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Sizing up the Orioles competition for the #1 draft pick in 2020

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The Orioles are one of several not very good teams so far this year. Who’s got the edge for the #1 pick in 2020?

Baltimore Orioles v Chicago White Sox - Game Two Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The 2019 Orioles are not a very good baseball team. This fact has been on display in many of the games that they have played this season. There are those nights where they’re reminiscent of last year’s woeful Orioles, with the only difference being that no one, least of all O’s fans, expected any better from this year’s crew. The 2018 O’s performance netted the team the #1 pick in this June’s draft. How are their chances looking for #1 next season?

As things stand right now, the 11-21 Orioles don’t even have the worst record in MLB. The Marlins stand even worse at 9-21, while the Royals are just a touch ahead of the O’s with an 11-20 record so far this season. That’s the full list of teams currently below a .400 winning percentage. These are the teams “everyone” knew would be bad. So far, they’re bad.

Baltimore Orioles

We know the model. The Astros lost 100+ games in 2011, then a new GM regime came to town, a front office that included now-Orioles GM Mike Elias. They lost 100+ games for two more seasons and ascended from 51-111 in 2013 to 101-61 and a World Series title in 2017. For now, last place awaits.

  • Record: 11-21 (On pace for: 56-106)
  • Pythagorean record: 11-21 (expectation based on runs scored/allowed)
  • Fangraphs projected record: 60-102

What’s good

There aren’t many bright spots on this team, but there are some. Trey Mancini’s .342/.397/.596 batting line through 27 games has been fun to see play out. Here’s hoping his hand contusion recovery doesn’t slow him down. Dwight Smith Jr., acquired for international bonus slot money in spring training, has been a pleasant surprise, and Jonathan Villar and Renato Núñez have looked capable as well.

What’s not

Almost everything else. Orioles starters have the third-worst ERA in the league at 5.54, and that combined with their worst-in-MLB 6.27 ERA relievers has them as the worst staff in the league by ERA. There are many games where they have no more than one outfielder in his natural position. O’s batters have hit 35 home runs while their pitchers have given up 74. Nearly everyone who might have had trade value is playing poorly.

Hope for the rest of the year

Maybe by August there’s a potential better, or at least more exciting, version of the Orioles out there. If Austin Hays and Yusniel Diaz get healthy and force their way to the MLB roster, if Ryan Mountcastle stays healthy and does the same, if a more stable group of relievers can be found by shuffling the personnel from Norfolk and Bowie, the Orioles might not be as bad.

Miami Marlins

  • Record: 9-21 (On pace for: 49-113)
  • Pythagorean record: 8-22 (Pace: 43-119)
  • Fangraphs projected record: 62-100

What’s good

In the offseason, the Marlins traded their catcher, J.T. Realmuto, for a package of younger players including catcher Jorge Alfaro. The new Marlins catcher is batting .288/.345/.475 so far this season. The Marlins rotation has a bright spot in 27-year-old lefty Caleb Smith, sitting pretty with a 2.00 ERA through six starts, including 45 strikeouts and just nine walks in 36 innings pitched.

What’s not

Everything else. The Marlins have a quartet of starting pitchers with ERAs of 4.50 or higher, and that’s in the NL, mind you, when they’re facing pitchers. Their bullpen is almost as bad as the Orioles. The Marlins offense has scored the fewest runs of any MLB team, probably because their only above-average MLB hitters are Alfaro and Neil Walker. Outfielder Lewis Brinson, the hoped-for replacement they received when they traded Christian Yelich, had a .510 OPS and got demoted.

Hope for the rest of the year

What really stands out about these guys is how little potential there is among the position players. Five of the eight batters who’ve played the most are 29 or older. An Orioles fan can at least hope that maybe Rio Ruiz or Richie Martin becomes something. The Marlins have 38-year-old Curtis Granderson OPSing .694. Their oldest starting pitcher is just 27, though, and there are a pair of 23-year-olds in Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez. That group could improve.

Kansas City Royals

  • Record: 11-20 (On pace for: 58-104)
  • Pythagorean record: 14-17 (Pace: 73-89)
  • Fangraphs projected record: 68-94

What’s good

Perpetual “This is going to be his year!” guy Hunter Dozier is finally having it be his year. At age 27, he’s batting .337/.441/.663 so far. 35-year-old Alex Gordon is having a renaissance after three years of stinking, putting together a star-level .930 OPS to date. Young Adalberto Mondesi and not-young Whit Merrifield are also hitting well. Failed free agent starter Ian Kennedy has made the transformation into possible elite closer.

What’s not

The rotation is not, with four pitchers having an ERA over 5. The bullpen other than Kennedy is pretty bad. Also, not unlike the Orioles, the hitters who are not hitting well are hitting very, very badly. Six-time All-Star Salvador Perez had to have Tommy John surgery and will miss the whole season.

Hope for the rest of the year

The Royals do not have even a single prospect listed in the Fangraphs top 130 prospects list. They are not unlike the Orioles in that they tried to chase the good times a little too long, things fell apart somewhat in 2017 and then much more spectacularly in 2018, and now they’re still bad. They are unlike the Orioles in that their good times did include a World Series win.

Washington Nationals

Am I trolling by including this team in this list? Of course I am. It’s also a fact that the Nationals currently have the fourth-worst record in MLB at 12-17, so at this moment they’re in the race for the #1 pick in 2020. Sometimes a team that “everyone” thinks could be good and at least should be decent turns out to be bad.

  • Record: 12-17 (On pace for: 67-95)
  • Pythagorean record: 14-15 (Pace: 78-84)
  • Fangraphs projected record: 86-76

What’s good

The Nationals have a young outfield to be envied, with 20-year-old Juan Soto and 21-year-old rookie Victor Robles (the Fangraphs #5 prospect in all of MLB) holding their own so far this season. Third baseman Anthony Rendon is hitting like an MVP, batting .356/.442/.740 in 20 games. In the bullpen, Sean Doolittle and Kyle Barraclough have pitched very well, and in the rotation, three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer has a 2.14 FIP.

What’s not

Despite the good FIP, Scherzer has a 4.08 ERA and the Nationals are 1-6 in his starts. Rendon is on the injured list right now, though the Nats hope for the minimum 10 day stay. Nearly every other reliever has been awful, giving them an almost-as-bad-as-the-O’s 6.02 reliever ERA. Possibly washed-up Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson are each closer to a 6 ERA than a 5 ERA.

Hope for the rest of the year

The #18 Fangraphs prospect, Carter Kieboom, got promoted in the wake of Rendon getting injured. That’s got to be exciting. This is a team that should theoretically be able to reinforce its rotation and bullpen through trades, if they choose to go down that road. But while there’s some exciting young talent already here, there’s a lot of age 30+ guys who aren’t cutting it, and now that Robles and Kieboom have joined the party, there’s not much else on the farm waiting to help the 2019 club.

**

If the Orioles still look like they’re contenders for the #1 pick in next year’s draft by the time June rolls around, we’ll revisit this competition.

Poll

Who will end up with the #1 pick in the 2010 draft?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Royals
    (20 votes)
  • 53%
    Orioles
    (418 votes)
  • 42%
    Marlins
    (331 votes)
  • 1%
    Someone else
    (8 votes)
777 votes total Vote Now