2020 Fantasy Baseball: Baltimore Orioles Team Preview

Fantasy baseball player profiles and stat projections for Baltimore Orioles hitters and pitchers. What to expect from Trey Mancini, John Means and more.
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Baltimore Orioles

It's been challenging to be an Orioles fan over the last two years. There has been a brutal regression to the pitching staff. Baltimore finished with the worst ERA (5.59) in baseball in 2019, allowing a whopping 305 home runs. Despite the most runs allowed (981), Baltimore gained seven wins (54) in the standings from 2018 (47-115) to 2019. The Orioles gave up 89 more runs than they did in 2018 (892), which was somewhat offset by growth in offensive production (729 runs – ninth). The Orioles ranked 23rd in HRs (213).

Over the past 22 seasons, Baltimore has made the playoffs three times (2012, 2014, and 2016). Their last World Series appearance came in 1983 (win over the Phillies).

In the offseason, they traded SP Dylan Bundy to the Angels for P Isaac Mattson and three minor league players. SS Jonathan Villar was shipped to the Marlins for P Easton Lucas. The only player signed to the major league roster via free agency in early January was SP Kohl Stewart.

Baltimore's future lies with 3B Ryan Mountcastle, C Adley Rutschman, P D.L. Hall, and P Grayson Rodriguez, who were all drafted in the first round over the previous four years.

2020 looks to be another long season for the Orioles based on their early over-under for wins (57.5) by the Vegas sportsbooks.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF D.J. Stewart

Stewart was quickly shipped to the Orioles’ minor league camp in early March last spring, which removed him from being a viable starting option in their major league outfield. His bat flashed in mid-April (8-for-23 with three HRs and five RBI) and in May (32-for-70 with five HRs and 28 RBI) at AAA, but a right ankle injury and concussion cost him development time in June and August. 

Stewart played well in 2017 at AA (.278 with 21 HRs, 79 RBI, and 20 SBs) with strength in his approach (walk rate – 12.0 and strikeout rate – 16.1). Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .255 with 64 HRs, 264 RBI, and 66 SBs over 1,788 at-bats while struggling to find his way with Baltimore in 2018 and 2019 (.241 over 166 at-bats with seven HRs, 25 RBI, and three SBs). Last year, Stewart showed an above-the-league-average approach (strikeout rate – 18.3 and walk rate – 9.9) with the Orioles. 

Stewart is a possible flier with the skill set to produce 20 home runs 20 stolen bases. His spring training will be the key to his draft value. 

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2. OF Austin Hays

Hays sure looked ready for the big leagues after blasting his way to the majors in 2017. He dominated High A (.328 with 16 HRs and 41 RBI over 262 at-bats) and AA (.330 with 16 HRs and 54 RBI over 261 at-bats). In 2018, Hays struggled over the first two months at AA (.224 with six HRs, 18 RBI, and five SBs over 174 at-bats) before landing on the IL with an ankle injury that required surgery in September. 

His season started in 2019 with a left thumb injury, which led to almost seven weeks on the injured list at AAA. He also missed some time in June with a hamstring issue. Hays underperformed over his 240 at-bats at AAA (.254 with 10 HRs, 27 RBI, and six SBs over 240 at-bats) before finding his stride in September with the Orioles (.309 with four HRs and 13 RBI over 63 at-bats). 

In his limited at-bats in the majors last year, his strikeout rate (17.3) and walk rate (9.3) graded in a favorable area compared to his minor league career (18.8 and 4.7). Hays looks destined to make the major league roster out of spring training with visions of a great 2017 season in the minors in the back mirror (.329 with 32 HRs, 95 RBI, and five SBs over 523 at-bats). 

With 500 at-bats, I expect a neutral batting average with a 20/70/10 skill set out of the gate.

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3. OF Trey Mancini

After losing momentum in 2018, Mancini set career highs in runs (106), hits (175), HRs (35), 97 RBI, and batting average (.291). His approach at the plate was the best of his young major league career (strikeout rate – 21.1) and walk rate (9.3). He played well vs. righties (.297 with 23 HRs and 71 RBI over 411 at-bats). 

Mancini hit between five and seven HRs in each month with his best value coming in September (.365 with six HRs and 23 RBI over 104 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (42.7) came in at 95th compared to 100th in 2018. Mancini improved his swing path, which led to a drop in his ground ball rate (45.9) and growth in his fly ball rate (31.9). 

His HR/FB rate (23.6) is trending upward. Settling into a .270-plus hitter with 30 HR power. His production in runs and RBIs are subject to his supporting cast. 

Possible regression in four categories while being fully priced on draft day.

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4. 1B Ryan Mountcastle

Despite success at AAA in 2019 (.312 with 25 HRs and 83 RBI over 520 at-bats), Baltimore didn’t call up Mountcastle. He saw time at 1B, 3B, and OF after coming through the system as a shortstop. He has a free-swing mentality (strikeout rate – 23.5 and walk rate – 4.3). 

Over five seasons in the minors, Mountcastle hit .295 with 70 HRs, 274 RBI, and 27 SBs over 2,078 at-bats). His weak glove skills pushes him to first base with a minimal chance of earning a starting spot elsewhere in the infield. 

Solid foundation in power and batting average with a chance to hit the ground running in 2020. Start the bidding at .280 with a middle of an order opportunity. Viable 30-plus HR threat in the near future.

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5. 3B Renato Nunez

In a way, Nunez replaced the downside of Chris Davis in the Orioles’ starting lineup. His power (31 HRs) was supported by his 2017 season at AAA (32 HRs), along with his success in his average hit rate (1.886). Nunez offered about the same resume at AAA (.249 with 60 HRs and 182 RBI over 1,207 at-bats) and a similar strikeout rate (23.5) as he did in 2019 in the majors (23.9). 

Even with power against right-handed pitching (18 HRs over 341 at-bats), he only hit .226 with 15 HRs and 50 RBI over 270 at-bats on the road. His best play came in April (.266 with six HRs and 18 RBI) and July (.304 with seven HRs and 19 RBI) while offering downside in batting average in every other month (.217, .213, .237, and .213). Nunez didn’t have an elite HR/FB rate (16.7) in 2019, so his success in HRs was driven by a higher fly ball rate (46.3). 

A pure basher with batting average and job loss risk if his strikeout rate regresses or Baltimore finds a more well rounded option to replace him in the starting lineup.

To view the full starting lineup, which also includes player analysis for Anthony Santandor, Chance Sisco, Pat Valainka, Hanser Alberto, Adley Ructschman, Dwight Smith, Pedro Ceverino, Chris Davis, Rio Ruiz & Cedrick Mullins, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Baltimore Orioles Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 John Means

Means is the type of arm that I tend to avoid every season in fantasy baseball. Coming into 2019, he did show growth in his game over 20 games at AAA (3.48 ERA over 111.1 innings with 19 walks and 89 Ks), but his black mark was his .277 BAA. In each season in the minors, Means allowed more hits than innings pitched while offering a low walk rate (2.0) paired with a soft-tossing strikeout rate (7.1) in his minor league career. A jump to the AL East vs. the Red Sox and Yankees suggested disaster at times in his starts. 

Means repeated his command in the majors, but he was tougher to hit (.234 BBA). He changed his approach against batters, leading to pitches higher up in the strike zone (50.0 percent fly-ball rate) while controlling the damage in his HR/FB rate (9.9). Means did have a high HR/9 rate (1.3). His growth was tied to the development of his changeup, which he threw as his second-best pitch. He offers a low-90s fastball (91.8) while adding in a slider and curveball. His arm played well vs. lefties (.184 with two HRs over 141 at-bats). Means came into the majors with RH batters hitting .275 or better in each minor league year, but he held them to a .249 average in the majors. 

His ERA (3.60) and WHIP (1.135) will draw attraction from fantasy owners in 2020, but I sense regression. Only an innings eater for me. Home runs allowed will be the key stat to get on or off his ride this season.

SP2 Alex Cobb 

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A hip injury cost Cobb all but three starts in 2019. Two seasons into his $57 million contract, the Orioles received too many bad innings (5-17 with a 5.36 ERA and 110 Ks over 164.2 innings). Over 115 starts for Tampa, Cobb had a 3.50 ERA and 570 Ks over 700 innings. 

In 2018, his ERA plummeted to 4.90, with continued fade in his strikeout rate (6.0). In 2013 and 2014, when Cobb had an ERA under 3.00 in both seasons, he struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings. He’s pitched his entire career in the AL East. Baltimore will struggle to win games again in 2020 while Cobb tries to add a pulse back into his game. His injury last year wasn’t arm related. 

Worth a follow in spring training. If he’s throwing strikes with repeated velocity, Cobb could surprise. A rebound in success may lead to an in-season trade to a contender.

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SP3 Michael Baumann

Despite some struggles at High A (3.83 ERA) in 2019, Baumann dominated over 13 games at AA (2.31 ERA and 65 Ks over 70 innings) as a result of a career-low walk rate (2.7). Over three seasons in the minors, Baumann went 24-13 with a 2.82 ERA and 291 Ks over 297 innings. 

He relies on a hard-sinking fastball, but his command in the strike zone needs improvement. His early ticket points to a start at AAA while being a few starts from the majors. Keep an open mind as he could come quickly if he repeats his command at AA. 

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CL/RP Mychal Givens

Givens held the Orioles’ closing job for most of 2019, but he delivered only 11 saves in 19 chances. Batters only hit .213 against him with strength in his strikeout rate (12.3). Givens walked too many batters (3.7 per nine) with disaster downside in home runs allowed (19 over 63 innings). His best stretch came from June 4th to September 8th (2.70 ERA over 30 innings with 43 Ks and seven saves). 

Givens allowed 14 of his 32 runs over 3.1 innings in four games. His arm struggled vs. lefties (.267 with seven Hrs over 90 at-bats). Givens has a plus fastball (95.7) that had success (.220 BAA) along with his slider (.222 BAA) and changeup (.177 BAA). 

Live arm with K ability, but his lifeline as closer does point to job-loss risk if he can’t keep the ball in the ballpark.

To view the full pitching staff, which also includes player analysis for Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, Grayson Rodriguez, Luis Ortiz, Hunter Harvey, Zac Lowther, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Baltimore Orioles Team Outlook