- It's going to be a really bleak year in Baltimore.
2018 finish: 47-115, Fifth in AL East
SI's 2019 prediction: 57-105, Fifth in AL East
Key additions: C Jesús Sucre, SS, Richie Martin, RP Nate Karns
Key Departures: CF Adam Jones, C Caleb Joseph, INF Tim Beckham
1. CF Cedric Mullins
2. DH Dwight Smith Jr.
3. 2B Jonathan Villar
4. LF Trey Mancini
5. 3B Rio Ruiz
6. RF Joey RIckard
7. 1B Chris Davis
8. SS Richie Martin
9. C Jesús Sucre
C Pedro Severino
INF Hanser Alberto
INF/OF Drew Jackson
INF/OF Joey Rickard
RHP Dylan Bundy
RHP Andrew Cashner
RHP David Hess
RHP Mike Wright, Jr.
RHP Mychal Givens (closer)
LHP Richard Bleier
RHP Miguel Castro
LHP Paul Fry
LHP Tanner Scott
RHP Cody Carroll
RHP Nate Karns
Injured list: SP Alex Cobb, DH Mark Trumbo, C Austin Wynns
Movin' On Up!: Well, most of this team can only go up, but Mychal Givens could be a particular one to watch. This might sound counterintuitive; a quick glance at his stats from last year shows that his strikeouts went down while his walks and ERA spiked. Look a little closer, though. Givens was bumped into the closer’s spot after the trade deadline, and his numbers began to drastically improve. From August 4 through the end of the season, the righty posted a 1.90 ERA, holding hitters to a batting average of .090, with five times as many strikeouts as walks. This was over just 23.2 IP, sure. But that’s something, and given the current outlook in Baltimore, that’s … everything.
Sell! If most of the team can only go up, it’s hard to think of someone who can truly go down. Renato Nuñez, however, does have a little bit of space to do so. After being picked up on waivers last May, the third baseman looked like a middle-of-the-order hitter, with a 116 OPS+ in 220 PAs. He looked like one, we say, because there isn’t much reason to believe that he truly is one.
Appreciate This Man!: Chris Davis. There might not be much reason to appreciate him for what he physically did on the field in 2018, but just think of the psychological fortitude required to do so—coming out to play every single day when you’re a hundred points below the Mendoza Line? In 2019, he’ll either be better, or he’ll have the worst season ever. Basically a win-win.
A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: There’s no good way to spin the Orioles. They were one of the worst teams in baseball history last year, and there’s some chance they will be worse than their 47-115 mark this year. If you’re looking for a reason to tune in, though, there’s Richie Martin. Martin was the first pick of the 2018 Rule 5 draft, taken from the A’s three years after being the 20th overall pick in the June draft. A star at the University of Florida, Martin hit .300/.368/.439 last year at Double-A Midland, with 25 steals. He’s 24 years old, and thanks to a strong spring, he seems likely to beat out Alcides Escobar and start the season as the Orioles’ shortstop. If Martin is in the Opening Day lineup, he’ll be the first Rule 5 pick to pull that off since the Orioles’ Joey Rickard did it in 2016.
MLB.TV Rating: 2.1
This one depends on your appetite for rubbernecking at a crash and/or genuinely enjoying anonymous games in the minor leagues. If you’re a fan, come on down! Otherwise … probably best to avert your eyes.
Keep An Eye Out For...: The Orioles are trying to build up their farm system, after years of essentially refusing to participate in the international market. For now, though? Their lackluster roster is complemented by a shallow farm system. (It’s 22nd on Baseball America’s organizational rankings; 24th on Baseball Prospectus’s.) But in terms of something to look forward to, 2019 might bring the debut of outfielder Yusniel Diaz, a well-rounded prospect who was one of the key pieces in the return for Manny Machado. You might see slugging third baseman Ryan Mountcastle, too, although his debut could be 2020. And if you’re interested in a familiar name, Mike Yastrzemski (yes, Carl’s grandson) has lost most of his prospect luster after spending portions of the last three seasons at Triple-A, with no call-up, but he did spend the spring in big league camp after showing improvement at the plate last year.
A rival scout analyzes the Baltimore Orioles as they head into the 2019 MLB season.
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
Will they lose 100-plus? I think I might sneak out to Vegas and bet that one. And as they rebuild, can they make good decisions, i.e. the first pick overall the next two years, and get some of their veterans to perform well enough to trade them and get something useful back in return and start supplementing the system.
Who is the most overrated player on the team?
When you look at the right side of the ledger, it would be Chris Davis. I don't think anybody's overrated because nobody's really rated.
Who is the most underrated player on the team?
I'm a big Trey Mancini fan. He got off to a slow start last year and buried himself. But the first couple of years, he really performed well. Jonathan Villar did a nice job for them. He at least stabilizes the middle of the field and gives them some decent at-bats.
What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?
Mychal Givens and Mancini, maybe, in the right situation. Givens has really filthy stuff from that sidearm angle and can be dominating at times. I've seen Mancini swing the bat well. The young centerfielder they have, Cedric Mullins, I really like a lot, too. He's got some speed. For a small guy, he's got surprising power. He's fun to watch, and he can go get it in centerfield.
What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?
D.J. Stewart out in rightfield is not an impact talent by any means. He was not a good first-round pick. If you look at his body and numbers over the years, he's kind of like John Kruk, he can't play anywhere defensively.
Who gets the most out of his talent?
Mancini, because he made himself into the leftfielder he is despite having never played in the outfield. When you first saw him out there, you thought, ‘oh shit, he better wear a helmet out there.’
Who gets the least out of his talent?
Davis. He makes no adjustments. I've covered the Orioles for 30-plus years. I remember when [hitting coach Jim] Presley got him going to hit the  home runs, and I've never seen him go back to that ever, where he just tries to stay on the ball and go the other way. He's so big and strong, in Camden Yards, he can hit homers to leftfield, which he did the year he hit . But it's like he's taken that money, you've got the failed PED [test in 2014], and then you've got zero adjustments. That just pisses you off, you know? At some point, do they just go, biggest mistake ever, get the f--- out of our clubhouse?
Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?
Probably Givens and Miguel Castro. Givens, from that arm angle; Castro, that whippy arm action up to 100 [mph], and on a given day, he'll have a good changeup and slider. But he hasn't been able to stay consistent. He's 6' 7", all arms and legs, but at times you'll see stuff that makes you go ‘wow.’
Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?
Villar and Mancini. They both seem to have good approaches, a good feel for the game, and they run the bases well.
Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?
Davis, in the good way. In BP, when everything's d*** high, 65 miles per hour, he hits balls out onto Eutaw Street off the warehouse, off the centerfield backdrop, in the upper deck in left-centerfield. He's so physically strong. That's got to be the most frustrating thing, when you watch that and then watch his at-bats in the game, you go, ‘holy s---.’
Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for
Givens, Mancini and Mullins, in that order but pretty close that I would have interest in all three. There is some talent there. They've done a bad job in scouting and development, but they've had guys come through the system and despite their shortcomings get to the big leagues and contribute.
Name the guy (or guys) on this team you would never want in your clubhouse
Whose effort could use a jolt?
Davis. Maybe Dylan Bundy, to make some adjustments to what he's doing. He's got some feel for pitching, but he's become really predictable. He gave up 41 home runs last year and I saw him give up two the other day. He's doing the same stuff. He needs to sequence his stuff differently or figure out how he's going about his business, because he's not the kid that signed who's throwing 95–100. He's got to command the ball and fix his pitches better.
Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?
Mancini and Givens.
Who don't you want in that situation?
Davis and Castro.
Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?
David Hess, a righthanded starter, could give them some really good innings this year. He's a kid who competes really well and continually gets better with his command. His stuff is average, but I think when you put it all together, it's pretty decent. Anthony Santander on the offensive side. He's a really strong kid with some power, a switch-hitter. If he plays regularly and gets a little confidence, he could put up some pretty good numbers.
Is the current manager one you would hire to run your club?
Brandon Hyde is running a good camp. He's a guy who's paid his dues. He's focused on player development. As bad as this group is, there seems to be a pretty good energy right now. The one night they came up and played the Yankees in Tampa, they looked scared to death because Judge and Stanton and all those guys were in the lineup. But the other day down in Fort Myers, there was a really good energy. This guy's going to be okay. He's worked under some good managers. Unlike the guy in Washington [Dave Martinez], hopefully he paid attention to what Joe [Maddon] was doing last year.
What is the ceiling for this team this year? What about the next three years?
Hopefully not lose 100 this year, but the rebuild is probably more than three years for this system, because they don't have the number of impact prospects Toronto has. They just need to make good decisions and stay patient through the process.
Emptying the notebook:
Mark Trumbo is a great guy who plays hard. He came to Baltimore and they asked him to play rightfield, which he's not capable of doing, and he's got to sit and watch a guy who hits .190 and strikes out 300 times a year play first base ahead of him ... It was so evident last year with Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn and Derek Holland that pitchers do truly need the whole six weeks [of spring training]. By late in the year, Cobb was a little bit more like himself, and they really need him to be the guy he can be. I think he'll be that now that he's had a full spring training this year ... Andrew Cashner needs to be more consistent. He needs to not get knocked out in the second inning. This group can't afford that, because the bottom-end guys aren't big league starters, so you need Cashner to be at least a five-inning guy ... Being in that bullpen with Darren O'Day, Richard Bleier was able to invent himself as a lower-angle lefthander, doing command stuff that O'Day was doing from the right side. If he's healthy, that will certainly help them stabilize that bullpen ... Austin Hays can do some really good things on the field, but he’s got to figure out how to cut down on his strikeouts and make better adjustments at the plate ... Hunter Harvey, if he can get healthy, has impact stuff. He competes like his dad [Bryan], but he hasn't been able to stay healthy ... I saw Dillon Tate the other day, and he didn't throw real well. He's another guy who's got to figure out it's not how hard, it's where.