The amount of speculation that piles up during an offseason reaches such heights that no device can be invented to measure it. The only response is to learn how to distinguish it from fact.
What is truth as opposed to an assumption. What comes from actual sources as opposed to imaginations.
What’s read between the lines instead of the actual lines.
No one with the Orioles is offering confirmation, but it isn’t too risky on this date to expect the following:
Austin Hays will play center field on opening day.
Manager Brandon Hyde wouldn’t bite in the final days of the season when asked if Hays could be written into the position.
Not in ink. Not yet. But it probably would take an injury for Hays to be optioned to minor league camp and be excluded from the opening day lineup.
“I’m not ready to say anything about next year, to be honest with you,” Hyde said on Sept. 25. “We’ve got a week left to play here. But those are some things, that’s what the winter is for, that’s what spring training is for next year. But he has been impressive these last couple of weeks.”
To say the least.
Ryan Mountcastle will open the season at Triple-A Norfolk.
Mountcastle will be placed on the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft and compete for a spot on the 26-man roster in spring training. The Orioles won’t discuss his service clock and the financial benefits of keeping him in the minors for the early portion.
There’s talk instead of how he still needs work on his walk-to-strikeout ratio and his defense after the Orioles moved him to first base and left field. Just a little more seasoning.
The Orioles didn’t include Mountcastle, who’s still only 22, on their expanded September roster and he’s probably going to be optioned to the minor league complex in March. But this isn’t confirmed.
It’s just a safe assumption.
There’s a difference.
I’ll add this comment from executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias during last week’s “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan:
“While he hit really well this year and hit for power, he’s still a guy that, if you’re nit-picking, strikes out a little bit too much and walks a little too seldom at the minor league level. And while that’s not a big deal at the minor league level, that tends to project poorly for the next level. And it’s not to say that next year he won’t improve in that regard.
“He’s still super young, one of the youngest hitters in Triple-A. One of the best hitters in Triple-A. And we love him. But there are things that you would hope to polish up before permanently graduating him to the majors.”
Richie Martin will begin the season with Norfolk.
I feel less certain about this one than others shared in this article, but it’s a worthy inclusion.
The Orioles gained the freedom to option Martin because he no longer holds Rule 5 status. It’s been shed like a collie’s fur, but without the brushing.
Martin made the jump from Double-A and slashed .208/.260/.322 in 120 games. His average didn’t sit at .200 following a game until Sept. 6, and it didn’t happen again until Sept. 21.
However, Martin batted .284/.321/.392 in 111 plate appearances in the second half and was 11-for-29 with two doubles and two home runs in September. He made progress.
The Orioles could allow it to continue with Norfolk while searching for a veteran middle infielder. They want a plus defender at shortstop and are showing some interest in journeyman Adeiny Hechavarría.
They could choose the minors as the place to keep working on Martin’s defense, which pleased some people in the organization but didn’t draw universal approval and graded poorly in various metrics.
The key word is “could.” Not “will.”
Martin might rake in exhibition games, emerge as the best defensive option at shortstop and change the narrative.
Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate will stay in the bullpen.
I’ve addressed the topic recently but will bring it up again. Harvey and Tate stated their preferences to pitch in relief and the Orioles recognize the benefits - getting the most production in an area of need and improving the chances of keeping them healthy.
Hyde hasn’t confirmed that Harvey and Tate will be in the ‘pen, but it’s expected to happen. It seems safe to run with it.
Adley Rutschman won’t play in the majors in 2020.
The first-overall pick in this year’s draft climbed from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to short-season Single-A Aberdeen to Single-A Delmarva. He barely had time to unpack.
The Orioles figure to slow down Rutschman just a bit. It’s OK to use the hangers.
He’s going to start out with Delmarva or high Single-A Frederick. They haven’t shared their plans. And he could join Double-A Bowie’s roster later in the summer.
A leap to the major league roster just isn’t expected to happen.
Again, no plans have been revealed, but a 2021 debut is the likeliest scenario.
Note: An industry source confirmed a report out of Korea last night that pitcher Aaron Brooks is expected to sign with the Kia Tigers in the KBO.
Naver Sports wrote that an announcement is coming after “a few steps are completed.” The Athletic also reported that Brooks is headed to Korea.
Brooks was 4-5 with an 6.18 ERA and 1.492 WHIP in 14 games with the Orioles, including 12 starts. His removal from the 40-man roster would lower the total to 35.