Not only are the Orioles becoming much deeper in outfielders, they also can brag about the draft-and-develop process in the organization.
Last night’s game again offered a homegrown alignment of Austin Hays in left field, Cedric Mullins in center and DJ Stewart in right. Ryan Mountcastle played first base, but has been the starting left fielder since his promotion.
Trey Mancini will return next season. Ryan McKenna is on the 40-man roster and getting closer. And one could argue that Anthony Santander, though signed by the Indians, was developed by the Orioles as a Rule 5 pick out of the Single-A Carolina League.
This year’s first rounder, Heston Kjerstad, should move quickly after coming from the University of Arkansas. However, he never made it to the alternate camp site in Bowie.
According to STATS research, this is the first time that more than half of the team’s outfield starts have come from homegrown players since 2011, and it’s the highest percentage (58.9) since 2004 (60.9).
The 2004 club had Larry Bigbie (131), Luis Matos (85), Jerry Hairston Jr. (47), Tim Raines Jr. (21), Darnell McDonald (nine) and Val Majewski (three).
The 2011 Orioles had homegrown outfielders Nick Markakis (157), Nolan Reimold (71), Matt Angle (20) and Kyle Hudson (eight).
“There’s a surplus of a lot of young outfielders,” Hays said. “These are guys that I’ve played with for the last three or four years. I said it last night when we were stretching on the line. It was me, Mounty, DJ and Cedric. We were standing there and I was like, ‘The Bowie boys are back together from 2017 and 2018.’
“The guys that I came up with through the minor leagues, those are everybody that is in the big leagues right now. I just feel a little closer to the team than when I first came up.”
* Whether waiver claim Jorge López is a starter or long reliever for the Orioles is a decision that’s going to be made at a much later date. But it’s coming.
What he did Monday night, holding the Braves to one run over seven innings, strengthened the argument for keeping him in the rotation.
“I think we’re still evaluating him,” manager Brandon Hyde said prior to Monday’s game. “I don’t want to make a snap decision on if he’s a rotation piece going forward or not after just a few starts, but I think that there’s upside in everything about Jorgie.”
John Means, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer are locks for the 2021 rotation if healthy. Alex Cobb, obviously, joins them if he isn’t traded in the final year of his contract. López could be the fifth starter or bring value in a swingman role.
On the list of pleasant problems is also a surge in starting options. Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann could be ready to debut next summer. Michael Baumann and Zac Lowther could begin knocking on the door. Josh Rogers is throwing again after undergoing a second surgery on his left elbow. Alexander Wells and Cody Sedlock were excluded from the 60-man player pool, but they’re certainly a part of the discussion.
DL Hall would have pitched at Double-A Bowie, and that’s where he’s going to be assigned next year. Can you hear him knocking?
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias could bring in another veteran starter over the winter or at spring training. Left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone signed minor league deals early this year.
Elias also could be tempted to dip into his outfield surplus in order to trade for a starter.
* The loss of the minor league season to the coronavirus pandemic is bound to influence how players are developed in 2020. There’s no way to properly simulate actual game competition this summer. The best that teams can do are intrasquad games.
Fans expressed their concerns about catcher Adley Rutschman, the first overall selection in last year’s First-Year Player Draft. He wasn’t going to make his major league debut this summer, but could have climbed to Bowie while gaining valuable experience at the plate and behind it.
Rutschman joined the Orioles at their summer training camp and has been kept busy at the alternate site by taking batting practice, participating in a variety of defensive drills and playing in intrasquad games.
The exposure to some of the elite arms in the system has been good for him.
“He’s gotten quite a bit of work in,” Hyde said. “The majority of players there are upper level or top prospect pitchers, so he’s either facing or catching some of the best arms that we have in our organization. A lot of the guys that are here that have been called up from Bowie, he’s been catching and facing offensively, so I think it’s been a nice development year.
“It’s not ideal. We’d love to see him play 100-plus games and get 400-plus at-bats, but I think we’ve made the best of the situation we’re in here.”
* Perhaps overlooked in last night’s 5-1 loss to the Braves were the two scoreless innings from reliever Cole Sulser.
They didn’t influence the outcome, but he was working on back-to-back nights.
Sulser was removed from the closer’s role and hasn’t allowed a run in his last three appearances.
“Three scoreless innings in the last two days, so I’m happy about that for his confidence,” Hyde said. “Came off the mound feeling good.”