The Baltimore Orioles have been able to show patience at the plate and aggressiveness on the basepaths throughout the spring training.
The 2019 season will be year one of a long rebuild for the Baltimore Orioles. Fans aren’t just waiting around for the front office to trade away what few major league assets there are for additional minor league talent that can join a top-ranked farm system to turn things around in two-three years. The Orioles rebuild is a bit more complicated.
We have seen the beginnings of the philosophical changes taking place in the front office and the hiring of personnel to help carry out this new philosophy. Now, Mike Elias needs a roster of players capable of producing change and putting his philosophy to action on the field. This won’t happen in year one. I know that, you know that, anyone who even casually follows Major League Baseball knows that.
The upcoming season won’t be all doom and gloom. Austin Hays, Yusniel Diaz, and Ryan Mountcastle should all provide a peek into the future, a future full of happier times for fans of the Baltimore Orioles.
Maybe this is finally the season for Hunter Harvey? I’m not entirely convinced yet, but it’s March 15 so I’m allowed to be as optimistic as I want, right?
In all seriousness, the farm system isn’t as depleted as some may think. I rather not waste my money on ESPN content, but I have heard that one particular writer believes the O’s farm is just a wasteland of nobodies. He’s wrong. The likes of DL Hall, Zac Lowther, Brenan Hanifee, and others will be a lot of fun to watch in the minor leagues. Make sure you go visit an affiliate ballpark, or two. Luckily for O’s fans, all five minor league affiliates are within a short drive from Baltimore (obviously not including the GCL or DSL here).
Rebuilding this franchise will be a long process but it should be a fun process. Have we already started to see early signs of change this spring? When it comes to patience at the plate and aggressiveness on the basepaths, we have.
Only the San Diego Padres have stolen more bases than the Baltimore Orioles this spring.
In 2018, the Baltimore Orioles reached base at a .298 clip as a team, the second-lowest mark in all of baseball. No major league franchise drew fewer walks than the Orioles, who racked up 422 walks, 225 behind the MLB-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Just three players drew more than 40 walks last season, one of them being Manny Machado. Trey Mancini (44) and Chris Davis (41) were the only full-time Orioles to surpass the 40 walk mark, both of which came out to less than 8% (not good).
Through 21 spring games, Baltimore has drawn 72 walks, 13th most in the league. While a player’s batting average may not be an accurate way to assess hitters in spring, their ability to work counts and get on base is a positive sign to look at.
Here are the individual leaders in walk rate for the Orioles (min. 20 at-bats), with their 2018 regular season mark in parenthesis.
- Chance Sisco: 25% (7.1% in majors)
- Eric Young Jr. 19.5% (5.1% in majors)
- Jace Peterson: 16.7% (12.6%)
- Jonathan Villar: 16.7% (8%)
- Rio Ruiz: 13.9% (7.4% in AAA)
- Cedric Mullins: 13.2% (8.9%)
Eleven of Sisco’s 28 at-bats have resulted in a walk or a home run. His swing looks good, he’s rarely chased a bad pitch in the televised games, and it appears he will be given the majority of time behind the plate this year. Sisco is also joined by Mullins as the two players with more walks than strikeouts, thus far.
Peterson has always shown solid patience at the plate and if Ruiz can show an ability to get on base to go along with his glove at third base, he may just win the starting job in the hot corner. The key players here are Villar, Mullins, and possibly Eric Young Jr.
Young’s versatility gives him higher odds to make the Opening Day roster. His speed on the basepaths will also likely be a contributing factor. You can add veteran presence to this list, for what it is worth to you. He could be a valuable asset to guys like Hays, Mullins, Stewart, and Diaz. If Brandon Hyde wants his lineup to be aggressive on the basepaths, they first have to do what they couldn’t do in 2019, get on base.
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Once they get on base, the O’s could find themselves in a position to manufacture runs in more ways than just the long ball. As a team, Baltimore baserunners have swiped 22 bags, behind only the San Diego Padres for the league lead. The aggressiveness hasn’t come at a big price, finding success at a 74.2% clip (4% lower than their 2018 success rate).
The trio of Villar, Young, and Mullins are a perfect 9-9 in stolen bases. On a few different occasions, we have seen Mullins lead off the inning by getting on base, stealing second base, and coming around to score later in the inning, making the entire process look easy.
The free-running approach will be tamed when the games start to count, but we have a better idea of the type of success the Orioles could experience. Those close games that reach the late-innings are likely to become a bit more interesting.
Now the question becomes, will this success translate into the regular season. There may be a more relaxed and fun atmosphere around camp in Sarasota, Florida, but what happens when the 162-game regular season grind under the bright lights commences?