Say what you want about Chris Davis, but he certainly was consistent. For 54 straight at bats, the Orioles knew exactly what to expect from Davis— and what not to expect. Davis’s streak was surely an anomaly, but it perfectly epitomized what has become of the $161-million man. At this point, the Orioles know that “Crush” Davis is long gone.
While the Orioles work their way through the first stage of a rebuild, they’re tasked with identifying which players hold value long term, and who can contribute right now. Unfortunately, this year’s club is filled with players who may flash talent, but are difficult to count on moving forward.
The silver lining of the rebuild is there’s no pressure to make these decisions right away. The reality is, most bad teams have players that don’t play to their potential. There can always be an overachiever in the bunch too.
The Orioles starting rotation surely fits the bill. David Hess made national headlines when he held the Blue Jays hitless into the seventh inning on April 1. The 25-year-old had not looked that dominant at the Major League level at any point prior to his first start of 2019. How did he follow his career performance? Five innings, four runs, and three home runs allowed in a loss against New York.
On April 12, Hess allowed three runs over 5.2 innings in a loss at Boston. This is likely where Hess will settle in. The Orioles will gladly take Hess pitching into the sixth and only allowing three runs. Even if they don’t win a lot of those games.
Dan Straily has continued the Jeckyll and Hyde narrative early for Baltimore. In his first start, Straily was rocked by Oakland for five runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings. Not ideal. However, Straily surprised everyone with five strong innings of two-hit ball against the defending champion Boston Red Sox his last time out.
Straily holding the Sox hitless through four, and surviving the fifth, was difficult to see coming. And yet, it happened. Does he have more outings like this left in the tank? Your guess is as good as mine. Baltimore signed Straily on April 5 to a Major League deal, which meant they expected him to perform like a Major League starter. He’s capable of doing that.
Wade Miley, Jeremy Hellickson and Scott Feldman have made it difficult to expect much from “veteran inning eaters” over the years, but Straily could be different. Only time will tell.
In a 162-game season, it’s difficult to make any type of judgement in the middle of April. Hitters have had the chance to show more than pitchers at this point, and a few have really impressed.
Tyler Young wondered out loud whether the new Trey Mancini is here to stay. It’s a great question, and one that only time will answer. Young pointed out that Mancini has been more patient at the plate, and that can carry over long term. Can his high ratio of fly-balls to home runs continue at this rate? Probably not. But if his numbers better resemble his rookie year than the first half of 2018, the Birds will have a legitimate threat in the heart of the order.
Jonathan Villar has never hit better than .285, but his 21 hits in 17 games are good for an even .300 batting average. Villar has the ability to get on base, and to swipe a few once he’s there. There’s a good chance he continues to look better than Jonathan Schoop, but will he maintain this level of success atop the order? The Orioles certainly hope so.
After serving as the model of consistency in the bullpen, Richard Bleier has found himself back on the injured list. There might be something to be said about that too. The Orioles replaced him with Tanner Scott, who fits the role of a great talent who has underperformed.
No ones holding their breath for the elusive “complete season” from Dylan Bundy. He may just be homer happy at this point. Alex Cobb on the other hand, will be back on the mound on Friday and still has the chance to build on a strong second half in 2018.
Again, it’s difficult to cast judgement this early in the season. But the Orioles need players to separate themselves from the pack, and the only way to do that is continued success. Mancini and Villar can do it by continuing their strong play, but the starters must string some strong outings together before they can be taken seriously.