Over a third of the way through the 2018 season, it’s clear that the Orioles need some changes. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. When you’re 21 1/2 games out of first place, it isn’t a stretch to say that things aren’t working. These are the types of situations where the team needs to just do something different than what they’ve been doing everyday because clearly the routine just isn’t working.
This is particularly true with the Orioles offense, which scored just two runs in their three games against the Nationals this week. The Birds bats entered their postponed contest last night ranked 26th in baseball in batting average (.231), 28th in on-base percentage (.293) and 29th in runs scored (209). The O’s once-powerful offense ranks 15th in homers with 64 and they are 1-20 when they don’t hit a longball. That’s a rough combination.
Chris Davis’ struggles have been front and center for Orioles fans. It seems like every night he’s asked about his performance and how he can turn things around. Davis is on pace for just 12 home runs this season, by far his lowest total since coming to Baltimore in 2012. In just 128 games last season, he hit 26. He’s also had seasons of 53, 47, and 38 home runs. He’s not the only player on the Orioles offense that is underperforming, but his power decline has certainly hurt the club in a big way.
Six Orioles with more than 100 plate appearances are hitting under .240 - Trey Mancini, Chance Sisco, Jonathan Schoop, Anthony Santander, Pedro Álvarez and the aforementioned Davis. Scale that minimum plate appearances number back to 80 and you can add Craig Gentry, Caleb Joseph, Tim Beckham and Jace Peterson to that list. Everywhere you look, the offense has failed to live up to expectations despite the starting rotation’s improvements.
Since the O’s aren’t competing this season and need some kind of change, I propose bringing up the young guys to get them big league experience and see how they handle baseball’s biggest stage. Cedric Mullins is due to be promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after tearing up the Eastern League in Double-A Bowie with a .315/.362/.518 slash line, six home runs, and 28 RBIs in 48 games. He’s deserving of that spot in Norfolk, but I think the organization would be better off sending him straight to Baltimore to get experience at the big league level. As an outfielder, there’s certainly a spot available for him to play regularly.
Ryan Mountcastle isn’t as clear of a case as Mullins, but he is holding his own at Bowie with a .278/.325/.444 slash line in 19 games. Mountcastle was ranked the organization’s second-best prospect at the start of 2018 by MLBPipeline.com. Mountcastle had a decent spring training with the Orioles in Sarasota. He’s a third baseman and the Orioles will very likely need to fill a hole in the infield later this season when they trade Manny Machado. At 21, he’s young, but why not bring him up for some exposure at this level?
Prospects Austin Hays and DJ Stewart have hit the disabled list with ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively. Hays is the organization’s top prospect, but has gotten off to a slow start in Double-A hitting .224/.259/.374 in 43 games. Stewart has hit .261/.363/.451 with six homers in Triple-A. When they’re ready to return, I would give them a bit of time in their respective leagues and then bring them up, as well. The Orioles can only gain knowledge by watching them play at this level and any kind of change in the clubhouse should be welcomed by a team that has a .300 winning percentage.
Calling up the young guys won’t solve the Orioles’ problems this season. Some of the kids may flourish and others could struggle, but few clubs can afford to let their prospects learn and grow at this level. The O’s are one of them. With nothing to lose and some sort of fresh change desperately needed, I see little risk in bringing up the kids to see what they’ve got.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.