The 2019 season is coming to a close for the Baltimore Orioles, but these eight things may keep your interest through the final few weeks.
It’s hard to believe, but we’re down to the final 31 games of the 2019 season for the Baltimore Orioles. While the offseason will provide a welcomed break from another season of dismal baseball at the major league level, 2019 has provided plenty of bright spots and was at least more enjoyable than the collapse and dismantling of the 2018 team.
With one month left in the regular season, what can Orioles fans watch for when sitting down and enjoying a game? We have a list of eight things that may keep your interest as the season winds down, before football season consumes your life in the fall. Why eight? I just really love the number eight.
1) Can John Means make the Rookie of the Year race interesting?
Per Fangraphs WAR measurement, John Means ranks third among American League rookies with a 2.2 fWAR. Houston Astros young slugger Yordan Alvarez ranks first at 2.6 fWAR and Tampa Bay Rays infielder (and my next door neighbor) Brandon Lowe currently sits in second at 2.5. Lowe has been shut down for the rest of the season, meaning the award is likely to come down to Means or Alvarez.
With 19 home runs and a .322 average, Alvarez is the heavy favorite, but Means can at least finish strong and make it interesting. July and August haven’t been pretty for Means (1-5, 5.68 ERA) but he went seven innings in his last outing, allowing just one run, no walks, and striking out seven against Tampa Bay. He was placed on the family medical emergency list yesterday, but we likely won’t know why until he returns to the team. We can only hope for the best for Means and his family during this time.
2) Hunter Harvey and that beautiful mullet.
He’s healthy, electric, and looks good in orange and black. Harvey is finally pitching in the big leagues for the first time since the Orioles used a first-round pick on him in 2013 and the wait has been worth it. We don’t know how many more innings Harvey will throw (undisclosed innings limit), making each outing that much more exciting.
Through his first three big league appearances, Harvey has allowed one hit and no runs across three innings, walking one and striking out five. The Orioles have 12 more games against AL East foes, meaning plenty of opportunities to see Harvey take control of divisional opponents, something that we hope becomes a common occurrence over the next few years. There’s also a three-game set against the Dodgers in mid-September. Will Harvey get an opportunity to go up against one of the more dominant lineups in baseball? I hope so.
3) Whichever outfielder gets a September call-up.
The Orioles probably won’t use all available 15 roster spots when they expand on September 1st, but adding at least one outfielder, other than Dwight Smith Jr.who is a given, makes sense. I know I’m not the only one who would like to see Mason Williams get a shot, but he isn’t on the 40-man, while Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays are.
Bringing Hays up after missing big chunks of 2019 due to injury doesn’t seem like something Mike Elias would go for, considering his short track record of decisions already in Baltimore, but he has been a constant highlight reel in the outfield over the last few weeks in Triple-A Norfolk. Showing off a strong and accurate arm from right field and center, making diving catches, and flashing his wheels, Hays is making a strong case to become a center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles in the near future. The bat hasn’t fully come around yet, but he’s warming up and looks ready to make some noise each time he walks into the batter’s box.
Mullins struggled in the bigs and continued that trend in Triple-A this season, but is starting to come around. He’s hitting .260 in August with eight extra-base hits and is a perfect 9-9 in stolen bases. Watching him live, you see a slightly different Mullins, compared to the Mullins we saw for much of the year. Something is clicking again and he’s deserving of one more shot.
4) Chance Sisco with a new position?
It won’t be long before Adley Rutschman is the main man behind the dish for the Baltimore Orioles, but you also need a reliable backup who is going to give you a good chunk of games. Can Chance Sisco fill that role? I don’t think so.
Sisco hit .196 in July and is currently hitting .179 in August. He hasn’t hit a home run since July 7th and has just one double since June 28th. Austin Wynns is a logical choice for a September call-up (already on the 40-man) and can spell Pedro Severino here and there while the Orioles take a look at Sisco somewhere else on the field. There hasn’t been any official talk of this, but why not? If the team still believes in his bat, it’s worth a shot.
5) The first pick of the 2020 MLB draft belongs to…
Personally, getting the top pick in next year’s draft isn’t something I give much thought to. The Tigers still hold the advantage (.305 winning percentage), but the Orioles aren’t far behind with a .328 winning percentage. Kansas City (.351) and Miami (.364) are also in play. Even if the Orioles hit a hot stretch in September and take their series against the Tigers in a few weeks, Baltimore will still pick within the top four next year. That still gives this organization another opportunity to add an elite prospect.
If you are someone who is closely following this race and really wants the top pick, then every game matters! Baltimore will play 20 of their final 31 games against sub-.500 teams (including four against the Tigers) and has series against the Nationals, Dodgers, Rays, and Red Sox remaining. We have seen this team put up positive stretches and we have seen them look completely outmatched for longer stretches. Just remember, at the end of the day, the Orioles are getting a really good pick.
6) Jonathan Villar‘s 30/30 run.
After becoming the sixth player in Baltimore Orioles history to record a 20/20 season last weekend, Villar is now hunting a historic 30/30 season. His 20 home runs are already a career-high, but it’s 2019 so 10 home runs in 31 games aren’t out of the question. He needs just two more stolen bases to reach 30, a mark he is sure to reach in the coming days.
Odds are extremely low this happens, but let’s play the what-if game. If Villar somehow cranks out 10 more home runs, he will be the first Baltimore Orioles player to achieve a 30/30 season since the team moved to Baltimore. Ken Williams posted the first-ever 30/30 season in 1922 as a member of the St. Louis Browns.
7) Hanser Alberto.
Do I need to say more? Hanser Alberto has been a joy this season and now looks like he could be a valuable piece for the future. Roch Kubatko mentioned that at least one team has interest in Alberto in an offseason deal and it’s likely that other teams come calling. That still doesn’t mean someone offers enough to close a deal and the Orioles could benefit from keeping Alberto around.
He’s extremely cheap, can play multiple infield positions, and is a nightmare for left-handed pitchers. Even if his .402 average against LHP isn’t repeatable, the 26-year-old has found holes in the defense all year long. Best of all, he isn’t relying on crushing home run power. In fact, Alberto has produced some of the softest contact in baseball with an average exit velocity of 82.8 mph on balls in play (18% hard-hit rate is at the bottom of the list).
The Orioles have a big hole of middle infield prospects in the upper-minors, with their top 2B/SS prospects having yet to reach 21 years of age. There’s no need to spend money on a big free agent to fill this hole at the major league level when Alberto has earned a spot in 2020. Until he proves otherwise, let the Hanser Alberto show continue.
8) Dylan Bundy can still turn things around.
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My dad is the eternal optimist when it comes to Baltimore Orioles baseball. He spent years coaching baseball and knows the game well, but tends to watch Orioles baseball with orange-colored glasses on, especially when Dylan Bundy climbs the mound. I can’t say I share his optimism about Bundy, but the former first-round pick did just finish a very solid month of August.
I took a look at his improvements the other day, which you can read here, and noted how less four-seam usage has produced better results with the pitch. In 29 August innings, Bundy gave up just two home runs and limited opponents to a .253 average, nearly 40 points lower than his June and July batting average against.
Bundy doesn’t need to go 4-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA in August to prove a point, but continued small improvements could go a long way for the 26-year-old righty. The Orioles aren’t going to go out and sign any big name pitchers in free agency this offseason, meaning they need Bundy to help bridge the gap. Don’t give up on him yet and watch him closely over his final starts of 2019. Maybe, just maybe, good Dylan Bundy sticks around. Perhaps, the Frederick Keys sent him a Dylan Bundy Dundie bobblehead from their giveaway night a few weeks ago and it inspired something?
What is going to keep you around and watching the major league Baltimore Orioles through the final four weeks of the season? Let us know below!