Oriole fans reacted negatively last week when first baseman Ryan Mountcastle wasn’t named one of three finalists for American League Rookie of the Year. Their reaction was even more negative on Monday night when Tampa Bay outfielder Randy Arozarena won the award and Mountcastle finished sixth.
Mountcastle, who hit 33 home runs, was named on just six of 30 ballots.
This past season was an unusually strong one for rookies. Eight rookies received votes. Another strong one, Boston reliever Garrett Whitlock, wasn’t named on a single ballot.
Mountcastle got off to a slow start, had poor defensive metrics (a -1.5 WAR—Wins Above Replacement) and played on a team that lost 110 games. Many have pointed out that Mountcastle was the pick in the MLB Players’ Choice Award, claiming that the players know who the real Rookie of the Year is.
While I value the opinion of players and have regularly asked for their input before casting a ballot, they don’t take the time to research the candidates as the overwhelming majority of voters do. Their research is up close and personal.
I didn’t have a vote for Rookie of the Year. Mine was for Manager of the Year, which will be revealed on Tuesday night. It’s an honor to vote, and I spend days researching the candidates.
I would have voted for Arozarena first, Cleveland reliever Emmanuel Clase second and Mountcastle third. Arozarena was named on 28 of the 30 ballots and received 22 first-place votes. Houston right-hander Luis Garcia was second, and Arozarena’s teammate, Rays shortstop Wander Franco, was third.
Clase finished fifth and received one first-place vote and two second-place votes.
The two Baltimore voters, longtime Baltimore Sun writer Peter Schmuck, who’s now retired, and MLB.com’s Joe Trezza had Mountcastle second and third, respectively.
New hitting coaches: The Orioles’ two new hitting coaches, Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte, exemplify a trend in baseball. Neither has major league experience. Fuller played just 32 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Rookie League team in 2012, and Borgschulte didn’t play professionally at all.
Just two of the Orioles’ eight coaches, assistant pitching coach Darren Holmes and first base coach Anthony Sanders, played in the big leagues. Holmes played 13 years for eight teams, including the Orioles, and Sanders was in only 13 major league games.
Manager Brandon Hyde never played in the majors, and the two most successful Oriole managers, Earl Weaver and Buck Showalter, weren’t major leaguers, either.
It’s interesting that Fuller, who was Bowie’s hitting coach in 2021, and Borgschulte, who coached at Minnesota’s Triple-A St. Paul last season, will be co-hitting coaches. Will they each be responsible for certain hitters?
Injury update: Last week, the Orioles provided an update on outfielder DJ Stewart’s right knee surgery. Monday, they had updates on three more.
Left-hander Keegan Akin, who ended the season on the 60-day injured list, had a hip adductor repair. The Orioles said he’ll “be back to a normal offseason program within a few weeks and on track to be a full participant in spring training.”
Infielder Ramón Urías, who ended the season on the 10-day inijured list, and outfielder Austin Hays had core repair, the team said.
They “are both completing all milestones, participating in all post-op rehab, and are a few weeks away from normal offseason hitting work and on track to be full participants in spring training.”
Hays, who has had a history of injuries, returned from two stints on the injured list because of hamstring strains, and played in a career-high 131 games. He missed just one game from June 15th through the end of the season.
Hays hit eight homers, drove in 22 runs and had a .921 OPS after September 1st.
40-man roster thoughts: The Orioles have eight open spots on the 40-man roster and must add players from their organization by Friday. Assuming they want two spots left for Rule 5 selections next month, they probably will add between four and six players.
Besides pitchers DL Hall, Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith and infielder Terrin Vavra, all expected to be added, they could pick another player or two.
It will be interesting to see if left-hander Nick Vespi, who was re-signed to a minor league contract last month, will be one. He’s a 26-year-old left-hander who is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in nine games in the Arizona Fall League and pitched a hitless inning, allowing a walk and striking out a batter in Saturday’s Fall Stars Game.
Julio Lugo dies: Longtime major league infielder Julio Lugo died at 45, presumably from a heart attack, it was reported. Lugo, who would have turned 46 on Tuesday, played for seven teams, including the Orioles in 2010, in a 12-year career that ended in 2011. Lugo, who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Brooklyn, played 93 games for the Orioles in 2010, hitting .249.