Baltimore Orioles 2020: Reasons for optimism

What happened in 2019?

Oh my!

On Sunday 31 March, Paul Fry came on in the ninth inning to strike out Troy Tulowitzki and secure the series win over the New York Yankees. The season went downhill as soon as the calendar turned to April.

Baltimore went 0-16 in the remaining fixtures against the Yankees and finished a staggering 49 games behind the AL East champions.

Only twice in the franchise’s long history has it suffered more defeats in a season. Once, was in 1939, when they were the St Louis Browns, and the second time, was last season when they went 47-111.

Rather than focusing on the last couple of years being two of the worst in the franchise’s history, instead, be positive and see that the 108-loss campaign in 2019 was, in fact, a slight improvement on the previous year. They are trending in the right direction.

Two of the low points in reflecting about last season are that the team allowed an MLB-high 981 runs, and first baseman, Chris Davis, endured his historic 0-for-54 slump.

Jonathan Villar, one of only five MLB players to play in all 162 regular season games, was worth 4.0 WAR and swiped 40 bases. It was the most bags by anyone in the Orioles organisation since Brian Roberts in 2008. Non-tendering the 28-year-old seemed a surprising decision, especially considering he would have been one of the best infield trade chips on the market. Don’t be surprised if Miami capitalise on that in the summer.

Quiz question: Which team led MLB with the most consecutive multi-homer games? I’m not talking about conceding multiple home runs, I’m talking about hitting them.

Yes, as bizarre as it seems, the Orioles enjoyed a stretch of 10 games with their hitters depositing the ball in the stands more than once. Not even the Yankees or Twins had a streak reaching double-digit games.

On a side note, they also led the majors with a 12-game stretch of conceding multiple homers, but that was less surprising.

Moves & shakes

Out: Mark Trumbo, Jonathan Villar, Dylan Bundy
In: Kohl Stewart, Jose Iglesias

One to watch

Embed from Getty Images

John Means: 4.6 WAR in his first full season in the majors. Second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Yordan Alvarez. 3.60 ERA over 155 innings with a slider that makes hitters look silly. Maybe he overachieved, but to be honest, it’s tough to fake being a good pitcher in the AL East.

Five reasons for optimism in 2020

(1) Trey Mancini is a stud. He doesn’t look out of place with the best right fielders in the game.

(2) After one year in the job, Executive VP & General Manager, Mike Elias, has overhauled the club. Nearly 40% of the current 40-man roster were not with the organisation one year ago. They have 65 fresh faces in their scouting, player development and analytics departments, and the Orioles’ previously bare international scouting department has increased five-fold.

(3) Elias thinks top prospect Adley Rutschman’s defence is already major-league-ready. Baseball execs ranked the 21-year-old as one of the top two prospects with the best baseball IQ. He could be the next Buster Posey. Or he could be better. A scout described him as having “Kris Bryant’s bat with Austin Hedges’ glove”.

(4) Rookie Austin Hays posted .947 OPS in this second taste of MLB action while displaying impressive centre field skills. The Orioles are in a perfect position to allow the 24-year-old to develop with plenty of playing time at the major-league level.

(5) They have so much payroll flexibility. Chris Davis accounts for nearly half of their $45 million 2020 salary bill. We have just seen what a rich team like the Boston Red Sox is willing to give up to reduce their financial commitments, so maybe the Orioles will follow the Giants lead and take on a large one-year salary to get a prospect at the same time.

Photo courtesy of Norm Hall/Mark Blinch (Getty Images)

Gavin is one of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @_tramps

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