoped he could eat innings and, yes, I was surprised they left him in for as long as they did in his debut. (He allowed seven runs on eight hits, walking four and giving up four home runs.)
The Orioles have many younger pitchers with stronger arms they’d like to see pitch, and Jannis was recently demoted from Norfolk to Bowie. He has a 6.60 ERA in three starts with the Baysox.
One of the good things about the Orioles is that they’ll go against conventional wisdom in giving pitchers a chance. It worked for a time with César Valdez, and they hoped it might work with Jannis.
A knuckleballer can pitch years longer than other pitchers, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Jannis turned up in the major leagues, perhaps with another team, but I think the Orioles are looking elsewhere.