As FanFest arrives, some O’s questions remain unanswered

As the Orioles host their annual FanFest event today at the Baltimore Convention Center, there figures to be much discussion about the players that are not there and potential acquisitions for pitchers that have yet to be made. Maybe more talk about the missing and not added than those that are appearing.

When MASNsports.com was first to report yesterday that Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop would not be at FanFest today, speculation ran rampant. Some fans speculated that Machado doesn’t want to answer questions about his contract and the trade rumors and Schoop is either supporting Manny and/or may not want to address some questions, as well. We have absolutely no evidence to support this, so it is clearly unfair for a reporter to jump on the players without knowledge or evidence that any of the above could be valid.

MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reported this Friday: “I’m told that Machado’s absence is due to a private matter, with no further details forthcoming. Nothing ‘serious,’ according to one person in the organization, who added that it isn’t based on trade rumors that started at the Winter Meetings, Machado’s contract situation or the anticipated change in positions.”

I take that to indicate Machado’s second absence in three years from this event is not because he is angry at or unhappy with the club or that he is trying to avoid questions. But unless we hear directly from Machado or Schoop with more, some fans will speculate with nothing to stop them. Some conspiracy theories will be floated and that’s not great for the player or the team’s public perception. Maybe Buck Showalter and/or Dan Duquette can shed more light on it today.

But for now, some members of a fan base already not thrilled with a quiet offseason to date will converge to talk about baseball today. They’ll come together at a time when the team they love seems to have many more questions facing it, then answers to provide at the moment. Fans are frustrated and losing patience and some of that is certainly understandable.

In the utility mix: The Orioles are looking for a utility infielder and yesterday’s trade likely added a candidate to compete for the job. The Orioles traded cash or a player to be named to the San Francisco Giants for 23-year-old Venezuela native √Čngelb Vielma.

A switch-hitter who is now on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, Vielma has just two homers in over 2,100 career minor league plate appearances since 2012. But he is much more noted for his plus defense and was ranked among the top 25 prospects three times while with Minnesota, reaching a high of No. 18 after the 2015 season.

Last year at Double-A, he batted .286/.362/.328. In his first time at the Triple-A level, he batted .206/.233/.260 over 87 games for Rochester.

A scouting report from Baseball America after the 2016 season states in part: “Vielma was a slender 150-pound teen when the Twins signed him out of Venezuela for $90,000 in 2011, and there were questions whether the shortstop could develop the physicality to be an everyday player and a productive hitter. Though he has added some muscle and strength to his frame, those questions linger. ... His defensive prowess could be his ticket to the big leagues. A plus defender and the best pure shortstop in the system, he has soft hands, sharp instincts, quick actions and a plus arm.”

Austin Hays swinging gray sidebar.jpgMore prospects talk: Another outlet has released an Orioles’ top prospects list. Click here for SB Nation’s O’s top 20. The top five are in order: Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Chance Sisco, DL Hall and Hunter Harvey.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Keith Law ranks the Orioles farm system as No. 23 in his 2018 organizational rankings. Click here for that (subscription required). That ranking is up two spots from this list last year.

The Orioles posted some FanFest information on their Twitter feed on Friday.

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