Baltimore Orioles: 3 Things to Watch for as O’s face Oakland Athletics

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17: Head coach Buck Showalter and General Manager Dan Duquette of the Baltimore Orioles talk before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 17, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17: Head coach Buck Showalter and General Manager Dan Duquette of the Baltimore Orioles talk before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 17, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

As the Baltimore Orioles prepare for their 3-game series against the Oakland Athletics starting Tuesday, we’re watching these upcoming games with an eye on 2019 and beyond

The Baltimore Orioles struggled mightily during their most recent 9-game road trip, posting a 1-8 record and getting outscored 65-25 in the process. The Orioles didn’t face the stiffest competition in Kansas City, Seattle and Tampa Bay, however we’re past thinking the Orioles will be at all competitive for the rest of 2018.

Everything the Orioles do from here on out should be focused on the future. We’ve seen the front office working with this mindset for some time now, but the dearth of elite-level talent in the organization makes it tough for casual fans to remain invested in the product this late in the season.

The Orioles are bound to have plenty of available playing time in 2019, as there are almost no players locked into positions next year and beyond. With that in mind, here are three things we’re watching for in the upcoming series against the A’s, and what long-term impacts they might have on the Orioles.

Starting Pitching

More from Birds Watcher

What: Specifically, Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy. Cobb is dealing with a finger injury, (whether it’s a blister or a cut/laceration is apparently up for debate), but he’s still scheduled to start on Tuesday night.

Cobb was a late free-agent signing in the off-season so he got started around mid-April, but he had a dismal first half of the season. Whether that’s due to the late start or not is debatable, but he’s been significantly better since the start of August, minus the hiccup in Toronto on August 29th.

Why it matters: It’s imperative that Cobb ends the season on a strong note. He might not hold much trade value in 2019 due to his contract, (he’s owed $43m from 2019-2021), but if there’s one pitcher on the roster that could hold significant trade value based on performance next year, it’s Cobb.

Bundy, on the other hand, has seen the wheels come completely off since the start of July. In his last 54 innings, Bundy has an 8.83 ERA with less than a strikeout per inning, and has allowed 19 homers and a 1.053 OPS.

Is Dylan Bundy good? We’ve seen the potential, but he’s only had one good outing in the past three-plus months. Is Dylan Bundy hurt? He’s lost two mph on his fastball velocity over the last two years.

Why it matters: If Bundy struggles again in this series, maybe it’s time the Orioles shut him down for the rest of 2018. It’s tough to see him losing any more confidence this year; maybe just giving him the next three weeks off to rest, relax and focus on 2019 is the best decision at this point.

Bullpen Usage

What: Specifically, the usage of Miguel Castro and Luis Ortiz, among others. Castro has frequently been used in a multi-inning role, to varied success.

Still just 23, Castro has plenty of potential; he has elite fastball velocity and two plus-secondary pitches, but he’s struggled getting batters to swing and miss.

Ortiz struggled in his first major league outing, allowing three hits, three runs and two walks. Also, he’s exceeded his previous innings-pitched total, so it’ll be interesting to see how/if the O’s use him the rest of the year.

Why it matters: The Orioles have one of the worst bullpens in the majors. Sean Gilmartin and Ryan Meisinger certainly don’t belong on the mound, but the O’s don’t have many guys to pitch the requisite innings.

If the Orioles continue to stretch pitchers like Ortiz, Yefry Ramirez, Jimmy Yacabonis, etc. past their previous high-innings marks, it shows their confidence in the youngsters going forward.

Roster Tryouts

What: The rest of 2018 will essentially serve as fall-training, if you will, and will determine who makes the cut for the 2019 squad. Who starts where seems insignificant, but this will have implications concerning off-season roster casualties.

Only Adam Jones will hit free agency after this year, but players like Keegan Akin, Ryan Mountcastle and Yusniel Diaz will be pushing a handful of current players for spots on the 40-man coming into 2019.

Why it matters: Position players Corban Joesph, Jace Peterson, Breyvic Valera and John Andreoli specifically are all fighting to remain on the 2019 Orioles 40-man roster. The Orioles will continue to evaluate these fringe players as the season dwindles down to a close.

dark. Next. What the Orioles September lineup should look like

The Orioles’ series against the A’s starts tonight

While the Orioles’ 2018 season might be over, there are still big implications for the 2019 season and beyond.