Take a moment to think about the Orioles current lineup. If the season began today, which nine guys would be called upon to start? There’s some familiar faces in that group and probably a few unknowns.
It’s already been established that Baltimore will not be in contention this season, and they likely will not be very active in the free agent market. This rebuild is going to take a while, and the Birds are going to attempt to build from within.
The Orioles will also be active in the trade market. Come the end of July, several players that are currently on the roster will be replaced with lottery-ticket prospects and some hope for the future. That being said, as we look forward to September, who will the Birds be trotting out there every evening at the end of the year?
Catcher: Chance Sisco
Ideally, this will be the year that Chance Sisco comes into his own behind the plate. The word “ideally” will be thrown around a lot with this lineup, because it depends on players doing two things — staying healthy, and living up to their potential.
The Orioles’ second-round pick in 2013 did not provide the Orioles much to be excited about last season. Despite the idea that his bat was ahead of his glove, Sisco hit only .181 in 63 games and reached base at a .288 clip. Imagine how bad his glove must be...
Sisco will certainly be a candidate to benefit from the new analytics department in Baltimore. The Corona, California, native was drafted out of high school and has spent his entire career in the Orioles system. He’ll likely be provided a few resources that he was never privy to before.
Sisco certainly has a better bat than he showed last year, and this will be another opportunity to improve his defense. He’s ready to play right now, and with Caleb Joseph no longer around, he’ll split the starts with Austin Wynns.
Designated Hitter: Chris Davis
This one may generate a few shrugs and eye rolls, but the best case for Baltimore at DH in 2019 is Chris Davis bouncing back to some capacity. His contract makes him unmovable, and the sunk cost of his albatross deal makes it too difficult to simply cut the guy.
What does a successful season look like for Davis? Probably anywhere over a .200 batting average and surpassing 20 home runs. If the guy could double his HR and RBI totals from last year, he’d hit 32 bombs and drive in 98 runs. Is it likely? Nope. But we’re still throwing around that word ideal.
First Base: Trey Mancini
A great deal of fans would love to see Trey Mancini leave left field behind and return to his natural position. With Mark Trumbo a likely trade candidate, Mancini should be able to reclaim his spot at first by the end of the year. After the sophomore slump grabbed ahold of him last season, he used a strong second half to reestablish his presence in Baltimore’s lineup.
There’s the potential for a break out in 2019. After tallying 24 home runs the last two years, Mancini could reach 30 this season. He showed an ability to hit for average in his rookie year (.293), and worked 11 more walks (44) last year than he did in 2017.
Second Base: Jonathan Villar
Currently listed as the number one option on the Orioles depth chart at shortstop and second base, the question isn’t if Villar will start, it’s where? Villar has shown an ability to perform at each position, and he should provide at least serviceable defense at either one.
Acquired from the Brewers for the now non-tendered Jonathan Schoop, Villar conducted himself well in Baltimore last year. His .336 OBP was a welcomed site for the Orioles, and he stole 21 bases in 24 games. This may simply come down to who else the Orioles acquire, or how Baltimore’s Rule-Five selection plays in spring training.
Shortstop: Richie Martin
The Orioles selected Richie Martin with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft just a few weeks ago. The former Oakland product will be given the opportunity to compete for the shortstop position, and ideally, he’ll take advantage.
Martin hit .300/.368/.439 at Double-A in the Athletics system last year. The jump to the American League East won’t be an easy one, but Baltimore will need to keep him on the roster if they want to keep him in the organization. Since Martin immediately became the Orioles 13th ranked prospect, there will be motivation to keep him on the roster and in the system.
Third Base: Renato Núñez
He’s not Chris Davis, but Nunez also probably won’t generate a ton of enthusiasm at the hot corner. That being said, the guy earned a chance to be the guy in 2019. The Orioles claimed Nunez off of waivers on May 13, 2018. In 60 games, he hit .275 and held a .336 OBP.
It’s no coincidence that shortstop and third base are probably the two biggest question marks in the post-Machado era. Nunez won’t win a Platinum Glove this year, and he needs to improve his defense, but he’ll likely be the best option until Ryan Mountcastle addresses his own defensive concerns in the minor leagues.
Outfield: Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart and Austin Hays
The reality is, outside of Cedric Mullins, it’s a guessing game regarding who will be getting starts in the Orioles outfield come September. The Birds are flush with young outfield prospects, and ideally, a few of them will pan out. Mullins established last year that he’s the organization’s center fielder moving forward.
Austin Hays is due for a bounce back after a disappointing and injury-plagued 2018. Hays tore up the Eastern League at Double-A in 2017 before getting the call to Baltimore. In 20 games, he continued to flash some potential at the major league level. Hays should be ready for spring training after issues with his ankle sidelined him for a majority of last year.
Hays will compete with Stewart, and eventually Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna for playing time in the corners. Any of those guys could find themselves patrolling the grass at Camden Yards by the end of the year.
Will this be the Orioles lineup on September 1? Absolutely not. Free agents will be signed, other players may be traded, injuries will take place and some players won’t seize their opportunities. That being said, we’re all going to be doing a lot of looking to the future over the next few years. Why not start now?
Is there anyone that should be in Baltimore by September this year? How about anyone that certainly won’t be wearing black and orange by the end of the season? Let us know in the comments below!