Answers to your Orioles questions, Part 2 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Answers to your Orioles questions, Part 2

Cole Irvin
Photo Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

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Oriole pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium Complex in Sarasota on Wednesday, and their first workout is Thursday. Readers have had lots of interesting questions about the team, and here’s the second part of this month’s mailbag. Questions may be edited for length, style and clarity.

Question: How would you rate the Orioles’ offseason? Disappointing? OK? Great success! From: Damon Stout via email

Answer: Damon, last month I wrote an article on our site that called the Orioles’ offseason productive, and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ acquisitions methodical. Of course, we won’t know how good the offseason was until October, but I think the acquisitions of starters Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, second baseman Adam Frazier, reliever Mychal Givens and catcher James McCann were useful, but not spectacular.

Question: What’s your knee-jerk reaction to the Orioles’ over/under win total of 76.5? From: @Timothy19430971

Answer: Timothy, it seemed that even during the Orioles’ last winning cycle, the betting lines on the team’s win total was often lower than the actual number. I think that’s the case here, but I’m not putting any money on it.

I haven’t seen the team play any games in Sarasota yet nor have I seen them work out, but I think they should win more than 77 games. I’m not a gambler and not offering wagering advice, just a casual prediction.

Jay Jenkins wanted to know how many games I thought the Orioles would win this season, and if the balanced schedule would help. Last month, I wrote that I thought that the balanced schedule would help the Orioles, but I wouldn’t try to guess how many games they’ll win until the end of spring training.

Question: Who do you think the Orioles’ five starting pitchers will be? From: Ray Rooks via Facebook

Answer: Ray, my guess is, Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish, though maybe not in that order.

Question: There will a lot of pitchers in camp this year who can either start or come out of the bullpen. How will the team juggle all those pitchers for innings during the spring and how many of those pitchers have options? Do you think pitchers with options will factor into who makes the squad? From: Kevin Gish via email

Answer: Kevin, initially starting pitchers will probably work just an inning in their first appearances and build up. Some pitchers will be sent to minor league camp after the first week of games as starters begin to stretch out. If there’s an innings crunch, the Orioles can schedule intrasquad games, “B” games with the Pirates or Braves, who aren’t far away, or have them pitch in minor league games.

Options are often a factor in who makes the team, but of this group of starting candidates only Gibson and Austin Voth, who’ll make the club as either a starter or reliever, are without options, so that’s not the case here.

Question: Who do you think has the best chance of the three left-handed hitting first baseman to make the Opening Day roster? From: David A. Lawson via Facebook

Answer: David is referring to Franchy Cordero, Lewin Díaz and Ryan O’Hearn, who are also non-roster invites to spring training. Of those three, I think O’Hearn has the best chance because of his major league experience, but don’t rule out Terrin Vavra, who bats left-handed and has been working out at first base as a possibility.

Question: Over/under on the stolen base totals for Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins? With the new rules changes, I think it should be 100. From: @BrionMcClanahan

Answer: Brion is referring to the rule that limits unsuccessful pickoff attempts to two and the larger bases. Last year, Mateo and Mullins combined for 69 steals. I’ll guess stolen bases will be up markedly around baseball, but I’ll guess under 100 because I think that while Mateo’s stolen base attempts may spike, Mullins’ may stay put with the dangerous hitters coming up after him.

Question: Do you think at some point this year Anthony Santander will be the full-time designated hitter? From: @mriggin24

Answer: I don’t think so, Michael. Brandon Hyde’s preference is to not have a full-time designated hitter, and while Santander is a switch-hitter, I think he’ll want to use Adley Rutschman, Kyle Stowers and Ramón Urías among others, and he may also want to use Ryan Mountcastle at DH. I think Santander may get some at-bats at DH, but not more than anyone else.

Question: Who gets the most games at second base? From: @topshellpr

Answer: Dave, the guess here is that Adam Frazier gets the most games at second base, though Urías, Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg may challenge him.

Question: I wonder if fans and a few writers are getting a little too worked up about the Orioles not spending big money this offseason. Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait and see how players develop and which players develop? Some of our top prospects aren’t even up yet. I say give the top brass another year, see how players mature. Then the team will have more clarity as to its needs. Does that make any sense from a baseball perspective? Or am I missing something? From: Danny Anspacher via email

Answer: Danny, it makes a lot of sense, and I think that’s what Mike Elias is doing. But he may decide to get aggressive in July at the trading deadline if the club is in or near playoff contention. He could also wait, as you suggest, until after this season, but the deal to get Cole Irvin for minor league shortstop Darell Hernaiz seems to be the type of trade he’s thinking about.

Question: Cedric Mullins seems to be secure in the outfield mix. Assuming Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers earn starting jobs, who seems more likely to be traded, Austin Hays or Anthony Santander? From: Bradan Alexander via Facebook

Answer: Bradan, I think Santander would be more likely to be traded because he has more value and is closer to free agency than Hays. Santander is eligible for free agency after the 2024 season, and Hays isn’t scheduled for free agency until after the 2025 season.

Question: Have you heard anything about Jorge Mateo’s offseason and what he is doing to improve his on-base percentage?  With rule changes favoring base-stealers, he needs to improve from .267 last year.  Swing decisions seems to be his problem.  From: Ed Heiger via email

Answer: Ed, you’re correct that Mateo needs to boost his OBP to hold on to his job at shortstop. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Mateo on the Birdland Caravan earlier this month, so we don’t know about his offseason, but it’s certainly something to ask him about in Sarasota in the coming days.

Question: Any chance the Orioles would piggyback Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall? If you get 3-to-5 innings out of both in the fifth slot for two to three months you save innings on each and don’t impact the bullpen. From: Bill Connor via email

Answer: Bill, I wouldn’t rule that out, especially with their innings restricted, but that would mean the Orioles’ bullpen would be reduced to seven pitchers, and I think that would be quite unwieldy.

Question: Pitch timer, changes to defensive position shifts and bigger bases are coming this year. How much do you think pitch timer actually changes the pace of play in real time? Will changes to shifts and bigger bases make our game more appealing or competitive? How? From: Marty Adams via email

Answer: Marty, I think the pitch clock will reduce the time of game by about 15 minutes per game, and that there will be less dead time. I think the most important rule change is limiting unsuccessful pickoff throws to two attempts. There will be more running and a more diverse game. I think the shift will help offense slightly, but I think that batters are taught to swing for extra bases, and that they won’t necessarily go to the opposite field without a shift.

Question:  How would you rate the minor league coaching staff at this stage of the rebuild? How are they better, worse or unique compared to other franchises? From: Ben Schenck via email

Answer: Ben, the Orioles’ minor league system is ranked at or near the top in every ranking and, yes, the team has drafted well, but these players have to be coached in the minor leagues, so you’d have to credit the staff with fine work.

Question: What am I missing here? We get a left-handed pitcher (Cole Irvin) with a lot of major league experience and a minor league pitcher (Kyle Virbitsky) with some upside and all Oakland gets in return was our 16th best minor leaguer (Darell Hernaiz), whose path was blocked by many to the majors. I don’t understand why a bad Oakland team would do this  From: Jim Fink via emal

Answer: Jim, I don’t like to judge trades until I see how the players perform, but you’re right, this seemed to be lopsided in the Orioles’ favor. The Orioles smartly drafted middle infielders, hoping to create a surplus that could be used in trades, and while Hernaiz was rated behind Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz and Jackson Holliday, he could turn out to be an excellent major leaguer, and it’s possible Irvin will struggle. Let’s wait before we judge this trade.

Question: On the caravan, Gunnar Henderson was saying he expects to play on the left side of the infield, meaning third base or shortstop. Might Elias be exploring trade options for Mateo to open up opportunity for Henderson and maybe other emerging infielders?  One more Mateo clue—he was not on the Caravan. From: David Denham via email

Answer: David, I wouldn’t judge a regular player’s future because he wasn’t on the Caravan. Anthony Santander, Kyle Bradish, Austin Voth and Tyler Wells, among others, were also not on the Caravan for various reasons, and they’re firmly in the ballclub’s plans.

Elias is always exploring trade options, and I wouldn’t rule out a Mateo trade some time this season because there are so many up-and-coming infielders.

Regarding Henderson, Wayne Cook asks if he could be moved to left field. I don’t think that’s a possibility. The Orioles were thrilled with his play at third base, and that’s such an important position that I think a move to left is highly unlikely.

Question: I wonder (worry) that since the Orioles did so well in 2022, if we need to be concerned that other teams will take notice and try to poach our manager, or general manager, or others on Brandon Hyde’s staff, who have done great jobs in assessing raw talent for the draft. Have you heard rumblings about Hyde or Mike Elias being coveted by other teams? From: John Flato via email

Answer: John, I’ve heard nothing about teams interested in Mike Elias or Brandon Hyde. We don’t know the status of either contract, but if the Orioles had a successful 2023 season and their contracts were expiring, they would be candidates for other openings. I would guess that both remain under contract beyond this season, but the Orioles don’t disclose contract lengths.

Over the past few years, Elias’ top deputy, Sig Mejdal, has been mentioned for vacant general manage positions, but he has stayed here. As for Hyde’s coaches, as far as I know, none has been interviewed for an open manager’s spot, but if the Orioles are successful again this season, perhaps some of the coaches could become candidates.

Question: I really like Adley Rutschman. Great potential. Great leader. Wonderful defense and pitcher management. Excellent young left-handed hitter. Weak from the right side. My question: If Mullins is asked (told) to hit from the left side because of his weaker work from the right side vs righties, why not the same situation for Adley? From: Steve Dubansky via email

Answer: Steve, you’re correct that there was a disparity between Rutschman’s stats as a left-handed hitter (.280 average with an .889 OPS, 12 homers, 37 RBIs) to right-handed (.174 with a .552 OPS, one homer and five RBIs). It was Rutschman’s first year in the major leagues. Mullins didn’t make the change until after he had been in the majors for parts of three seasons. Perhaps if that disparity continues, they’ll recommend a change.

Question: As a Wilmington, North Carolina Orioles fan. I was wondering how things look for local product Shelton Perkins? I know he spent 2022 in Double A. Do you think he is in the Orioles’ future plans? From: John Bayliss via email

Answer: John, Perkins was not invited to major league spring training. I think this is a big year for him. The Orioles have many excellent pitching prospects in the minor leagues, and if he could improve his control, he’d stand a better chance of advancing. He allowed more walks last year (25) than hits (22) in 35 2/3 innings at Bowie.

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