Can a first-division team carry a struggling rookie on the roster?

Can a team that expects to be in the playoffs carry a struggling rookie on the roster? How about one in the everyday lineup?

This is sort of a natural follow up blog to yesterday when we pondered how the O’s will look to introduce some of their top prospects to regular player time. When is the right time for the Orioles to make that move?

Yes, it is easier for a losing team or a rebuilding team to carry a struggling rookie simply because they have less concern over daily wins and losses. But you still have to worry about the individual and when the struggles become too much or that player should be sent back to the minors. These are not easy calls for any club, no matter their place in the standings.

A young Orioles team with a manager with a strong player development background may be the near perfect spot for a young player like Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser or Jackson Holliday to break in. The clubhouse is filled with players who have been there and done that when it comes to rookies finding their way. Recent examples like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson who had initial struggles and more established players like Cedric Mullins, not that far removed from them. Mullins can tell any young player about the time he fell all the way to Double-A before making it back to become a 30-30 talent and win a Silver Slugger award.

The other thing to keep in mind is that yes, the Orioles will be pushing to make the playoffs again. But any young player on the roster, even one as touted as Holliday, need only be complementary to the roster on a 101-win team and not the key guy. No one needs to be the straw stirring the drink here. No one needs to carry this club.

Each night the team bats nine players and uses at least one pitcher. There are at least nine other players to impact the game and impact the win or loss beyond a rookie, no matter who that rookie is.

And there is a lifeline here and it is an option back to the minors. It happened to Cowser last year and it happened to Mullins once too. There is a long list of major league players, some All-Stars, that didn’t thrive the first time in the big leagues or didn’t produce right away.

In some respects there might be less pressure on a rookie on the Orioles in 2024 then there was in 2019 or 2020 when there were clearly jobs to be won by players like Rio Ruiz, Richie Martin or Chance Sisco. But they could not win them and maybe rookie pressure impacted that.

An organization must decide how a rookie will handle some struggles and just how rough it would need to get before they send him back to the minors. They have to think about the player's long-term future and career, plus his mental outlook as much as they need to worry about the big club's won-loss record being impacted by his play.

Silver Slugger winners: The Orioles had not had multiple Silver Slugger Award winners in the same season since 2013 until Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson won last night.

It was quite a night for the O's top two selections in the 2019 MLB Draft and the first two draft picks made by Mike Elias after he got the job as the O's executive vice president and general manager. He and his organization got honored recently and now his first two draft selections get awards. Gunnar could get more hardware next week with the BBWAA AL Rookie of the Year honor.

Click here for more on last night's awards.

Gunnar is keeping remarkable company when you note the last six players to win a Silver Slugger as a rookie. They are Mike Trout (2012), Jose Abreu (2014), Corey Seager (2016), Aaron Judge (2017), Julio Rodriguez (2022) and Gunnar this year. 




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