Rebuilding time frames, Drake on the move and a McKenna note

Does rebuilding a baseball team have a beginning and an end?

That is an interesting question that came up in our comments section yesterday. Are the Orioles done tearing down their roster? Does the rebuild truly begin now that Mike Elias has taken over baseball operations?

I don’t think you can put a date on a beginning and an end here unless you truly consider winning the World Series as the culmination. If that’s the case, we’ll have our date. But my opinion is that rebuilding is an ongoing process of turning over the roster, getting younger and finding players you see as players you want to keep as the foundation and core for the next good Orioles team.

Last July will probably be cited as the start of the rebuild, and that makes perfect sense. That was when players such as Manny Machado and Zach Britton were traded and prospects were acquired. You have to start somewhere, and July was when the Orioles unofficially announced to everyone that they were now building and rebuilding for the future and punting on anything in 2018. Of course it was probably early May when we really knew the season was already heading south and fast.

So a beginning and an end? That’s subjective, and it’s not a race with a start and finish line.

The Drake is always on the move: Former Orioles reliever Oliver Drake keeps trying to find a steady major league home, but the opposite keeps happening. It seems he’s always on the move.

Last season, Drake became the first player in major league history to appear in a game for five different major league teams in one season. He pitched for Milwaukee, Cleveland, the Los Angeles Angels, Toronto and Minnesota. Drake was designated for assignment five times in 2018.

As if that were not enough, Drake, who ended last season with the Twins, was claimed on waivers Nov. 1 by Tampa Bay and then on Monday claimed by Toronto. He’s a Blue Jay again, after being an Oriole, Brewer, Indian and Angel previously.

Oliver-Drake-white-sidebar.jpgThe right-hander was drafted by the Orioles out of the Naval Academy in the 43rd round of the 2008 draft, taken No. 1,286th overall. They don’t even have a 43rd round anymore. And most major league teams stayed away from Drake on draft day, believing he would first have to serve a tour with the Navy before he could play pro ball. But Drake made what he said was an incredibly tough decision and left the Academy before he had to commit to a tour of duty. So he could be drafted and head right to the minors, and the Orioles knew it, even if many other teams, apparently, did not.

He worked his way to Baltimore, putting up some very impressive numbers in Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk along the way. From 2015-2017, Drake went 1-0 with a 3.89 ERA in 37 innings for the Orioles.

Drake has a splitter that he throws nearly 50 percent of the time, and that can be a plus pitch when it’s on. Major league teams seem to like his career groundball rates, a career homer rate of 0.9 per nine innings and a career strikeout rate of 9.9. His BABIP (batting average of balls in play) was a very high .357 over the last two years, which must lead teams to think his overall numbers will improve when that comes down.

Give Drake credit for surviving the 2018 season as he set a major league record he didn’t want. The many times I’ve interviewed him he was always articulate and intelligent, and appeared to be very driven to succeed.

Here’s a hope that Drake may find one major league home and stick with it during the 2019 season.

All-AFL team: put together an all Arizona Fall League team, and Orioles outfield prospect Ryan McKenna made it. The 21-year-old McKenna had a real strong 17 games for Glendale. He hit .344/.474/.590 and ranked sixth in the AFL in batting average while he was second in OBP and slugging. He was second with a 1.064 OPS, which compares well to top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s .851 in that league.

McKenna had six doubles, three triples, a homer and nine RBIs to go with 16 runs and two stolen bases. He played a few games in corner outfielder spots, but mostly started in center field for Glendale, and he mostly hit leadoff. It was a strong showing for McKenna, who hit .214 versus lefties, .383 against right-handers and .357 when batting with runners in scoring position.

Click here to check out the all-AFL team. Here is a Jim Callis listing of the best 25 prospects in the AFL, but McKenna did not make that list.

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