Sunday, March 3, 2019

Baltimore Orioles 2019 season preview

Richard Bleier. Photo from Baltimore Sun

           Everything that could have gone wrong for the Baltimore Orioles in 2018 went wrong, and the team ended up in last place in the majors, a whopping 61 games back of the first place Red Sox. Knowing he was on his way out at the season's end, GM Dan Duquette had a fire sale at the trade deadline, dealing the eventual $300 million man Manny Machado, plus Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Darren O'Day and Jonathan Schoop. He was replaced by Mike Elias, who brought in Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde to replace manager Buck Showalter. And worst of all, they still have a below average farm system. As Elias' tenure begins, days have been brighter in Baltimore.

          Offseason additions: SS Alcides Escobar, INF Rio Ruiz, RHP Nate Karns, INF Hanser Alberto

          Offseason subtractions: INF Tim Beckham, C Caleb Joseph, OF Adam Jones, OF Craig Gentry, 1B Pedro Alvarez, 3B Danny Valencia

           Rotation
No pitcher that made multiple starts for the O's in 2018 had an ERA better than 4.43, which belonged to Kevin Gausman, who thrived after a trade out of town. The next best is David Hess' 4.88, in 12 starts and five more relief appearances. Hess will be a 4th or 5th starter this year for Baltimore. Dylan Bundy had a rough 2018, leading the MLB in home runs allowed (41), and the AL in losses (16), in a career high 172 innings. He is still their "ace". Alex Cobb is back after a 2.56 ERA after the all-star break, with three years left on his contract. Andrew Cashner had a 5.29 ERA in 2018, but is still their third starter. Yefry Ramirez, Josh Rogers and Jimmy Yacabonis are fighting for the 5th spot.

             Bullpen
The biggest bright spot for the O's in 2018 was set-up man Richard Bleier, who for the third straight season had a sub 2.00 ERA, for a career 1.97 mark. Unfortunately, he couldn't stay healthy and lat surgery could have him miss the start of the year. Mychal Givens converted nine save attempts when Britton, Brach and O'Day were traded, and will start the season as closer. Paul Fry and Miguel Castro posted decent numbers, and Mike Wright Jr. and Tanner Scott return.

             Catching
Chance Sisco was one of the league's top catching prospects, and when given a major league chance, he was abysmal, with a .181 average, and two home runs in 63 games. Backup Caleb Joseph was non-tendered, and defensive specialist Austin Wynns enters camp as the catching favorite, after impressing with a .255 average and four homers in 42 games.

              Infield
First baseman Chris Davis, who had one of the league's worst contracts in baseball entering the season, turned in arguably the worst season in major league history, with a .168 average and 192 strikeouts in 470 ABs, stinking up first base. After being acquired for Schoop, Villar stole 21 bases and hit .258 with eight home runs, and enters the season as possibly the team's best player. Renato Nunez, who hit .275 with seven home runs in 60 games with Baltimore, was a bright spot down the stretch and the third base favorite. Rule 5 pick Richie Martin, Breyvic Valera and Steve Wilkerson are competing for the SS job.

              Outfield
Trey Mancini, a natural first baseman, is still stuck in left field because of Davis, and is one of the  team's only 20 home run threat. Cedric Mullins is a really good fielder and base-runner, and even pushed longtime center fielder Adam Jones to right field in September. Former first round pick DJ Stewart and Joey Rickard fight for the RF job, but Rickard is better as a fourth outfielder.

              DH/Bench
The O's are hoping for a bounce-back year for power hitter DH Mark Trumbo, who hit 47 home runs in 2016, so they can flip him at the deadline. On the bench are Sisco, who is likely the backup catcher, Valera or Martin, depending on the SS winner, utility man Steve Wilkerson, and Rickard. Corner infielder Rio Ruiz is also an option.

              Lineup
CF Cedric Mullins
2B Jonathan Villar
LF Trey Mancini
DH Mark Trumbo
3B Renato Nunez
1B Chris Davis
RF DJ Stewart
SS Breyvic Valera
C Austin Wynns

              Rotation
Dylan Bundy (R)
Alex Cobb (R)
Andrew Cashner (R)
David Hess (R)
Yefry Ramirez (R)

              Bullpen
Mychal Givens (R)
Richard Bleier (L)
Miguel Castro (R)
Paul Fry (L)
Tanner Scott (L)
Mike Wright Jr. (R)
Jimmy Yacabonis (R)/Pedro Araujo (R)

              Bench
C Chance Sisco
UT Steve Wilkerson
SS Richie Martin
OF Joey Rickard

              Additional information:
Ballpark: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Manager: Brandon Hyde
GM: Mike Elias
World Series Championships: 3
2018 record: 47-115

              Steal of the Decade
Mark Trumbo had hit at least 22 home runs four times in his five career seasons, including 22 in 2015, 13 of which came with the Seattle Mariners. But, the team deciding to trade Trumbo and reliever C.J. Riefenhauser to Baltimore for catcher Steve Clevenger prior to the 2016 season. Clevenger would play in 22 games with Seattle in 2016, hitting .221 with one home run, before a couple of racist tweets had him suspended, and out of major league baseball for good. On the other hand, Riefenhauser never pitched for Baltimore, but in Trumbo's first season, he hit an MLB leading 47 home runs. Though he has hit just 40 combined the last two seasons, he is still a good power hitter and way better than Clevenger.

               Prediction
Yes, things in Baltimore will slowly get better. But, the next couple of seasons of the rebuild will be the worst, and the team will struggle. Almost everyone will be surprise if the Orioles don't finish last in the AL East in 2019.

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