Outfielder Yusniel Díaz was the jewel in the package of players that the Orioles acquired from the Dodgers for shortstop Manny Machado. No other suitor offered up anyone of that caliber. But scouts like the potential of reliever Zach Pop, a 21-year-old right-hander assigned to Double-A Bowie.
Pop, a seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft out of the University of Kentucky, registered a 0.93 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 35 career relief appearances before the trade. He projects as a potential set-up man, and the Orioles could be in the market with Brad Brach a pending free agent and trade possibility and Darren O’Day entering the final year of his contract in 2019.
One scout from outside the organization graded Pop as a 55, making him an above-average set-up man with mid-to-upper 90s fastball with late life and a slider that can be a plus-pitch when he stays on top of it.
Pop is the highest-rated of the other players obtained in the trade after Díaz. The scout said Pop could move quickly in the system.
Infielder Breyvic Valera was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles tried to acquire him from the Cardinals over the winter and finally got him last week.
Valera mainly is a second baseman and isn’t as equipped to play the left side of the infield. A contact, line drive hitter, below-average runner and “off the charts makeup,” according to another scout.
“A lot of intangibles because he’s a great kid, he plays hard and he really has a great feel for the game, but he isn’t a regular. Probably more of an up-and-down emergency guy and for some teams maybe a utility guy. But at shortstop he’s not as good, so that limits him.”
The same scout praised infielder Rylan Bannon for being strong for his 5-foot-10, 180-lb. frame and possessing some pop - 20 home runs this season in high Single-A - but considered him to be a “fringy” defender.
“Decent bat with occasional power, but not really a great athlete and not a great defender,” the scout said. “It sounds like his ceiling is a utility guy, not an everyday guy. Not a bad bat, but he hits a lot of fly balls, a big upper-cutter. He plays both second and third, but our guys like him a lot better at second.”
Jonathan Schoop is a free agent after the 2019 season. Just saying ...
Dean Kremer projects by some scouts as a fifth starter or possible long reliever. His fastball mainly sits at 93 mph and doesn’t have much movement. He’s got a “solid-to-average” curveball and also throws a slider and changeup.
One scout compared him to David Hess.
* Renato Núñez was the first player called up by the Orioles following the All-Star break, the trade of Machado creating a spot for him. Otherwise, he didn’t appear to be on the brink of a return to the majors.
The overall stats, defense and speed favor Mullins, but Stewart offers more power and he’s always had the ability to get on base. He’s also a former first-round draft pick and that can’t hurt his cause.
Craig Gentry could return from a rib injury before the end of the month, but the Orioles must decide how long they want to carry a veteran outfielder over one of the prospects. More spots could open on the roster if Adam Jones is traded, and Danny Valencia is a possibility to be moved.
* I’m hoping that fans think back fondly on Chris Tillman’s career with the Orioles rather than obsess over the 2017-2018 seasons. He shouldn’t be defined by the end of it.
Tillman registered a 2,93 ERA and 1.047 WHIP and won nine of 12 decisions back in 2012, then averaged 32 starts and 14 wins while posting a sub-4.00 ERA over the next four seasons. He twice exceeded 200 innings. He was the ace and a big reason why the losing stopped in Baltimore.
We also should remember that Tillman outpitched Max Scherzer in Game 1 of the 2014 American League Division Series, launching the Orioles to a sweep.
I agreed with the decision to re-sign him, a $3 million contract heavy in incentives seeming like a fair deal. Various Orioles watched him throw numerous times at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. They were convinced that he’d bounce back in 2018, and there was a spot for him at the backend of the rotation. He wasn’t signed to start on opening day.
It just didn’t work out. And as I mentioned in a previous article, he no longer fit on a team committed to a rebuild.
I’m fine with the idea of Tillman accepting an assignment to Triple-A. He won’t be blocking a prospect from advancing in the system. And if he does regain his old form, he becomes a possible trade chip.
* Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren gave his uniform No. 8 to Machado, who wore No. 13 with the Orioles.
That’s how you really make a guy feel wanted.
Machado chose No. 8 because he was a huge Kobe Bryant fan. Not to honor Cal Ripken Jr. People were jumping to that conclusion.
* Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson is waiting to learn more about his responsibilities as special advisor for the Orioles, but I already have one idea.
I’d put him in a room with Double-A Bowie’s Ryan Mountcastle and let him talk about playing third base. Close the door and leave them in there for at least an hour.