If all had gone according to plan in 2020, we would now be about a month into the Orioles season. Instead, the only versions of Orioles baseball that exist this year are the ones that are playing out in simulations and in video games. Starting today, one of the imaginary versions of the Orioles will reside here on Camden Chat, with thanks to the developers of Out of the Park Baseball for providing me with a free copy for this purpose.
OOTP is a baseball management simulation game that offers would-be managers a place to get deep into the nitty gritty of not only setting lineups, but deciding when to shift, when to have a runner try to steal, when to put in a new pitcher or a pinch-hitter, and the like. It also offers would-be GMs the chance to run an entire franchise all the way down to the lowest levels of the minors, making trades, negotiating draft picks, and even doing salary arbitration if you want to play for that long.
These levels of extreme detail are not of interest to me. The question I’d like to use the OOTP sim to answer is, “What would the 2020 Orioles have looked like if the coronavirus never came along?”
Since it’ll be more fun if we’re all involved, my goal is to regularly check in and get the community’s input for making decisions like who should replace an injured player, when a struggling reliever should get released, and if we’re lucky, when a prospect should be brought up. We are, collectively, both the general manager and the manager of the team.
Neither one quite answers my question of how the 2020 Orioles would have looked. The B-Ref sim began by chucking Asher Wojciechowski to the curb and filled out the Orioles rotation with scrap heap signings: Aaron Sanchez, Kyle Lloyd, and Keyvius Sampson. Since the sim’s starting roster had Keegan Akin assigned to Frederick, B-Ref treated him as a non-prospect and released him. It’s neat, but it’s not what the 2020 Orioles were going to be.
At The Athletic, where longtime O’s beat guy Dan Connolly is making the decisions, the O’s roster decisions have been made with a bit more personal care. This included Opening Day roster inclusions for prospects including Dean Kremer and Ryan Mountcastle. Also neat, but not what the 2020 Opening Day Orioles roster was going to be.
Simulated Peter Angelos welcomes us, his newly-hired general manager and manager, by setting a goal that the O’s should play close to .500 ball this season. He will be disappointed. The joke’s on him. I have set the game so that we cannot be fired.
There’s a day 1 trade proposal waiting for us. It seems the simulated Athletics are offering Khris Davis, plus 80% of his salary, for Renato Nunez. If I was just goofing off, I’d take this trade because the Khris/Chris Davis combo would be fun. Assistant GM Mike Elias (sorry about the fake demotion) said, “This is not really close to being fair.” Not happening in real life. Rejected.
I’ve gone ahead and done a lot of the tedious work of trying to approximate the current state of the Orioles. The game’s default rosters were... a little confused. For instance, Adley Rutschman was, by default, a first baseman at Bowie. I’ve set him back to catcher and put him in Frederick.
Grayson Rodriguez was set to repeat Delmarva. Zac Lowther, Bruce Zimmermann, and Kremer were all assigned to Bowie. The game’s minor league report suggests Akin, Kremer, and Wells are all “probably overmatched at Triple-A” and I am ignoring that, but if the sim thinks they can’t hack it, then their results could be poor.
For our small but extremely dedication segment of fans of Toby Welk, the 21st round pick who OPSed .897 after being assigned to Aberdeen last year, I’ve manually assigned Welk to Delmarva and made sure the AI won’t demote him without my permission.
There were even 40-man roster oddities. Michael Baumann was for some reason already on the Orioles and ticketed for the #5 spot back in the rotation. His morale is “very unhappy” after I sent him down to Bowie. Sorry, Michael. Do well and you’ll be back. Players like Mountcastle and Ryan McKenna were off the 40-man roster. I’ve added them and done my best to assign everyone to a correct level down to the High-A Frederick level.
I’ve also placed both Evan Phillips and Trey Mancini on the 60-day injured list. The game doesn’t think they need to miss that long, but I think in the real world they would have.
Who was going to be in the Orioles rotation, and in what order?
I think that we were heading towards a Means, Cobb, Wojciechowski, LeBlanc, Milone rotation. Do you think any differently? I could be talked into squeezing Kohl Stewart in there.
What were the Orioles going to do with Chris Davis?
Particularly after he was good in spring training action, I don’t think he was just going to be riding the pine. We have the choice to make him the starter only against righties, or to make sure he’s in the lineup most days.
What was the bench going to look like?
The existing Orioles roster in OOTP had a bench that included Ramon Urias, Jose Rondon, and Cedric Mullins. In the real world, Mullins was optioned to the minors even before spring training halted. Rondon can play anywhere in the infield. Urias has chiefly played second base in the minors. The new 26-man roster leaves room for a bench with a fourth outfielder, a utility infielder, the backup catcher, and one other player.
Assuming the Orioles weren’t going to rush any prospects, choices available in the minors include Richie Martin, Stevie “Dr. Poo Poo” Wilkerson, Pat Valaika, and Andrew Velazquez. Martin and Velazquez are on the 40-man already. Wilkerson and Valaika were removed from it over the offseason.
Were there going to be any platoons on the roster?
If 2019 was any indication, the Orioles weren’t going to have Chance Sisco be the starter with Pedro Severino only catching day games after night games. More likely the other way around. How should we set it up for the sim?
Are there any other spots you think should be platooned? Hanser Alberto was so much better against lefties last season, but it’s not like he’s blocking a prospect or anything. I figure he was an every day player.
Your favorite less-known prospect
If there’s anyone I haven’t mentioned yet who you want to know where he is, just leave a comment and I’ll let you know.
I’m currently planning to do a week’s worth of games at a time, possibly less if some major injury occurs, and then do a post updating on what happened with any questions presented by injuries or performance. I’ll post an update on Tuesdays and Thursdays until we get caught up to the calendar.
If there’s anything you think would be cool to know as the sim goes along, just tell me what’s on your mind and I’ll see what I can do. As a baseball writer when there’s no baseball, I’ve got time on my hands.