When a team holds a 22-57 record at the end of June, its lineup is going to have some holes in it. It’s no secret that the Orioles 25-man roster contains several players that could not hack it on a World Series contender. That being said, there are players on this club worth keeping around.
With winning out of the question, this season serves as an audition for the future. A few of these guys may end up playing for the next winning club in Baltimore, while some are simply trying to prove they belong at the Major League level. The Orioles are taking a long, hard look at these guys and trying to make sense of them. Right now, a chunk of the guys can be broken into three categories.
Keep it up
While the team play has been dreadful, a few Orioles have put together an impressive first half. Baltimore’s All-Star candidate Trey Mancini has emerged as a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. Mancini holds a .305 batting average, up 63 points from last year, and has already clubbed 17 home runs.
Mancini leveled off a bit in May, and some skeptics were left wondering if his hot start was simply, well, a hot start. But the 27-year-old has bounced back in a big way this month. In 19 June games, the Notre Dame product has slashed .324/.413/.632. As the Baltimore Sun recently noted, he may be the best first-inning hitter in the game, and he’s produced with very little protection from the heart of the Orioles lineup.
Dylan Bundy holds a 3-9 record, but he’s been the rock of this Orioles lineup. As Andrea SK noted in the Orioles-Padres series preview, Bundy holds a 3.46 ERA through his last nine starts. He’s one of the only starters guaranteed to make it through a lineup twice, and he gives the club at least a chance to win. Unfortunately for Bundy, his club doesn’t win very often. Still, the righty looks like a middle of the rotation guy in the AL East. The Orioles also have John Means, who when healthy, has been the best story in Baltimore this season.
Some have wondered if Hanser Alberto can continue to succeed atop the Orioles lineup with such a low differential between his batting average and on-base percentage. Alberto, the Orioles current leadoff hitter, has hit .307 and holds a .328 OBP. He’s walked only seven times in 240 plate appearances, If Alberto can keep his average above .300 throughout the year, the Orioles cannot ignore it. But if the 26-year-old starts to struggle, his patience will be called into question.
Time to step it up
When the season began, Mychal Givens was considered to be the Orioles most valuable trade chip. On a club bereft of talent after Dan Duquette’s fire sale last season, Baltimore had what just about any contender would be willing to pay for in this day and age— a quality, late-inning reliever. Not to mention, a reasonably priced arm.
Givens value has plummeted after pitching to a 0-4 record with a 5.23 ERA. While the Orioles haven’t won many games, his six saves in 2019 fall below even the most modest expectations. In a season when Baltimore has been forced to lean on it’s bullpen, Givens, along with others, has disappointed.
The same could be said for just about every Baltimore reliever. Richard Bleier has battled injuries, but his 6.75 ERA through nine games also falls way short of expectations. While it was never fair to expect a fourth consecutive year with a sub-two ERA, sub-four wasn’t out of the question.
The Orioles control Givens through 2021 and Bleier through 2022. If they don’t bounce back by July, the Orioles don’t have to sell low on the two relievers. Still, their cost-controlled contracts are their highest selling points when they’re putting up numbers like this.
Just stay healthy
It would be fair to assume that a player hitting under .200 would fall into the “step it up” category, but that’s not the case for Richie Martin. The first pick of the 2019 Rule-5 draft has been tasked with an extremely difficult jump, and the 24-year-old has predictably struggled at the plate. Very few players can move from Double-A to the Majors and produce right away, and Martin is not in that category.
With the Orioles committed to keeping Martin around, they need the shortstop to stay healthy. If Martin were to go down with a season-ending injury, the Orioles would be forced to keep him on the 25-man roster at the beginning of next year. For the sake of Martin’s development, and roster flexibility, the Orioles will want to be able to option Martin in 2020.
To his credit, Martin has not let his offensive struggles impact his defense at shortstop. It’s difficult to imagine him getting any worse at the plate, and maybe his home run last night was a sign of better things to come.
The Orioles also need Andrew Cashner to stay healthy. Not only are the Birds desperate for starting pitching, but Cashner has quietly turned himself into a commodity at the trade deadline. His 7-3 record may be the product of some good luck, but Cashner has been an above average pitcher in the American League this season.
Cashner’s 4.37 and 1.31 WHIP may look better when they’re being compared to Dan Straily or David Hess, but Cashner can help a contender down the stretch. An injury to the Texas native would be extremely detrimental to the Orioles trading block.
All 25 players cant be broken into just three categories. The Orioles would love to see Renato Núñez hit for power, but his .291 OBP could certainly improve. Dwight Smith Jr. has pounced on fastballs and driven in 42 runs, but his .259 average is 10 points below his career mark. Pedro Severino has crushed left-handed pitching and has earned starts at DH when he’s not behind the plate, but he could show a little more consistency. Obviously, the Orioles hope every player stays healthy.
Some players just are who they are. Chris Davis will never live up to his contract, and Keon Broxton won’t suddenly turn into a .300 hitter. Are you expecting a turn around for any of the struggling Orioles? Let us know in the comments below!