If you’ve taken the last week or so off from watching Orioles baseball, no one could blame you. Baltimore, while still lacking overall talent, has recently added mental miscues to its repertoire. Monday night’s contest against New York was especially difficult to take in, but as Drew Bonifant alluded to, it was not an isolated incident.
While winning a majority of games was always out of the question, it’s still fair to expect the Orioles to play the game the right way. It appears Baltimore has been dropping the ball, mentally and physically, at an increasing rate. One would hope that the fundamentals are being drilled into these young players, and they very well could be. But Baltimore could do better in the field, at the plate, and on the base paths.
With Trey Mancini still playing out of position, and Dwight Smith Jr.’s arm generating articles on other sites, the Orioles outfield leaves a lot to be desired. Nick Cicere pointed out yesterday that Stevie Wilkerson has been anything but a liability, but the Birds defense has resembled a patch job all season. Joey Rickard’s ability to play all three outfield positions holds value, but his batting average has been hovering right around the Mendoza line.
During a rebuild, it’s no surprise to see a variety of lineups and players rotating in and out of positions. There’s a very small chance that the Orioles outfield on the final game of the season will consist of Smith, Wilkerson and Rickard like it did Monday night. Trey Mancini will remain a part of the outfield rotation, and others will be joining the party soon,
Brandon Hyde recently told reporters that Mark Trumbo should be back in action soon. Trumbo has began playing simulated games at extended spring training in Sarasota, and he should be close to a rehab assignment barring a setback.
Hyde said the Orioles would be patient with Trumbo, but that he will likely work his way back to the plate and the field. That’s right, the field. The manager said it would be great if Trumbo could “potentially not only DH, but maybe play first or an outfield spot some nights.”
With Trumbo returning, the Orioles first base/designated hitter logjam will be back in full force. If Renato Nunez is still taking at bats at DH, Mancini will certainly be forced into the outfield. And with Chris Davis at first base, Trumbo could be too.
Trumbo in the outfield has always been, and would continue to be, less than ideal. He played only 19 games in right last season, and still managed a -5 Rtot (fielding runs above average). In nine seasons in the outfield, he holds a career -27 Rtot.
Some have suggested that its in the Orioles’ best interest to release Trumbo immediately, but that’s extremely unlikely to happen. When activated, Trumbo will immediately become one of the most tenured guys in the clubhouse. On top of that, he hit 17 home runs last season in only 90 games.
If the Orioles stuck with Chris Davis early on this year, they’re certainly going to give Trumbo a look. Whether or not he can drum up any trade value in the final year of his contract remains to be seen, but the Orioles won’t throw him away just to ensure Nunez more at bats at DH.
It’s unknown how Trumbo’s pending arrival could affect the promotion of DJ Stewart. Stewart conducted himself well in 17 games at the end of last season, but still has yet to see Major League action in 2019. After a slow start, he’s hitting .285/.400/.562 at Norfolk. He’s homered eight times in 38 games, after hitting only 12 in 116 games last season.
At 25 years old, Stewart has shown everything there is to show in the minors. The Orioles wanted Stewart to have regular at bats to start out the season, and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity. In his last 21 games, he’s hit .338/.448/.706 with 24 RBIs. It’s difficult to imagine his confidence rising any higher than it must be now, and it’s even harder to think his arm could be worse than Smith Jr.’s.
If Stewart could play center field, there’s no doubt that he’d already be in Baltimore. But because he’s only played the corners, the Orioles have to pick and choose with roster spots. There’s no point in bringing him up if he won’t play regularly, and its unclear when Hyde and Co. will be willing to do that.
Cedric Mullins, the Orioles opening day center fielder, figures to return at some point, but it could be a while. After converting on only 6-of-64 at bats at the big league level, the 24-year-old has hit .225/.310/.348 in 21 games at Norfolk. His defense remains Major League ready, although not elite, but he must produce a little more at the plate before another promotions.
Austin Hays homered Monday night during a rehab assignment at single-A Frederick. He’ll likely need some seasoning with the Tides, but if he hits, Hays could be fast tracked to Baltimore. His ability to play center field would be extremely valuable on this year’s club. Rickard, and Smith too for that matter, both have minor league options remaining. Although it will likely take Hays or Mullins to chase Rickard from the 25-man roster.
If the Orioles continue to trot out David Hess and Dan Straily every fifth day, they’re going to need players that can field the ball in the outfield. That, or guys that can get some runs back with one swing of the bat.
I could probably guess how many of you feel about Trumbo’s return, but let us know anyway. Feel free to throw in your ideal outfield for this year’s club in the comment section, and any bold predictions to go with them.