Baltimore Orioles: Eight Days Until Opening Day And Eight Wishes

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 16: Jonathan Villar #2 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates a solo home run in the fourth inning during a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 16, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 16: Jonathan Villar #2 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates a solo home run in the fourth inning during a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 16, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

It’s hard to believe, but we are eight days away from the Baltimore Orioles taking the field for Opening Day 2019.

Last night, I got home from taking in a college baseball game at my alma mater and because there’s no such thing as too much baseball, I fired up MLB.TV and found the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks squaring off in some Cactus League action. Former beloved Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado donning his SD blue and Adam Jones in his brand new Diamondback threads.

I had a moment and turned to my wife, who immediately said “I know. You wish they were still with the Orioles.” She was right. I didn’t agree with all of Machado’s actions but I always loved his swagger on the field and I can’t say enough positive things about what Adam Jones meant to the Orioles, the city of Baltimore, and what he means to baseball. However, their tenure in the Charm City is done and it’s time to move on.

With eight days left until Opening Day, I have plenty of other wishes for the Baltimore Orioles and the 2019 season. Here are eight, one for each day remaining before Baltimore travels to New York to take on the Yankees.

1: People take some time to check out the minor leagues.

As fans of the Baltimore Orioles, we are pretty lucky when it comes to the minor leagues. The Norfolk Tides, Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys, Delmarva Shorebirds, and Aberdeen Ironbirds are within close proximity. Every single stadium provides a unique charm and intimate setting to watch the greatest sport in the world.

When summer settles in and things are getting tough to watch at the big league level, take a short trip to check out some of the minor league talent. Don’t let people who haven’t watched these guys tell you they aren’t worth watching. DL Hall, Ryan Mountcastle, Yusniel Diaz, Grayson Rodriguez, Keegan Akin, Austin Hays, Blaine Knight…I could go on and on. There won’t be a boring night down on the farm in 2019, I guarantee it.

2: Ryan Mountcastle is the starting first baseman by the end of 2019.

I’m more than willing to give Chris Davis a month or two under new leadership and a new coaching staff, but the leash is extremely short. Mountcastle will be banging at the gates of Camden Yards sooner rather than later and no one needs to be standing in his way (and staring at baseballs). A lot of patience will be required for this rebuild, but if Mountcastle’s bat is ready, the O’s need to show it off.

3: The kids will get to be kids.

Do we need to watch Alcides Escobar? If Richie Martin struggles, there are a handful of shortstops in the minors who aren’t future every day starting shortstops but deserve a chance to showcase their stuff, however, they are still a year away (Mason McCoy and Chris Clare, for example), leaving no options to replace Martin (hence why Escobar was signed). Shortstops who have a solid glove and no bat are pretty easy to find. Should Martin prove unable to handle the day-to-day duties, the O’s can address the position at that time. Let the kids be kids, take their lumps, and work through the kinks.

4: Trades, trades, trades!

Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Jonathan Villar, Mychal Givens, Mark Trumbo, and more could all be sought after at some point in 2019. We already know that Mike Elias has received calls about a few of his pitchers, including Bundy. The band-aid was ripped off when the team dealt Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and Kevin Gausman last season and maybe this is just me, but there isn’t a single player on this roster who I have an emotional attachment to. Bring on the prospects!

No one on the current roster is going to bring in a major haul, but when you look at a team like the San Diego Padres, it’s fun to comb through their extensive minor league system and daydream about which of their pieces would look good in an Orioles’ uniform. With prospects like Hudson Potts, Esteury Ruiz, Gabriel Arias, and a list of pitchers all likely to have difficulties finding playing time on the major league roster, do the Orioles have anything of interest to Padres’ general manager AJ Preller? I wish.

5: The Adley Rutschman experience takes off.

As you well know by now, the Baltimore Orioles have the first overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft. Barring nuclear disaster, Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman will trade his OSU orange for Orioles’ orange in about three months.

Rutschman is currently hitting .456 with a .619 OBP (26 walks/10 strikeouts) and eight home runs through his first 18 games. Expected to be a fast riser through the system, a successful hit with Rutschman will be a huge boost for the rebuild. Hays, Diaz, Mountcastle, and Hall are either currently ranked among the top 100 prospects in the league, or have been in the recent past, but the word “elite” hasn’t been used to describe an O’s prospect in a while. That could change, very soon.

6: Less reliance on power.

During their recent run of winning seasons, it was largely home run or bust for the Orioles’ offense. As long as Davis is in the lineup, it will be home run or strikeout for the former offensive threat. Hopefully, we see a bit of spring training play translate over into the regular season for the rest of the lineup. Home runs are beautiful, but manufacturing runs with smart, situational hitting and stretching for extra bases to help generate runs and win ball games is also beautiful.

The Orioles currently rank fourth in runs scored and seventh in team batting average among all 30 clubs in spring training. Those numbers won’t hold up in the regular season and I’m fine with losses, as long as we start to see changes with the offense.

7: Put it all together, Yusniel Diaz.

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Diaz struggled after coming over to the organization as the headline of the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but that’s expected of a young player who is forced to switch teams late in the season. I don’t think any one prospect currently in the system is more important than another, but watching Diaz reach the majors at some point in 2019 and find early success will help get this rebuild off the ground. Diaz had a fantastic spring training and we saw flashes of what to expect, hopefully, the hot spring translates to a big return to Bowie before the Orioles have no choice but to bring him up to the big leagues.

8: Don’t give up.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the process. Be patient, extremely patient. We will get through starts from Mike Wright, Davis and Trumbo clogging everything, and Renato Nunez being the star of the offense. It’s just going to take a long time. Hoping your favorite team’s best players play well enough to bring in respectable hauls in trades isn’t the thought process anyone wants to have entering a brand new season of baseball, but that’s the reality. We can vent together through the super dark times, just stay patient.

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What’s on your wish list, other than a World Series?