Baltimore Orioles: When Will It All Come Together?
The Baltimore Orioles aren’t making the playoffs this season and don’t go putting any money down on a run in 2020. So when may we see the Orioles back in the playoffs? Contributor Jesse Morrison gives his opinion.
The 2019 Baltimore Orioles currently own a win-loss record about what we expected coming into the year. However, if fans look a little deeper into the Orioles roster and minor league system, the major league team is slightly better than its record shows and finally has pieces down on the farm who are legitimate major league prospects. Will it all come together to bring playoff baseball back to Birdland by 2022?
The major league lineup has been surprisingly productive during stretches this season and showing improvements; exactly what we needed to see as the season progresses. Top prospects in the minor leagues have shown enough promise to see the Orioles farm system jump from one of the more lowly ranked systems to a Top 10 system in baseball. It’s not crazy to think that 2022 is the goal.
Are there pieces to this lineup who have shown the ability to stick around two-three years down the road? Hanser Alberto has been a hitting machine all year and is now hitting an insane .415 off left-handed pitching which has translated to a .321 overall batting average. At 26, he should be a part of the Orioles future with his ability to find holes in the defense and ability to play multiple positions in the field.
Renato Nuñez could also be another piece, especially if Chris Davis is removed from the equation. Nunez has steadily put together a very good season with 28 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .468 slugging percentage. At just 25, if the Orioles can find regular playing time, Nunez has shown he can contribute.
The youngest O’s breakout player this season has been outfielder Anthony Santander. The 24-year-old is currently hitting .291 with an .845 OPS. He has shown solid power with 17 home runs in just 79 games and his defense has been strong, as well. The results maybe haven’t always been there defensively, but he gives tremendous effort on each play and will improve with a secured job under his belt. He is another player making a case for sticking around for the future. If the Orioles can keep Santander, Nuñez, and Alberto, along with Trey Mancini, the lineup has a base to build around, especially if full potential is reached with all four players.
The pitching staff needs a lot more work. The lone pitcher on the team I would love to see hang around is All-Star starter John Means. While he is not having a great second half (multiple small injuries and a full season in the bigs have likely taken their toll), his 3.50 ERA on the year is the best out of the rotation by far and at 26, he is still young enough to keep around for the future. He has the chance to become a reliable option for this staff, one step toward becoming a real contender.
Another reason that 2022 does not seem too far off is the minor-league system. Ryan Mountcastle is ready right now for the big leagues after lighting up the International League with Triple-A Norfolk this season. Now largely an outfielder, Mountcastle cranked out 25 home runs and 35 doubles in Norfolk while hitting .312. Of course, there is 2019 No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman who will probably be in Baltimore by the end of next season and hopefully be a budding superstar by 2022.
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The biggest factor in the team’s success, in my opinion, will be the pitching staff’s dramatic improvement coming in the next few years. The Birds finally have good pitching in the minor leagues with DL Hall, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann and Cody Sedlock all having impressive 2019 campaigns, featuring low ERAs, high strikeout totals, and showing improvements from last season to this season.
If Hunter Harvey continues his success out of the bullpen, the prospects show out at the major league level, the team adds the necessary bullpen and rotation arms in free agency, and the players already having success at the big league level continue their respective ascents, the Orioles should be right back in the thick of a playoff run by 2022.
What’s your timeline for this organization becoming a playoff team again? Do you agree with 2022? Are you the optimist who says some free agent signings can make it happen in 2021? Or are you more patient and thinking 2023? Let us know!