Let’s face it — 2018 is not the Orioles year. You might have known that before the season even started or perhaps within the first week. But for all of us — even the ones with a bit of an optimistic point of view — it’s becoming very clear that this year’s version of the Orioles is not a postseason contender.
If last night’s game didn’t show you that, I’m not sure what will.
With that being said, it’s only May 9. We’re just a fraction of the way into the season and there isn’t a chance for this team to make the playoffs (statistics be overruled). As that is the case, what are we supposed to do for the rest of the way?
Of course, we’ll watch. We’ve been through some bad seasons and while this one seems to be particularly brutal, it’s still Orioles baseball. Nonetheless, we need something, anything, to hold onto to help us maintain optimism during the tough stretch. With that said, here are four “notables” to keep tracking as the season moves on that have value for this season and beyond.
What happens with Machado’s big season?
Perhaps lost in the continuous losing streak is the massive season being had by Manny Machado. Piling up an early 1.054 OPS, he’s having a big year in one that you might say is of a bit of particular importance. For Machado, things couldn’t be going better. But you have to wonder what the Orioles brass thinks about their plans for his future in a very uncertain state.
The July trade deadline is approaching (maybe not fast enough). There’s going to be a contender ready to make a deal. The better he performs, the better the chances that the return is significant.
The Orioles might be bad. But this storyline is the most important of the lost season. Even if the wins don’t pile up over the next few months, Machado piling on good games is only a good thing in more ways than one.
Where does Sisco fit into the long-term plan?
Another guy of big-picture importance is Chance Sisco, who is getting his first real extended look with mixed results. He hasn’t been perfect, but it’s difficult to expect anything close to perfection in Sisco’s first opportunities. The Orioles will be patient with him, something that will be vital to his success.
This season has been rough, but it could be a bit of a blessing in disguise for Sisco. There’s no pressure to perform at the plate with this lineup. For now, he’s getting valuable big-league reps in a season that is only headed in one direction.
Sisco’s season can be enjoyable to watch when framed in the right way. Don’t think of this as a need-to-perform campaign. Rather, hope that he can continue his development in both areas to become a valuable long-term option.
Can Gausman continue to improve?
Gausman’s early performance has been one of the lone bright spots for the pitching this season. Through 43.2 innings, he’s compiled a 1.15 WHIP and opposing batters have hit just .228 against him. He’s allowed a few more home runs than you’d like, but overall it’s been an impressive season.
For the future, this will be an interesting season to track Gausman’s development. Every year, we want to say that it’s going to be “the one” where he finally figures things out and gets on track to become one of the team’s top arms. Can this be that season? If nothing else, it’s worth keeping that in perspective. At some point, you’d imagine “that season” has to roll around.
The prospects to track
Here’s the part we (maybe just I) know and love so much. If this season doesn’t produce anything up in the big-leagues, at least we have the prospects to make an impact down on the farm. This might be a bit more exciting section once July rolls around, but for now, there at least exists watchable talent.
Courtesy of our minor-league recaps, we can check in on guys like Austin Hays, who has stumbled out of the gate but appears primed to make an impact in the bigs sooner rather than later. There are also the likes of D.L. Hall and Brenan Hanifee, both 19, who have started the year in Delmarva with success and are worthy of following for the future.
The point is simple — there’s not nothing to be excited about in 2018. You might have to work a bit harder, but there’s plenty to keep an eye out for as the year rolls along.