It’s time for our monthly mailbag, and we’ve gotten lots of excellent questions. I’ll be answering some of them today and more later in the week. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: Can you let us know how the international players the Orioles didn’t sign in the last year of Dan Duquette’s term as general manager are doing? From: Logan Woodzell via email
Answer: Logan, I think the players you’re referring to are Victor Victor Mesa, his brother Victor Mesa and pitcher Sandy Gaston. All three are Cuban defectors.
Victor Victor and his brother Victor both signed with the Miami Marlins. Victor Victor is 25 and hit .306 with High-A Beloit with four homers and 25 RBIs. He plays both center and left field. At Double-A Pensacola, he hit just .093 (7-for-75) in 21 games.
Victor Mesa is also a centerfielder and the 20-year-old hit .266 with five home runs and 71 RBIs for Low-A Jupiter.
Sandy Gaston is a 19-year-old right-handed pitcher who signed with Tampa Bay. Gaston was 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 14 games with the Rays’ Florida Complex League team and Low-A Charleston.
Question: Do you think there is any chance more preseason home games will be broadcast on MASN. I think they were only two in 2021. From: JR on the Shore via email
Answer: JR, I wasn’t able to get a definitive answer on this one for you. In most years, the Orioles broadcast seven Grapefruit League games from Sarasota, and you’re correct, last year, they showed only two. The guess here is that they’ll broadcast more than two in 2022.
Question: I recently saw Mark Trumbo in a congratulatory video to Trey. When he played for the Orioles he was impressive not only with his hitting abilities but also his intelligence and analysis when communicating baseball during interviews. I would hear players comment what a good mentor he was and I often thought he’d be a good coach someday. Just curious as to your opinion of what the chances are of a more recent former player like him filling the hitting coach position? From: Stephanie in Timonium via email
Answer: Stephanie, I haven’t heard Mark Trumbo’s name as a candidate, but I agree with you. I think he would be respected by players. I know he talked about coaching in the past, and he’s been out of the game for the past two seasons.
Interestingly, most of the Orioles’ coaches in 2021 had little or no big league experience. Only José Hernández, their assistant hitting coach who will be reassigned, and Darren Holmes, their assistant pitching/bullpen coach, had lengthy big league careers. Don Long, who was their hitting coach for the past three seasons, never played in the big leagues.
Question: Do you know why the Orioles let Triple-A manager Gary Kendall and Aberdeen hitting coach Tom Eller go? From: Rich DeNardi via email
Answer: Rich, I like your initials. In 2021, all of the minor league managers, Kendall, Buck Britton at Bowie, Kyle Moore at Aberdeen, Dave Anderson at Delmarva and the two Florida Complex League managers, Kevin Bradshaw and Alan Mills, who was also let go, had all worked under the previous regime.
I am a huge fan personally and professionally of Gary Kendall, and I don’t know that there was anything specific that spurred the change. Eller was one of several hitting coaches brought in to the organization for 2020, and I know that adjusting from college ball in Maryland to professional ball in Maryland can be a daunting task but, again, I’m not aware of any specifics.
Question: Do you expect free agent signing activity to begin soon, or will everything be on hold until a new CBA is signed (which could be next March or April)? From: Birdman via comments
Answer: Birdman, there has been a little action already with the Dodgers reportedly signing pitcher Andrew Heaney, but I think that the biggest deals will be on hold until there is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which I hope will be well before March or April.
Question: Baseball is a game of constant adjustments … so why can’t hitters adjust to the shift? Do the analytics really downplay that type of adjustment. I know it’s all about home runs, launch angles and exit velocities, but a hit is a hit. Also, Rich, analytics seem to have taken a managers “feel” for the game out of the equation. Do the managers and coaches have analytics meetings during the week, before each series, every day? Once the game starts, are they being fed information or are they on their own? From: Millboy from BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: What analytics are used, how they are used, and how they’re distributed are a closely held secret, one that a lot of us would like to find out, Millboy.
I would love to see more hitters hit to the opposite field and, perhaps in the CBA, there will be rules discouraging the shift.
Question: The Orioles have been non-committal about Trey Mancini’s future. Do they just let him play out his contract, trade him or attempt to sign him to an extension? From: @MDSports Chat
Answer: That is a hard one. I hope that they sign him to an extension. I don’t think they’ll just let him play out the 2022 season. The guess here is that they’ll attempt to trade him if there’s no progress on an extension.
Question: You say that the Orioles will not pursue big-ticket free agents. I agree. The question is how does a continuation of the acquire-other-teams’-cast-offs-on-the-cheap strategy not make it nearly certain that we will see another 100-plus loss season next year? From: Steve Cohen via email
Answer: Steve, there’s no guarantee that signing free agents is a way to the World Series. The Tampa Bay Rays have avoided big-name free agents, but I think if some of the young prospects, Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez, perform well and some of the others who disappointed in 2021 do better, the team could improve somewhat in 2022. The offseason has barely begun, and few moves have been made, so let’s wait until the end of spring training and see if you’re still as pessimistic.
Question: How quickly do you think Heston Kjerstad could make it through the minor league ranks? Could he be an Oriole in 2023? From: Bman from BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Bman, hopefully Kjerstad will be able to start the 2022 season with an affiliate. Assuming he’s healthy, and he’s as good as the team thinks he is, it’s possible he’ll make it to Baltimore by late in the 2023 season.
Question: At what time should the focus turn on the pitching in the draft? Do you think there are enough position players in the organization to just draft pitching? From: Michael Riggin via email
Answer: Michael, there were many questions about the draft, including from Cristian Sena from the Dominican Republic, Glenn Fuller and Baltimore Castaway, who thinks that the Orioles’ strategy may be to draft middle infielders and centerfielders and trade them for pitching?
I have been surprised that the Orioles haven’t made pitching more of a priority in the first few rounds of the draft. They did draft a number of pitchers in the later rounds of the 2021 draft.
I think Baltimore Castaway may be on to something, and I think that middle infielders and centerfielders are always positions of need. If the Orioles develop a surplus, they could trade them for pitching. Letting someone else draft pitching and trading for pitchers with a track record may be the way the Orioles acquire pitching in the future.
Question: With the O’s 40-man roster at 32 players do you think they would add Felix Bautista and Lamar Sparks? Does Cristopher Céspedes need to be added? How did he end up in the organization and when was he drafted? Do you think the O’s would consider him a piece of the rebuild in the future? From: David from Parkville
Answer: David, I doubt that Lamar Sparks, an outfielder who has played only 27 games at High-A Aberdeen, is a consideration for the 40-man roster. I suppose Felix Bautista, a reliever who pitched at Aberdeen, Bowie and Norfolk could be considered, but the Orioles didn’t call him up in September when others were auditioned, so my guess is he won’t be protected.
The Orioles re-signed Céspedes, an outfielder, to a minor league contract last month. Like Sparks, he has barely played at High-A, so I don’t think he makes the 40-man roster. He was acquired in the minor league Rule 5 draft from Cleveland in December 2019. There are many young outfielders in the organization, and he’ll have to prove himself at higher levels to make himself a true prospect.
Question: How likely is it that Dylan Bundy and Alex Cobb are on the Orioles’ radar this offseason? From: @BobWaktk76881279
Answer: Bob, I think it’s unlikely that either Bundy or Cobb will end up back with the Orioles. MLBTradeRumors.com predicts that Cobb will sign a two-year, $16 million contract, and I think he’ll have a number of suitors.
I think Bundy, who didn’t have nearly as good a year as Cobb, will look elsewhere.
I like Bundy and Cobb, but I think they and the Orioles will look elsewhere.
Question: Hi, Rich! Love your work! Thank you for all you do! Wanted to ask about the loss of Hunter Harvey. Irrespective of persistent injuries throughout the years how could the Orioles leave such a special talent unprotected? I don’t understand how they could put Hunter Harvey on waivers with that tantalizingly impact arm of his. From: Frankie Nikac via email
Answer: Frankie, thank you for the kind words. I was surprised when I found out that Hunter Harvey had been claimed on waivers by the San Francisco Giants. I thought there were a few other players who might have been taken off the 40-man roster first.
I think the Orioles felt with Harvey’s injury history that no other team would take a chance on him, and they were almost successful. Twenty-eight other teams passed. I thought they would give him a final chance in 2022 and either he’d pitch well or they’d move on from him.