Baltimore Orioles 2020: The Conundrum at Center Field
If the 2020 Baltimore Orioles ever get to play, fans will finally get to see what Brandon Hyde has decided to do with center field.
For 11 seasons, the Baltimore Orioles everyday center fielder was the face of the franchise. But after Adam Jones left in free agency, the spot that defined the team hasn’t been the same.
Of course, no one can fight time. But after so much consistency, it is tough to watch the position go through change.
Struggles in 2019
in 2019, Stevie Wilkerson saw time in center field in 72 games. His performance was satisfactory, but he is truly a utility player. The expected heir to center field is either Cedric Mullins or Austin Hays. The two played in a combination of 42 games at center field in 2019.
Both are young, speedy, and inexperienced in MLB games. This makes for a tough decision when decision time rolls around. With the only truly experienced outfielder (Trey Mancini) out for an unknown time, the Orioles could have some issues. Dwight Smith Jr.and Anthony Santander are better in the corners, but they are far from perfect. Both have limited range that makes them unsuitable for center.
Limited Data on Probable Starters
In their limited experience in center field, both Mullins and Hays shows their limits, too. Both were below league average in range with Mullins below Hays. Hays made no errors in 2019 in center field, while Mullins was credited with one, dropping his fielding percentage to .983. Out of 164 innings, that’s not bad at all.
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Fielding is important, but to win ball games players must score runs. In the short spring training, Hays outperformed Mullins at the plate. In 19 at-bats, Mullins earned a slash of .211/.286/.211 with no extra-base hits and two RBI. He did steal three bases. Hays earned a slash of .179/.273/.286 with three doubles and four RBI in 28 at-bats. Neither were overly impressive.
Waiting for the Free Agents?
If baseball is played in 2020, the expectations for the Orioles outfield is low. But, this could be a good thing. If the lowest salaried team in baseball is preparing to add free agents to its roster, the class of 2021 has notable outfielders.
Two of the best outfielders in baseball will be available as free agents at the end of the 2020 season: Mookie Betts and George Springer. If the Orioles want to start contending, they will need to upgrade in a multitude of areas, and signing an All-Star outfielder would help.
But, in recent years, Orioles fans have come to expect little from the front office. The signing of Jose Iglesias was the only notable one of the latest crop of free agents. Until the front office does something notable, the fans will be stuck with young players who have a limited season to prove their worth.