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Checking in on former Orioles players around the world

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The O’s are trending up, but it’s still fun to look up a few familiar faces and see how they are doing.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Seattle Mariners Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re anything like me —that is, possessing far too much Orioles-specific information for one’s own good— you take it upon yourself to ruin any baseball game you watch by pointing out any players that “used to play for the Orioles.” Why do you do this? It’s impossible to really know.

In honor of such impulses, why not jump in the wayback machine to remember some former Orioles and check in on how they are doing in their new homes? This will not be an all-inclusive list, and it won’t include any players that spent time in the O’s minor league system without getting to the majors with the organization. So, you won’t be reminded of how good Mike Yastrzemski has been in this article. Well, except, you kind of just were.

Anyway!

Before we get to the current MLBers, let’s head over to Asia, where several former Birds are plying their trade in the NPO and KBO.

The most high-profile of those players is Adam Jones. The longtime Orioles centerfielder was the face of the franchise for a decade. He spent 2019 with the Diamondbacks before inking a two-year, $8 million deal with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan. Unfortunately for Jones, his Buffalos are the worst team in the league, and his .255/.330/.417 batting line is not especially impressive.

A whole slew of former O’s are taking care of business in South Korea’s KBO. Hyun-soo Kim is crushing it with the LG Twins, having smacked 21 home runs and hitting .351/.412/.571 over 111 games. His teammate, Tyler Wilson, has been OK as he owns a 4.26 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but it is step back from his two previous KBO campaigns. NC Dinos hurler Mike Wright Jr. has a 4.13 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 123.2 innings. Dan Straily has been lights out for the Lotte Giants, just look at his 2.78 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 148.2 innings. But Aaron Brooks has been even better with his 2.50 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.

OK, let’s get back to MLB.

As it stands, most fans would probably be happy with where the Orioles starting rotation sits heading into 2021. But the current version of Dylan Bundy would make it better. His most recent start soured what had been a run of starts that had him in the Cy Young discussion. Even so, his 3.12 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 60.2 innings for the Angels has been impressive.

Elsewhere in California, Kevin Gausman has found his groove with the Giants. His strikeout rate is an absurd 11.62, a career-high mark. The former fourth overall pick of the O’s is due to hit free agency this winter and could be in line for a nice pay day.

A pair of guys who have struggled a bit in 2020 are Jake Arrieta and Wade Miley. Arrieta, the former Cy Young winner with the Cubs, is now in his third season as a member of the Phillies, but he looks like his back in an Orioles uniform given his 5.08 ERA. Miley is currently nursing a shoulder injury, but he has served up nine earned runs in just 12.1 innings.

There are plenty of former Orioles bullpen arms still working away throughout the major leagues.

Tommy Hunter has settled into a nice role with the Phillies pen, and he has a 4.29 ERA in 21 innings. Jimmy Yacabonis has appeared in two games for the Mariners. Richard Rodriguez has an obscene 12.66 K/9 rate in the Pirates ‘pen. Ryan Meisinger has two appearances with the Cardinals; same goes for Sean Gilmartin with the Rays. Nestor Cortes Jr. made it into five games with the M’s. T.J. McFarland has a 3.86 ERA in 21 games as a reliever for the Athletics. Chaz Roe and his slider has a 2.86 ERA prior to being placed on the Rays’ IL with an elbow injury. Another Rays pitcher, Oliver Drake, has been limited to just 8.1 innings by a biceps injury. And finally, Pedro Strop has had a tough season. He got into just four games with the Reds before he was released, and although the Cubs signed him at the start of the month he has since been shut down with a hip injury.

Brad Brach has bounced around the league a bit since the Orioles dealt him to the Braves in 2018. He spent time with the Cubs in 2019 and now finds himself has a member of the Mets, where he has allowed five earned runs in 12.1 innings while striking out 14. Darren O’Day is still with the Braves, where he has been dominant, striking out 12.21 per nine innings and allowing just one earned run in 14 innings pitched. But the most high-profile former Orioles reliever remains Zack Britton. He serves as Aroldis Chapman’s understudy with the Yankees, but still has eight saves and a 2.77 FIP across 17 innings.

The future behind the plate is bright in Birdland, but the recent past was pretty good too. Matt Wieters backs up Yadier Molina with the Cardinals as he seems to have re-discovered some of his defensive ability, but his .188/.278/.219 batting line is rough. Meanwhile, Caleb Joseph is on the Blue Jays taxi squad and has made his way into three games for them this season.

Christian Walker was always a good hitter through his time in the O’s minor league system, but his ability at the plate with the Diamondbacks has been surprising. He is at it again in 2020, posting what would be a career-best 117 wRC+.

One player that may have earned himself some money in this abbreviated season is Jonathan Schoop. He bounced back from a pair of underwhelming seasons to post a 114 wRC+ along with an improved 2.4 UZR in the field.

A guy who already got paid and is playing like it is Manny Machado. He has been fantastic for the exciting Padres. Machado is hitting .314/.376/.604 with 16 home runs and a 155 wRC+. He will receive and deserves serious MVP consideration.

A couple of other former Orioles infielders of note, Jonathan Villar and Jace Peterson, have had less memorable campaigns. Villar was dealt from the Marlins to the Blue Jays last month. All together he possesses a .241/.310/.307 line and is 12-for-17 in stolen base attempts. Peterson is playing in a utility role for the Brewers, and has a pretty wild 25.5% walk rate and a 29.8% strikeout rate.

Moving to former Orioles outfielders, Nelson Cruz continues to demolish opposing pitchers. His current 172 wRC+ with the Twins would be a career-high. The guy is 40 years old! Nick Markakis is back with the Braves after initially opting out of the season. He has been fine (.252/.314/.405) but clearly on the downside of his career. Markakis will be a free agent in the winter. Finally, Joey Rickard played in four games with the Giants before being placed on the IL with an elbow injury.

And let us conclude this jaunt down memory lane with the fellas that haven’t been ex-Orioles for long. These are the guys that left the club earlier this season.

Richard Bleier is with the Marlins now, and he still doesn’t strike anyone out (4.38 K/9). But he remains productive, owning a 2.92 ERA in 17 appearances for his new club.

Mychal Givens has another season to prove his worth. But it hasn’t happened yet. Across seven innings with the Rockies, the side-armer has allowed six earned runs and struck out just four batters.

Similarly, Miguel Castro has struggled with the Mets. His 5.21 xFIP is not ideal, but he has maintained a healthy 12.15 K/9 rate.

The Braves added Tommy Milone to eat innings. Through three starts, he has tossed just 9.2 innings because has has a 14.90 ERA. But he has perhaps been a bit unlucky considering his .486 opponent BABIP.

Sometimes it can be difficult to read through a list of the successes that former players are now having with different franchises. But it feels a bit better this season. Why? Well, much of that can be chalked up the Orioles front office. There is a plan in place, and the fruits of that labor are starting to show themselves on the big league stage. As long as that continues, the organization should be able to retain or make the most of the talent that passes through their farm rather than reading about their achievements years later while wearing a different uniform.