One of the things that Orioles fans have had to accept over the course of the disastrous 2018 season is that the next good Orioles team is going to look a lot different than the last good Orioles team. An easier thing to realize from watching the team since the big trades began during the All-Star break is that the next good O’s team is also going to look different than the Orioles of right now.
The big question that the Orioles themselves are going to have to get a handle on is this: What is the next good Orioles team going to look like? We can only hope that whoever ends up in charge of the team is honest about the outlook for the franchise and does not attempt to do anything short-sighted to undermine any of the rebuilding effort that has begun so far.
Those who endured through the dark years of the Orioles in the not-too-distant past will be hoping that we are not in for another fourteen years in the wilderness. By the time the 2012 Orioles emerged, they had been bad for such a long time that only one player from that team had been playing the last time the O’s were good. This turned out to be July acquisition and future Hall of Famer Jim Thome.
Are any of the key players of the next good Orioles team on the MLB roster right now? If the Orioles are able to right the ship within three years, the answer to this question could be yes, although it won’t be very many. Even guys like Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens will be about to be free agents in 2021. The longer the team’s fortunes go without improving, the more likely those players, too, are traded.
The Orioles would probably like to believe that they can stitch together their next competitive team out of players who are already in the organization. This is not impossible. It is also not very likely, as it would require the Orioles to have a significant number of their existing stable of prospects becoming useful big leaguers, with at least a couple of them breaking out into star talent.
We have heard a lot over the last month about how the Orioles are going to invest in areas they have been neglecting recently. These include scouting, particularly international scouting and signings, analytics, and technology.
All of these are good things to receive investment from the team. They are not overnight solutions. I hope that the kind of bottoming-out endured by the Astros, who lost 106+ games each year from 2011-13 is not necessary for the O’s. Maybe it will be. Yet even if the O’s pick at #1 or #2, and even if they get a good player, they are unlikely to get any contributions from these future high draft picks before 2021.
Suppose the Orioles are lucky enough to draft a Manny Machado-level star, for instance. Machado was drafted in 2010 and only debuted when he did because the Orioles were going for it in 2012. And that’s only if the O’s hit on the draft picks as much as the Astros, who nabbed Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman with top two picks and George Springer with a top ten. Their championship doesn’t happen without those players being good on the MLB team at the same time.
Whatever help the Orioles get from the international signings they say they are going to start making is even farther off into the future. With the possible exception of their reported interest in 22-year-old Cuban Victor Victor Mesa, the O’s are mostly going to be signing 16-year-olds in these deals.
Even if some work out, and even if they’re big league ready by age 21, that’s so far long in the future that even Chris Davis’s contract will be up by then. These young men, if they are future Orioles, will be contributing to a radically different Orioles team than the one we will be watching tonight and for the rest of the season.
It is not much fun to imagine that the next good Orioles team might be so far in the future that no one whose name we now know will be a part of that team. Any plan that goes much beyond three years down the road is going to fall into that category. It’s bleak enough thinking about bad baseball until 2021. Beyond that is thoroughly depressing.
With that in mind, here is a hypothetical roster for key parts of a 2021 Orioles team. Two key assumptions here are: that young players start showing enough promise in 2020 that the team doesn’t have the Bundy class of players joining the ranks of the traded; and that the Orioles will make no major free agent signings until they’ve already built a strong foundation.
Note that even as I present this scenario, I am not at all confident that this team could be a playoff caliber team.
- C - Chance Sisco
- 1B - Trey Mancini
- 2B -
- SS - Cadyn Grenier
- 3B - Ryan Mountcastle
Potential problems: Sisco’s best as a catcher may not be good enough. He may not have enough power to utilize his OBP skills at the MLB level. Mancini’s 2018 could be more representative of his performance than his 2017. The just-drafted Grenier may not be able to hit enough even to be a slick-gloved #9-batting shortstop. Mountcastle’s ability to play third base is not settled. He might get thrown below into the outfield mix.
Also, even in my attempt at an optimistic scenario for 2021, I have no idea who plays second base.
- LF - Austin Hays
- CF - Cedric Mullins
- RF - Yusniel Diaz
The outfield mix is not without its pitfalls as well. Can Mullins hit well enough to be a center fielder instead of a fourth outfielder? Will Hays rebound from this lost year into the form that rocketed him up prospect lists last season? Is the Cuban, Diaz, something close to his blistering performance from Double-A Tulsa when he was still in the Dodgers system?
What’s good for the Orioles here is they have extra choices. DJ Stewart might be able to hack it as a left fielder and should be a decent OBP option even if he mostly is a DH. Ryan McKenna broke out at Frederick this year and might be able to carry himself into this mix as well. And there’s always the chance of signing Mesa.
- Dylan Bundy
- Alex Cobb
- Keegan Akin
- Two guys from this list: DL Hall, Dillon Tate, Luis Ortiz, Hunter Harvey, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells, Michael Baumann
One thing we know from the not too distant past is you can throw a lot of names on a list for the rotation but that doesn’t mean you have depth. Many of these fellows at the bottom will wash out before throwing a big league pitch due to either injury or not being that good, and of the ones who do make it, some will be more like Tyler Wilson than like, say, Kevin Gausman.
Is Bundy ever going to have top of the rotation results? Cobb has an ERA closer to 6 than 5, and we’re left hoping his three good second half starts are more like his true self. Akin has walked 52 batters in 111.2 innings for Bowie, somewhat dampening his otherwise-impressive 116 strikeouts.
The rest are subject to the wild winds of the Orioles pitching development program, of which we do not even know who will be in charge. Are the people there responsible for Harvey getting hurt? For Bundy and Gausman never living up to their hoped-for potential? Will they be shuffled off and replaced with anyone better?
In a lot of ways, it doesn’t matter who is in the bullpen because I just don’t believe that the bullpen is in any danger of sinking the 2021 Orioles. If the Orioles are good, the bullpen will somehow be good.
The relievers they received in their recent trades, Cody Carroll, Evan Phillips, and Zach Pop, will probably figure in. One or two failed starters from the above group might join the party. Branden Kline could be the newest late-bloomer to get a shot in the O’s pen. I don’t count Givens in the mix because he’ll either pitch better and get traded next July or he won’t pitch better and he’ll be gone from the picture.
This is as close to a best case scenario as exists for the Orioles right now and it’s really not that great. More likely it’s another year or two down the road. Whether the next good O’s team looks familiar or not, let’s just hope it’s not another 14 years worth of losing seasons before we see the next one.
When will the Orioles next have a better than .500 record?
This poll is closed
2025 or later