The Orioles aren’t ready to announce their new coaching staff under manager Brandon Hyde, the assistant hitting coach believed to be the final piece. It’s expected to happen soon, well in advance of the beginning of spring training.
First baseman Chris Davis knows that Don Long is replacing Scott Coolbaugh as hitting coach. He hadn’t heard any updates on the assistant hitting coach when we spoke a few days ago and didn’t know whether Howie Clark, who held the job last summer, was assured of working in the minors this year.
Clark and former bullpen coach Alan Mills received minor league contracts after their deals with the Orioles expired on Oct. 31.
Davis views the organization as a favorable landing spot for any coach, no matter how it’s projected to finish in the standings.
“I think the group of guys that we have, we’ve kind of been known over the past few years as that grinder, blue-collar team, and I like that about us,” Davis said.
“We like to work, we like to get in the cage and the video room and hit early and do a lot things before the game and BP starts. And I think that’s something for a new coach to come into and look forward to, when you have a group of guys who are willing to work and willing to buy into a system, a belief and really work together as a team.”
I wrote about Davis changing his offseason routine in an attempt to regain his power stroke, raise his average and find his way back on the bases. He posted a .370 OBP in 2013 and a .361 OBP in 2015, but it’s dipped to .332, .309 and .243 over the past three seasons.
Could the team’s commitment to analytics reverse the decline? Could they have a positive impact on Davis, who’s been befuddled by the shift and appears to have developed some sort of a mental block, his confidence banged up like it’s in the middle of a demolition derby?
He wants to absorb all of the data. He’s willing to try anything at this point.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I remember several years ago when it was, I don’t want to say introduced into baseball, but when it was becoming more prevalent with clubs to have entire staffs for analytics, and they were bringing specialists in and consultants in. I was one of the people who was hesitant to buy into it, but I think just over the years the amount of success we’ve seen that’s directly connected to those analytics, I mean, it’s hard to ignore. And I think it’s something that will really help us out a lot as a club.
“For me, the more information that you can have about your opponent, about yourself, about your teammates, I think the better off you’re going to be. So, I’m interested to see what that entails. I talked to several guys toward the end of last season that were on different clubs that were a little bit more involved with analytics and I heard nothing but positive things.
“The interesting thing for me, honestly, is anything that we do, whether it’s bringing in an analytical staff or department or doing something different with our scouting or any group or any person that we’re going to bring in, the biggest thing to remember is we’re all in it together. We’re all after the same goal, and we’re not going to get it, we’re not going to achieve that goal, unless we’re all working together as one. So, I think that has to be at the forefront of any conversation when you start talking about introducing anybody new or you have a new philosophy.”
Meanwhile, the Orioles maintained their catching depth yesterday, however it’s graded within the industry, by passing Andrew Susac through waivers and outrighting him to Triple-A Norfolk. He’s expected to receive an invitation to spring training, though the list hasn’t been released to the media and remains in the formative stages.
Teams need to stock up on camp catchers in order to handle all of the bullpen sessions.
Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns are the only catchers on the 40-man roster, and they were rookies in 2018. Susac was the remaining veteran with Caleb Joseph non-tendered, but the Orioles designated him for assignment on Jan. 11 to create room for infielder Hanser Alberto.
Susac has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. The former top prospect in the Giants system was hospitalized in spring training with a staph infection, hurting his chances of breaking camp with the Orioles, and his season ended in July after he fractured his left wrist while catching for Triple-A Norfolk.
Susac’s decision to return home led the Orioles to place him on the restricted list in August. They reinstated him the following month. He sat on the 40-man bubble and it finally burst beneath him.
Appearing in only nine games last summer, Susac went 3-for-26 with a double and 12 strikeouts. He started seven games behind the plate and threw out two of seven runners attempting to steal.
A veteran catcher is expected to join the spring competition next month, whether it’s Caleb Joseph or someone else. The Orioles signed Carlos Pérez as a minor league free agent and they retain Double-A Bowie’s Martin Cervenka, also lauded for his work behind the plate.