Later this week, baseball’s rules will change as the season draws to a close. With a month to go before the playoffs, Major League Baseball will allow teams to expand their rosters from 25 players to 40 players. Is there another sport where the rules are not only different depending on which league you play in, but also where they change the rules with a month left in the season? It will completely alter the dynamics of postseason races, as it does every season. For the Orioles, it could provide an opportunity to see younger players vying to make a statement as the page turns to 2019.
Frankly, I share Buck Showalter’s thoughts on the idea of expanded rosters. I don’t really like them. They tend to slow the game down and water down the product in the month of September. Teams chasing playoff spots will be able to take advantage of teams like the Orioles, who are just trying to get a look at their future. It can create a “rich get richer” scenario that no one wants to see play out in the middle of a pennant race. If it were me, and I’ve heard Showalter make this compromise in the past, teams would have to take that 40-man roster and select their 25 players from it for each series. That would still allow for some flexibility in the bullpen, because teams wouldn’t have to choose a full slate of starting pitchers for a three or four game set.
For the Orioles, the 2018 September call-up season will be almost like a preview of the 2019 spring training season. It’s going to be a chance to see some younger players and get experience at the big league level. Some of these players, we’ve already seen. Outfielders Austin Hays and Anthony Santander will likely be back up. We’re already getting a peek at Cedric Mullins, who has impressed thus far. The Orioles could also be in-line to add some players that aren’t on the 40-man roster at the moment. Chris Lee and Branden Kline come to mind as young pitchers that the O’s may want to get a look at before the season expires. The Orioles could even decide to surprise everyone and give a shot to their top prospect, Yusniel Díaz, who was acquired in the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers. That’ll likely have to wait for next season, but there’s always a chance.
Regardless of whether or not they are both around next season, Showalter and Dan Duquette are going to want to get a look at some of the players on the horizon for this team. They are going to want to figure out what they have down there. But there’s also an approach of patience when it comes to some prospects. If they don’t get an opportunity over the next month to make an impact, they’ll likely get an opportunity to break camp and come north next March. There could be more opportunities created through trades this offseason that would allow for more youth to get a shot right out of the gate.
While many O’s fans turn their attention to the NFL and how the start of the Ravens season is panning out, I’ll still be poking in at what these young Birds are doing to ready themselves for 2019. It’s pretty well-known that this won’t be an overnight turnaround. There’s a long way to go to build up a team into a contender. The Orioles, around this time last year, were sitting just a few games out of a wild card spot. Now, they are on the verge of one of the worst seasons in major league history. Getting back to where they were a year ago is going to take some time. But this coming month can be the start of that process, and it could be the first shot to get a glimpse of some of the players trying to make it happen.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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.