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

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It’s time for the second part of our monthly mailbag. Part 1 was published on Friday. Questions may be edited for length, style and clarity.

Question: Among all MLB teams, how important is mutual trust and team spirit? The Orioles obviously emphasize that with their players. Other clubs like the Padres and Yankees don’t seem to care about that nearly as much. From: Russell Wallace via email

Answer: Russell, I think the Orioles’ camaraderie can be credited to their youth with many of them coming through the farm system at the same time. They’ve known each other for a few years, and I think that helps.

Question: Are there expanded rosters to start the season? I believe it is usually 26 unless they have a doubleheader. What about the minor league teams, do they each have roster limits?  From: Greg K via email

Answer: Greg, major league teams don’t have expanded rosters to start the season. They have 26 to begin, and an extra player for a doubleheader. After September 1st, they carry 28. Double-A and Triple-A teams carry 28 active players while High-A and Single-A carry 30 active players.

Question: A while back I asked you, “Do you think the Orioles should/could/would sign Trevor Bauer”? You said you didn’t think that the Orioles would sign him. With the two injuries holding back Kyle Bradish and John Means coupled with Trevor Bauer saying he would love to pitch for Baltimore and possibly at a reduced salary, would you think Mike Elias would now consider signing him? From: Ron Gale via email

Answer: Ron, you’re not the only one curious about Trevor Bauer. Brian Tivnan wanted to know why I was so “closed-minded” about the Orioles signing Bauer.

Brian, I don’t think I’m being closed-minded, I think I’m being prudent. No one in baseball has shown any interest in Bauer. I don’t want to get into a legal debate about him, but there are some serious questions about his behavior, and I just don’t think he’d be a fit with the Orioles, and I don’t see them signing him.

Question: Would you please explain why the Orioles were content to allow Adam Frazier, Kyle Gibson and Aaron Hicks to become free agents, and why these three declared free agency? Was it because they wanted off the team for some reason? More money maybe? I just don’t get how it works. From: Tom Capuano, Proctor, Vermont

Answer: Tom, every player who has at least six years of major league service and doesn’t have a contract for the next season files for free agency the day after the final game of the World Series. They’re doing it as a formality, and that includes players who are contemplating retirement.

In Gibson’s case, he was able to parlay last season into a more lucrative contract in his home area with St. Louis. Hicks was also interested in playing for a West Coast team, and in Frazier’s case, he may well be supplanted by Jackson Holliday.

Question: With a strong 2024 season would you envision the Orioles offering John Means an extension? Also, who is his representative and have you heard if he or John are open to extension discussions? From: Bill Connor via email

Answer: Bill submitted this question before Mike Elias announced that John Means wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day. If Means bounces back and has a strong season, the Orioles could be interested in a short-term extension, but because of his Tommy John surgery, Means has started just six games in the last two seasons. I would think the odds of a Means extension are low. He’s represented by the Wasserman Agency.

Question: Is the Cedric Mullins’ hamstring problem a big concern? He had two stints on the injured list in 2023. His ability to steal bases seemed to be affected by his injuries last year, and this injury is also troubling. From: Mark Galla via Facebook

Answer: Mark, Mullins says he thinks he should be back playing next week. If he’s not and the injury lingers, then I would be concerned about it. Because of his time on the injured list because of the right adductor/groin strains, it would be natural to be concerned about Mullins. A healthy Mullins is important for the Orioles.

Question: Coby Mayo looks the part, and he’s flashed the leather, but with Ramón Urías still on the club, do you foresee Mayo breaking camp or the team sticking with the former Gold Glover? From: Eric Capps via email

Answer: Eric, I think it would be hard for Coby Mayo to make the Opening Day roster, but I’m confident you’ll see him play for the Orioles sometime this season. I think when Mayo joins the team, they’d like to see him play regularly. Urías can fill in at every infield position and play sporadically, so for now, I think Urías will stay around.

Question: Do you think Ryan McKenna will make the Opening Day roster? From: Rich Thorpe via Facebook

Answer: Rich, I think it will be hard for Ryan McKenna to make the Opening Day roster. He’s out of options, and he’s facing stiff competition with Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and Kyle Stowers challenging him. McKenna has an advantage over Kjerstad and Stowers in that he can play all three outfield positions, and he’s a plus-base runner, but Cowser and the others have options remaining. I wouldn’t rule out McKenna being on the team on Opening Day, but it’s going to be difficult.

Question: I’ve been pondering that instead of trading multiple say Triple-A (MLB-ready prospects) for maybe one top-notch player, do you think the Orioles would ever consider trading one of their top prospects for say maybe three or four highly touted Single-A prospects to keep the pipeline coming for years to come?  How much do you think they could get in return for our prospects with that approach? From: Richie Davis via email

Answer: Richie, I like your initials. It’s an interesting idea, and I hadn’t thought about it, but perhaps the Orioles, who are always looking at novel ways to manage the roster, would consider it. If it happens, I’ll remember that you suggested it first.

Question: Since you can see these players in person, curious if using your eye test, has anyone significantly transformed physically from last season? From: Rick Staley via email

Answer: Rick, the player who stands out to me is Jackson Holliday. He seems to be much bigger than last season.

Question: I just subscribed to Baseball Digest and was wondering if you knew of any magazines dedicated to the Orioles. From: Brad Kerger via Facebook

Answer: Brad, the Orioles used to publish a magazine, but they no longer do. With five entities, including ours, providing daily coverage of the team, and other national outlets writing about them this spring, you should be well covered.

Question: Who do you think is the most underrated player in the history of the Orioles? From: Philip Newton via Facebook

Answer: Philip, I named an all-underrated Orioles team during the pandemic in May 2020, and looking back on it, I would pick Al Bumbry as the most underrated player.

While Bumbry had little power, hitting just 53 home runs in 13 seasons with the Orioles, he’s 10th in games played, eighth in runs scored, 11th in hits, 12th in doubles, 3rd in triples and stolen bases. His 205 hits in 1980 are the fifth most in a single season.

There are other players who I could make an argument for, including Mike Bordick, Chris Hoiles, Davey Johnson, Melvin Mora, Ken Singleton and B.J. Surhoff, but after much thought, I think Bumbry has the best case.

Question: Will the Oriole Park gates open sooner than one hour before game time on days other than Saturdays? From: Vince Celano via Facebook

Answer: Vince, gates at the ballpark will continue to open one hour before game time for most games, though if large crowds are anticipated, that may change.

Question: Do you think Connor Norby will make the team out of spring training? From: Eric G Dorsey via Facebook

Answer: Eric, I don’t see a way Connor Norby makes the team unless there are multiple injuries, though I think you’ll see him later in the season.

Question: Too many good infielders. Who doesn’t make the cut? From: Jon Taylor via Facebook

Answer: Jon, the biggest question is whether Jackson Holliday makes the club. If he doesn’t make it, that may open another spot, though I don’t see Norby or Coby Mayo making the team, though both should see plenty of time with the team later this season.

Question: Orioles’ left-handed hitters didn’t hit well against left-handed pitchers last season. Do you expect that to improve? From: Alan Reister via Facebook

Answer: Al, you’re correct. Orioles’ left-handed hitters hit just .209 against left-handed pitchers last season, and after watching Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers hit against lefties, I’m confident that they’ll do better. I also think Gunnar Henderson, who hit .210 against left-handers, will improve markedly.

Question: Do you think the Orioles are interested in trading for any of the Miami Marlins starting pitchers? From: Jeff Hobson via Facebook

Answer: Jeff, you’re not the only one who’s talking trade. Tom Duffy wonders whether the depth of prospects in the organization could lead to a trade soon.

Mike Elias works quietly, and when he’s made trades, there’s little advance warning. While I don’t see a major trade coming along soon, it certainly could happen.

Question: Is Enrique Bradfield Jr. considered a top prospect, and could he be Cedric Mullins’ successor? From: Dorsey Stell via email

Answer: Dorsey, Bradfield is the Orioles’ sixth-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, and he could be the Orioles’ centerfielder of the future.

Question: Who do you see as the Orioles’ Opening Day center fielder if Cedric Mullins can’t play? From: Dennis Littleton via email

Answer: Dennis, Mullins and the Orioles seem to be confident that he’ll be able to play next week, and if he does, he should be ready for Opening Day. If he’s not, I would think either Colton Cowser or Ryan McKenna would start there, although Austin Hays could move to center, too.

Question: How do you think the Orioles are going to be able to handle starting pitching extended slumps with a lack of optional parts this year?  Are they going to be losing a lot of pitchers once they get designated?  Is it going to alter how pitchers will be used, protecting the best arms from overuse perhaps and having disposable arms? From: Lauren Baker via email

Answer: Lauren, of the Orioles’ projected starting pitchers, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez and Tyler Wells have options. Bruce Zimmermann does, too. I don’t foresee them often optioning starters. I think the issue could come with relievers since many of them don’t have options remaining, and, yes, some could be claimed on waivers. Some of the top relievers who have options remaining are Keegan Akin, Bryan Baker, Yennier Cano and Dillon Tate. Others with options are Jonathan Heasley, Matt Krook, Kaleb Ort and Nick Vespi.

Question: Some MLB projection systems pick the Orioles to finish third in the AL East with either 84 or 86 wins. What is your fearless forecast for the O’s win total and AL East finish? From: Glenn Fuller via email

Answer: Glenn, ask me again at the end of the month. I want to see how the Orioles complete spring training and what their roster will look like before offering a prediction. Rick Millward, of Myersville, Maryland, wanted to know if I thought Norfolk would have a .500 record, and I’ll give Rick the same answer I’ve given you.

Question: I’m really enjoying seeing the former Orioles help during spring training. If I recall correctly, this is new. Why didn’t management do this previously? I know many MLB teams have done this for a long time. From: Larry Schultz via email

Answer: Larry, the Orioles have been using guest instructors before now, but not as many as this year. J.J. Hardy, Ben McDonald, Scott McGregor, Eddie Murray and Brian Roberts served in the past. Robinson Chirinos, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are new this year. I think it’s a welcome trend, and I’m sure it will continue.

Question: Are any of the Orioles’ young position players at the point where sending them back to the minors at the start of the season (or even for the full season) might be detrimental to the successful development of their careers? I am thinking chiefly of Kyle Stowers and Jackson Holliday, but there are others who seem ready (or, as ready as they will ever be), aren’t there? From: Chris King via mail

Answer: Chris, I don’t think sending players back to Triple-A necessarily harms their development. Holliday is only 20, and I think he could well make the club, but if he’s in Norfolk for a month, I don’t see that harming him. It’s possible that Stowers doesn’t make the team, even with a good spring, but I don’t see that hurting him, either. Several of the Orioles who will be sent back to the minors could play for most major league teams, but the abundance of prospects is a good problem to have.

Question: The Orioles won 101 games last year, and they have new pitching coaches. Why did they need to replace them? From: Perry Campanaris via email

Answer: Perry, that’s a good question, and I’m not sure there’s an easy answer. Here’s what Mike Elias said about it at the Winter Meetings:

“Chris Holt was the person that took our pitching program to a whole new level, starting in the minor leagues at the end of 2018, early 2019 and we’re at a place now where we think it’s the best use of his skillset to allow him to supervise the entire system and put some focus back on the minor league development … and also get a new voice in the dugout for these young pitchers as they kind of go into the next phase of their careers.”

I don’t think I can add anything to that.

RAVENS NEWS from BaltimoreSports.com

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