Here’s the second part of our monthly mailbag. Questions may be edited for length, style and grammar.
Question: Are the Orioles doing a really good job of controlling leaks to the press—or are they not working with Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson or other young players on contract extensions? From: Josh Wessel via Facebook
Answer: Josh, the Orioles are good at controlling leaks to the press, so I didn’t know if they’re working on contract extensions. I think it would be a great idea to extend Rutschman, but Mike Elias reiterated at his most recent press availability that he doesn’t talk about that publicly.
As for Gunnar Henderson, he’s represented by Scott Boras, who advises his players not to get locked into long-term extensions before free agency.
Question: I am concerned about the overuse of the bullpen. I recognize the value that they have in securing the Orioles’ wins to date. But, I am concerned about over-taxing a strength of the team. With Dillon Tate due to arrive in days/weeks, can that be enough to ease the burden on this bullpen? Or will it be necessary to bring up other arms from the minors? From: Terrence O’Keefe via email
Answer: Terry, I think bullpen overuse is a concern. If Orioles starters go deeper into games, that will help. Mychal Givens’ activation on Sunday and Dillon Tate’s possible activation could also help, but as you’ve seen in recent weeks, the Orioles have been quick to recall relievers for short periods of time, and I think that’s a trend that continues throughout the rest of the season.
Question Ryan Mountcastle has never been a high on base percentage guy, but right now it’s at an incredibly low .267 He’s only hitting .194 vs. righties. Yes, he provides some power but is it time to make a change at first base, at least against right-handed pitching? Bring up Colton Cowser and have Anthony Santander rotate between right field, first base and DH? From: Greg Fuchs via email
Answer: Greg wrote this before Cowser was placed on the injured list with a left quad strain. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Orioles added another first baseman at the trading deadline, though I would think pitching would be the priority. I don’t think Cowser when healthy would come up unless he was getting regular playing time, and I’ve been intrigued by the idea of using Santander as a first baseman.
For the future, it’s interesting that Heston Kjerstad has been playing first base at Bowie. It’s the rare position where the Orioles don’t have great prospects.
Question: While the Orioles & Norfolk are having great years so far, the Bowie Baysox seem to really be struggling. Do you believe that is because all of our best minor league talent is already at Norfolk or on our major league roster? From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: Glenn, I think both the Orioles and Norfolk have great depth. Bowie does not, but the Baysox have seven of MLB Pipeline’s top prospects: Kjerstad, (4th), Coby Mayo (8th), Cade Povich (11th), César Prieto (16th), Chayce McDermott (17th), John Rhodes (19th) and Justin Armbruester (30th).
Question: Who are legit pitching prospects who aren’t on the 40-man roster? From: Mark Galla via Facebook
Answer: Mark, there are three pitchers at Bowie that I mentioned in my previous answer, Cade Povich, Chayce McDermott and Justin Armbruester. Another prospect who’s not on the 40-man roster or in the Top 30 prospect list is Chris Vallimont, who’s 2-0 with a 2.97 ERA at Norfolk.
Question: As long as the Orioles are contending, do you think they will trade some prospects for a top of the rotation guy who isn’t expensive to eat innings because a lot of the starters don’t have experience pitching a lot of innings in a season? From: Mark Cooper via email
Answer: Mark, I think a trade for an experienced starter for prospects near the trading deadline is a distinct possibility. I don’t know how many top of the rotation guys aren’t expensive, but I’m sure names will start being tossed around soon.
Question: Is there an update on negotiations between the Orioles and the state of Maryland on a new long-term lease at Camden Yards? John Angelos has said he hopes to have it done by the All-Star break. From: Mike Beale via email
Answer: Mike, similar questions were asked on Facebook by Alan Reister and by Thomas Lanzafame by email. I’m confident that a lease will get done relatively soon, but perhaps not by the All-Star break. There’s no reason to be nervous, but as John Angelos said in February, it’s not the stadium that’s a complicating issue. John and Governor Moore are eager to have add retail and perhaps housing to the area around Camden Yards, and that’s what’s taking time.
Question: Tell us about the Orioles two young hitting coaches—their way of coaching, who they have helped, any specific strategies unique to the new Oriole Way. From: David Denham via email
Answer: The Orioles have co-hitting coaches in their second year, Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte, and this year, they added an offensive strategist, Cody Asche, a former major leaguer who worked in the Orioles’ minor league system last year.
They don’t share details on specific strategies, but they like to focus on swing decisions. What’s most impressive is that the Orioles’ on-base percentage is currently .330, which is fourth in the American League. Last year, the OBP was .305, which was 11th. Something must be working.
Question: I know several of the Orioles great young prospects came via high draft picks since the Orioles were so bad for several years. But I assume we have especially good scouts to have so many more top 100 prospects than any other team. How has that come about? Now that the Orioles are good, can we keep finding these diamonds in the rough? From: Ben Schneck via email
Answer: Ben, that’s an interesting question. Gunnar Henderson was not a top draft pick. Nor was Jordan Westburg, Connor Norby, Coby Mayo or Dylan Beavers, who are all among Top 10 prospects.
It will be more of a challenge since the Orioles won’t be drafting in the Top 5 this year, and it looks like they won’t next year.
The Orioles have been putting more emphasis on international scouting, where there isn’t a draft and seven of those prospects are in the top 30, and I think they’ll continue to aggressively scout in Latin America.
Question: How does the salary of a player who gets called up from the minors, get figured out? Especially, if they are here for only a day or two? From: Len Nelson via email
Answer: Len, this year’s minimum salary is $720,000. Divide that by 187, the number of days in the major league season, and a player would be paid $3,850.27 for each day they’re on the major league roster.
Question: If you look at the Orioles 40-man roster there are no easy deletions, a lot of good players with value. At season’s end there will be more that need to be added. To get deep into the playoffs the O’s probably need a couple big time performers. Just wondering if you see some trades happening at the deadline where the Orioles move multiple good players to add big name players/performers? From: Dean Wilyman via email
Answer: Dean, Bill Bellistri asked a similar question. You’re right that there are no easy deletions but remember that free agents are deleted from the 40-man after the end of the World Series. Kyle Gibson and Adam Frazier were signed to one-year contracts and are scheduled for free agency. Mychal Givens and Austin Voth have options attached to their contracts, and some players eligible for arbitration could be traded or non-tendered to make room for promising prospects.
One downside to having a deep farm system is that some players could be lost in the Rule 5 draft while others could be traded at the deadline or after the season.
Question: I’m wondering about what the corner outfield and first positions look like, ideally, in the future. Presently there isn’t room for all of them in Baltimore and the upper minors are quite full already.
My guess would probably be Colton Cowser in left, Cedric Mullins in center, Heston Kjerstad or Austin Hays in right with Jordan Westburg, Ryan Mountcastle, or Coby Mayo at first by opening day 2025. But there are so many variables at play here and I’m wondering if the best move might be to trade a number of these guys for a starting pitcher. How do you predict this shaking out? From: John Morrow via email
Answer: John, that’s a great problem for the Orioles to have, and I think it’s possible that some of the players in the upper levels of the farm system are traded, perhaps for a starter, perhaps for additional relievers and maybe another power bat.
Question: What are the chances of Gunnar Henderson being sent down to Norfolk to find some confidence and Jordan Westburg brought up to replace him? Walking a lot isn’t cutting it for a third baseman in the majors and Westburg seems to be too good for AAA. From: Jim and Veronica Fink via email
Answer: Jim and Veronica, I think the Orioles are rightfully reluctant to send Henderson down, and I think they’re still trying to find out which position is best suited for Westburg. I think that both Henderson and Westburg could be on the same roster, and it’s not an either/or question.
Question: The Orioles have been criticized for not bringing in a front-line starter during free agency. How are those free agent pitchers doing with the teams that signed them? From: Phil Cooke via email
Answer: Phil, here are some of the free agent pitchers who were linked with the Orioles last winter: Chris Bassitt is 5-3 with a 3.05 ERA with Toronto. Taijuan Walker is 3-2 with a 5.79 ERA with Philadelphia. Jameson Taillon is 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA with the Chicago Cubs. Sean Manaea is 1-2 with a 7.81 ERA with San Francisco. Noah Syndergaard is 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Michael Wacha is 5-1 with a 3.58 ERA with San Diego.
Question: How does the pitcher get the sign from the catcher? From: Steve SanMillan via email
Answer: Steve, pitchers and catchers can use PitchCom. It can work two ways. The catcher presses a button on his wrist, and the pitch and location is sent through the pitcher’s headset. Two fielders, usually the shortstop and center fielder have access to the technology. It’s also set up so that pitchers can call their game and input the pitches they want to thorw.
Question: When is John Means going to pitch again? From: Andy Messer via email
Answer: Andy, the Orioles say Means is going to pitch again sometime in July.
Question: Mike Elias seems to put a lot of emphasis on players who work and play well together as a team and in the clubhouse, rather than on acquiring superstars. How much has that factor contributed to the Orioles recent success? From: Rusty Wallace via email
Answer: Rusty, I think the Orioles’ clubhouse chemistry is excellent. The acquisitions of Kyle Gibson, Adam Frazier and James McCann have contributed to the team’s cohesiveness in the clubhouse.
Question: The Orioles started stealing a lot of bases at the start of the season. This has markedly slowed down in recent weeks. Is that because the pitchers have adjusted well with the new pitch clock or have they gotten more conservative? From: Larry Schultz via email
Answer: Larry, as of last night, the Orioles are fifth in the majors with 43 stolen bases. They’ve been thrown out nine times and have an 82.6 success rate, which is excellent.
There have been fewer stolen base attempts around baseball in the past few weeks because pitchers have adjusted to the rule limiting unsuccessful pickoffs and disengagements to two and they’re not afraid to use them. Overall, stolen bases are up and will continue to be.