It’s time for the second part of our monthly mailbag. Questions may be edited for length, clarity and grammar. We’ll have another mailbag just before the start of spring training.
Question: At what level do you see Heston Kjerstad opening the season and is he still on the Orioles’ radar as a potential major league player? If so, what’s your projection of him joining the MLB roster? From: Kevin Flynn via email
Answer: Kevin, you’re not the only reader intrigued by Kjerstad. Dave Gruber had a similar question.
My guess is that Kjerstad begins the season at Double-A Bowie. He’s on the Orioles’ radar, especially since he delivered an impressive performance at the Arizona Fall League, and he should get an invitation to major league spring training.
If he has an outstanding season at Bowie, is moved up and does well at Norfolk, it’s possible for him to get a look at the major league level at the end of this year, but with all the talented outfielders they have, 2023 may be a long shot. Kjerstad will have to be placed on the 40-man roster this fall, so perhaps 2024 is a more appropriate target for him.
Question: What are the chances that the Orioles lock in some of this young talent to longer, team-friendly contracts like the Braves have? From: @therealbkknudsen
Answer: Brady, that’s another question that others are asking. Seth Mendelsohn wonders specifically about catcher Adley Rutschman signing a long-term deal.
I think a long-term deal between the Orioles and Rutschman makes a lot of sense, but many agents would prefer their clients not lock in a team-friendly deal. I’m not sure this is the case for Rutschman.
I wouldn’t bet on a team-friendly deal between the Orioles and Gunnar Henderson because he’s represented by Scott Boras, who generally advises his clients against signing long-term contracts without testing the market.
Question: After a surprising 2022 is anyone on the hot seat in 2023? If the Orioles don’t make the playoffs, is Hyde on the hot seat? Elias? From: @ifollowonlyos
Answer: I can’t imagine that Mike Elias or Brandon Hyde are on the hot seat. I think everyone was pleased with the jobs they did in 2022.
Question: Do you think CEO John Angelos interfered with free agency? From: Paulie Reed via Twitter
Answer: No, I think Mike Elias has unusual latitude on signing free agents and building the ballclub, but I don’t know if Angelos gave him a specific figure on a payroll limit.
Question: What type of draft pick would the Orioles have had to surrender if they signed a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer? From: Rick Staley via Facebook
Answer: Rick, if the Orioles signed a player who rejected a $19.65 million qualifying offer, they would have had to forfeit their third-highest draft pick.
Question: Is there any chance the Orioles sign Trevor Bauer? From: Thomas Wiegand via email.
Answer: Thomas, I sure hope not. I think Bauer’s behavior justifiably earned him a lengthy suspension from Major League Baseball, which was recently reduced. Chris Kiyak wondered about his effect on the Orioles’ clubhouse. I hope we don’t get a chance to find out.
Question: What do you think ending the shift will do for individual and team batting averages? I think they could go up 20 points. From: Dan Hudson via email
Answer: Dan, I’m curious to find out the answer to that question. A 20-point increase would be huge, but I’m guessing it would be more modest than that because I don’t think you’ll be seeing that many batters hitting to the opposite field.
Question: I guess Oriole caravans are fine for Maryland residents, but I don’t bowl, play golf, or have an interest in bartending. I’m from Virginia and used to enjoy attending FanFest. If this event was stopped because of Covid-19, then do you think FanFest will return at some point in the future? From: Steve Inge via email
Answer: Steve, the Orioles stopped FanFest and substituted the caravan in February 2020, just before the pandemic began.
I also liked FanFest, but the Orioles think going around the Mid-Atlantic region is a more effective way of reaching their fans. I would bet that the caravans are here to stay. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t bowl, play golf or drink beer, either.
Question: We heard recently about the Ravens doing some significant upgrades to M&T. Anything in the works for OPACY? I know they are in serious need of a sound system upgrade. From: Steve Schwarz via email
Answer: Steve, I think the major upgrades that are planned for Oriole Park at Camden Yards will have to wait for the new lease to be signed. I agree with you that the sound system needs an upgrade, and a new scoreboard is a must.
Question: With the two pickoff limit, what happens after the pitcher has thrown over twice? Can the runner just take a giant lead and easily steal the base? From: Barry Culman via email
Answer: Barry, if there is a third unsuccessful pickoff attempt, which includes stepping off the rubber, the runner is awarded the base.
Question: What prospect outside of that top 100 do you think is primed to push his way into midseason lists? From: Paul Clark via email
Answer: Paul, I think Heston Kjerstad and outfielder Dylan Beavers, who was the Orioles’ second selection, 33rd overall in last year’s draft, are the best bets to move into the midseason prospect rankings.
Question: With what looks like an abundance of infield and outfield depth, do you have any ideas about who might be used as trade capital moving forward? From: Rene Linares via email
Answer: Rene, I don’t have a guess about which infield or outfield prospects could be moved in a trade, but the Orioles are in an unusually good position to do so.
Question: Has there been any talk of Kyle Stowers working out at first base He fits all the needs, hits left-handed, and he’s a good athlete and should be able to handle it. I like this idea better than bringing someone from outside the organization that no one else wants. From: Jim & Veronica Fink via email
Answer: Jim and Veronica, I have heard no talk of Kyle Stowers getting work at first base, though it wouldn’t surprise me if someone from the organization gets some work there.
Question: Do you think Mike Elias is holding money aside to retain as much of the Orioles’ talent for the long term as possible? From: Ed Heiger via email
Answer: Ed, it’s possible, but I think that’s several years away from being a real consideration.
Question: What’s your assessment of the effectiveness of an Orioles rotation comprised of (hopefully) Voth, Gibson, Kremer, Rodriguez and Wells? I’m leaving Means off the list because he will only get a half-season in optimistically.
I know this depends on health, spring training results, etc., but it doesn’t seem all that threatening. I’m not a fan of prodigious overblown contracts, but I’m also concerned that we’re facing another tough year with an underwhelming starting rotation. From: Marty Adams via email
Answer: Marty, you’re leaving two names off your list. In addition to Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez and Tyler Wells, I would include Kyle Bradish and DL Hall as starters. I think Austin Voth could begin the season as the fifth starter, but he also could be a starter and a reliever.
You’re right, John Means might be able to pitch only half the season, but the possible depth of this year’s rotation compares favorably with the one that began last season.
I would have liked to have seen the Orioles sign another veteran starter, and while this rotation doesn’t seem as strong as some of the top staffs in the majors, there is promise, especially with Bradish, Hall, Kremer and Rodriguez.
Question: I hear the Orioles are still interested in Michael Wacha, but Matt Moore and Danny Duffy are still available as free agents. Either would cost the Orioles far less and have been relievers as well as starters. The Orioles need to get off to a good start and don’t have John Means. Why not sign one of them for one or two years? From: Mitch via email
Answer: Mitch, it’s not crazy to think that the Orioles will sign a veteran before spring training, though the idea of Michael Wacha continues to intrigue me.
Question: Has anyone acknowledged an interest in buying the Orioles? From: Mark Cooper via email
Answer: Mark, no one has said publicly that they’d like to buy the Orioles, but should the team come up for sale, I think there would be a number of bidders.
Even if it was known that the team was on the market, there’s no advantage in saying that you’re interested. It’s not a popularity contest. It would be a question about getting the highest price and an owner MLB thinks would fit Baltimore.
Question: Will the Orioles improve enough with their free-agent signings, purchased players and especially the new crop of rookies to make the postseason? Seems to me that fewer games with the American League East teams should help their playoff chances. From: Bob Stier via email
Answer: Bob, it’s more than two months until Opening Day, but I think the Orioles could contend for a playoff spot.
If the Orioles’ starting rotation improves and the bullpen remains strong, and they again have relatively good health, they should be a contender. Not facing the American League East as much also could help the health of the pitching staff.
Question: What do you think Team Israel’s chances are in the World Baseball Classic? From: Craig Turkel via email
Answer: Craig, Team Israel should be better than it was in 2017 because major league players, including Dean Kremer and former Oriole Richard Bleier, are set to pitch for it.
Unfortunately, they’re in the same pool as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, so it will be an aaccomplishment if they make it out of the first round.
Question: I know a player has to be 16 to sign, but are there any other age restrictions set by MLB regarding when these players can be assigned to minor league clubs?
Regarding the Dominican Academy that is set to open this year, can you describe what kind of a facility it is? In other words, does it provide for players to stay there for extended periods, or is it one where players just come to work out, or take classes by day? Do the players work there throughout the year, or just during what would normally be the baseball season? From: Tom Delise via email
Answer: Tom, there are no age restrictions as to when a player can be sent to a minor league club, but the players on the two teams in the Dominican Summer League averaged 18.8 and 19.4 years of age last season.
The Orioles will provide housing for players, offer instruction in English, but it’s also designed to allow Dominican-based major league Orioles a place to work out in the offseason as well as a top-notch facility for the minor leaguers.
Question: My question is about Hall of Fame selection criteria, which you mentioned in a recent column. You noted that All-Star team selection was a factor that you considered. As a fan from a smaller market, I always suspected that All-Star selection of position players was skewed toward the big-market teams. Do you believe that is true and, if so, how do you account for that fact in considering how much weight a player’s selection to All-Star teams should play in a Hall of Fame vote? From: Rich Strasser via email
Answer: Rich, All-Star Game selections is one of many criteria, and hardly the most important one. The most important factors I look at are lifetime regular-season stats, awards and statistical comparisons to other Hall of Famers. I look at the era in which they played and how dominant they were, as well as postseason performance.
Of the players I voted for, Scott Rolen and Todd Helton never played in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and they combined for 12 All-Star Game selections. Andruw Jones was a five-time All-Star, all while playing for Atlanta. Of Gary Sheffield’s nine All-Star selections, four came when he played for the Dodgers and Yankees, and only two of Billy Wagner’s seven All-Star appearances came with the Mets.