The trio of Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, assistant GM of analytics Sig Mejdal and manager Brandon Hyde did more than brave the nasty elements at Saturday’s Winter Warm-Up at Camden Yards. They also faced a group fans during a question-and-answer session who had reason to be grouchy, based on the ugly results of 2019 and rain that occasionally shifted to downpour status.
No one was injured in the making of the session. The mood was mostly light and there were nuggets of information and moments of humor that crept into the conversation.
Here’s another sampling :
Will Pedro Severino become the regular starting catcher?
The Orioles are in the market for a fourth catcher to provide some depth and intensify the competition in spring training. Of the three who remain on the 40-man roster, Severino is the clear choice to make the majority of starts again.
“I think Sevy’s going to play a lot, like he did last year,” Hyde said. “It was pretty cool how he took advantage of an opportunity. We got him from the Nationals. He performed, he played really well, swung the bat well and improved over the course of the year. So we’re excited about the development that he’s made and how much he improved over the course of last season.
“Yeah, I think you’ll see him get a lot of innings behind home plate and get a lot of at-bats next year.”
Severino is out of minor league options, which gives him an edge. He can’t be sent down without clearing waivers.
The offense seemed to come out of nowhere. He slashed .249/.321/.420 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and 44 RBIs in 341 plate appearances after batting .187/.273/.287 with 13 doubles, four home runs and 22 RBIs in 282 career plate appearances with the Nationals.
Severino also had 10 passed balls, tied for the fourth-highest total in the majors and second in the American League behind Oakland’s Josh Phegley (15). Scouts like his arm, but have been critical of the “catch” part of catch and throw.
No one questions his toughness. There wasn’t a body part that didn’t get nailed by a foul ball. But he hung in there, his pain tolerance totally off the charts.
How much has the analytics department given to “details” that drift into the superstition?
The specifics of this question amused the crowd and the panel.
A woman claimed that she watches the games and players closely and notices that Stevie Wilkerson hops from the on-deck circle to the batter’s box. “If he doesn’t hop, he doesn’t bat very well.” Renato Núñez hits home runs 98 percent of the time when wearing his orange shoes.
Are the Orioles looking into that and is it part of the data-driven approach orchestrated by Mejdal?
“I’ve been meaning to this week, but it just flew by,” Mejdal replied with a smile.
“The superstitions that you talk about have not made it to the top of our list. This was an organization that didn’t have much there, but I look forward to the day where we look around and go, ‘OK, what’s next?’”
The Orioles aren’t the only team rebuilding. What gives them an edge that can push the organization past a growing field of non-contenders?
There’s no point, other than to risk depression, in comparing where the Orioles stand versus everyone else in their division. Last place is waiting for them again. The welcome mat hasn’t been removed. But there are safer comparisons to the teams in the same teardown-and-rebuild mode.
“We try to be as smart as we can be with every personnel decision we make,” Elias said. “I think we have a really good system that we apply in the draft and in player development. But we wake up every day nervous about staying ahead in those areas.
“Sig and Matt Blood, our new player development director, and (director of baseball development) Eve Rosenbaum and all these people who are focused on the latest and greatest in the player development sphere are looking ahead. And we’re staying ahead in that area. We’re investing a ton in that area.
“We have more coaches than we had last year, we have more technology than we had last year, we have better info. But I do think through our tried-and-true processes in scouting and player development and our ability to look ahead and stay ahead in those areas, I’m hopeful that we can do a better job than the next team at a rebuild.”
Are there any talks about selling the naming rights to Camden Yards and using corporate sponsorship to bring in more money?
Ownership has steadfastly refused to go that route. The ballpark has been known as Oriole Park at Camden Yards since it opened in 1992 and there are no signs, so to speak, that a change is forthcoming.
“What do you want to name it? I’ll pass it along and see if we can get it done,” Elias quipped.
“As long as we can keep calling it Camden Yards, I think we’ll be fine.”