The month of August is down to three days after today and it used to serve as a countdown to the final trade deadline. The one where players first had to pass through waivers before changing teams. And the media kept posting names that surfaced on the waiver wire as if it meant something.
Pretty much every player was put on waivers to give teams a truer sense of interest within the industry. And perhaps to move a bad contract like Randy Myers’ in 1998.
The Padres were burned like a campfire marshmallow.
The second deadline has been eliminated and all that’s left is speculation over which players will be added to an expanded roster that could be shortened after 2019. The game really is changing.
We’re back to wondering about Ryan Mountcastle. I’ve written the arguments on both sides - he’s only 22 years old and learning two new positions in the International League, but he’s also had a monster season with Triple-A Norfolk and the Orioles could reward him for it while also continuing the evaluation process in September.
Also, he must be placed on the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, so it’s really no big deal to do it next month.
Manager Brandon Hyde confirmed that Chris Davis’ playing time will continue to be reduced in the last month because the club needs to evaluate its younger hitters. He didn’t say which younger hitters.
That’s where the Orioles want him on opening day.
Mountcastle could show the Orioles how much he’s progressed at first base and left field. And they could talk about his Most Valuable Player award in the International League, which became official yesterday. That would be a conversation starter for me.
Mountcastle is the first Tides player to earn the honor since Roberto Petagine in 1997, before they were an Orioles affiliate.
Petagine played for six teams in parts of seven major league seasons, the last in 2006. He slashed .227/.345/.377 with 12 home runs in 438 plate appearances. He also played in Japan, Korea and Mexico.
The hopes for Mountcastle are much higher.
The Orioles won’t select outfielder Yusniel Diaz’s contract from Double-A Bowie. They’ll wait until later in the year to put him on the 40-man.
Diaz is a candidate to play in the Arizona Fall League. He’s been limited to 70 games with Bowie and 79 in the minors due to hamstring and quadriceps injuries and his placement on the paternity leave list.
The quad injury on July 31 kept him out until Aug. 22. He had a hit in each of the four games he’s played since returning.
Diaz is slashing .259/.331/.464 with 18 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs and 51 RBIs with the Baysox. The fuss over the club’s decision to option him in spring training certainly has quieted over the months.
A healthy Diaz is a good Diaz with the potential to be much more. He, too, is only 22 and situated as one of the organization’s top prospects.
“I think when he’s healthy he’s got a chance to be a pretty good player,” said Bowie manager Buck Britton. “He’s a strong kid. I think in the time he’s been here he might be leading the club in doubles, RBIs, so he’s a guy who when there’s a guy in scoring position he’s the guy you want up.
“I’d just like to see him healthy because I think speed is another thing that he has that people don’t take into account. He can really run when he’s healthy, and so I think he’s got a chance to be a dynamic player if he can figure out a way to keep his legs underneath him for a whole season.”
The legs and a baby have kept Diaz away from baseball and the Orioles will have to decide where he starts in 2020.
“He’s kind of had a crazy year, to be honest,” Britton said. “There hasn’t been sustainability.”
With Hays penciled into center field, the Orioles view Diaz as a potential right fielder down the road. Of course, they’d need to move Trey Mancini in order to make it happen.
“I think right field is where he’s going to end up,” Britton said. “Now, his arm for me out there probably at best is average, but it’s one of those things, too, where he hasn’t really had his legs, so he hasn’t really been able to get in his legs and really show off what he has. But if I had to guess, probably an average arm in right field. But if he can stay healthy, he can really run and he’s got a chance.
“I don’t know if he’s going to be a big time home run guy, but he’s going to be a guy who hits some doubles and with his speed he can be very interesting.”
The ceiling on Diaz remains at a high level, especially as he’s made some adjustments with his footwork at the plate. No one is down on him beyond the disappointment over his injuries.
“I think he’s definitely a prospect just because of the tools that he does have,” Britton said. “But he really needs to have his legs under him because I don’t think he’s going to be the big bopper per se. I think he’s going to hit a lot of doubles. He’s going to hit some home runs in the big leagues, but I don’t think he’s going to be like Chris Davis when Chris Davis was really good at hit 40-45 homers. That’s not going to happen, I don’t think.
“We keep talking here about how we saw him in spring training and he was electric, but that’s when he was able to play 100 percent and then all these nagging injuries, you kind of get a diluted perspective of what he’s doing. But that guy in spring training was arguable the best player on the field every day. And I think when he’s healthy he has a chance to be an exciting player.
“He’s definitely got gap-to-gap power and he’s a strong kid and he’ll hit some homers, but his speed makes him very interesting, as well.”