The Orioles are reeling with six losses in their last seven games. Struggles at the plate have left Baltimore unable to overcome some underwhelming starts and a middle-relief crisis. Things have certainly felt better in Birdland.
Plenty of good teams stumble for a stretch during a 162-game season. The All Star break should provide the Orioles an opportunity to hit the reset button, but the Birds still have five games before the intermission.
Mark Brown recapped the latest disappointment and mentioned that the Orioles have failed to score more than three runs in 11 of their last 18 games. Baltimore’s lack of pitching depth has been well documented this season, but the bats have mostly avoided any long term criticism.
Well, the spotlight has come for the offense. The Orioles still have high hopes for this season, but nobody should expect the team to win 2-1 games on a routine basis. The current blueprint requires Baltimore’s offense to overcome a few long balls from starters and a bullpen adventure before Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista slam the door.
The Orioles deserve credit for their 29 come-from-behind victories this season. The offense has demonstrated resilience all year, but there’s no doubt that the current group could use a spark. Where is it going to come from?
MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported last night that Colton Cowser was traveling to New York. Cowser has slashed a ridiculous .330/.459/.537 at Norfolk this season, and the 23-year-old is chomping at the bit for a chance to help the big league club.
It’s not immediately clear where Cowser will play. Austin Hays just earned his first All Star appearance, while Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander represent franchise cornerstones. Could Santander’s time in the outfield be coming to an end?
Cowser aside, the Orioles need some of their veteran players to step up. Cedric Mullins has only five hits since returning from the injured list on June 24. The former All Star is 1-for-12 so far this month and has yet to record an extra-base hit since the injury.
Mullins tallied only one hit in 11 plate appearances during a brief three-game rehab stint at Norfolk. Nobody can blame the Orioles for rushing their center fielder back to the major league level, and he has looked healthy when chasing a fly ball or hustling down the base lines, Still, he has yet to turn it on at the dish.
Mullins may never go 30/30 again, but there’s no question that he can contribute at a higher clip. Baltimore’s best opportunity for an offensive jolt likely rests in Mullins’ hands.
Ryan Mountcastle, another player looking to turn things around, remains on a rehab assignment at Triple-A. Mountcastle’s bout with vertigo has placed another wrinkle on a somewhat disappointing season for the slugger.
Mountcastle holds a below average 89 OPS+ over 60 games this season. He still ranks second on the team with 11 homers, but his 64/12 strikeout/walk ratio leaves plenty to be desired.
Mountcastle has faced the same critiques that he’s heard throughout his tenure in Baltimore. The 26-year-old ranks in the top 10 percent of the league in barrel percentage but falls in the bottom five percent for walks. He sits in the bottom two percent in chase rate and strikes out more than 65 percent of hitters.
It’s impossible for the public to know how the vertigo has impacted Mountcastle at the plate. The Orioles are providing an extended rehab assignment to help work out kinks at the plate.
Mountcastle will likely never boast a league average K/BB ratio, but he remains a hitter who can change the game with one swing of the bat. A focused and healthy Mountcastle can help the Orioles win games in the second half. The first baseman has split duties with Trey Mancini in the past, and there’s reason to believe he could handle a time share with Ryan O’Hearn.
Mullins and Mountcastle represent the best veteran options for Baltimore, but perhaps the young guys will save the day. Jordan Westburg has looked the part of a big league hitter in his first six games. The 24-year-old appears to possess a two-strike approach beyond his years, and his strikeouts and walks are even through 22 plate appearances.
Westburg’s ability to play second and third should provide extra opportunities for the youngster. He hit all but one of his 18 minor league home runs against righties this year, but he still managed a nearly equal .365 on-base percentage against southpaws. Westburg may not possess the same power potential as Mountcastle or even Mullins, but the former first-round pick certainly appears capable of setting the table.
Westburg, Cowser, and other youngsters have the potential to help the lineup. But they can’t do it alone.