It is Time for the Orioles to Move on from These Three Players
The Orioles could use a bit of a roster shakeup.
The Baltimore Orioles are competitive well into August, with a winning record and a real shot at the playoffs. The organization and the fanbase are not used to being in this position after witnessing four straight seasons of being well out of contention. That means instead of letting weak players get an extended look at the Major League level because the alternatives are just as bad, GM Mike Elias can call up talented prospects who are better than some current players on the roster.
Elias briefly made one of those moves over the weekend, when he promoted DL Hall to make his first career start on Saturday. He promptly sent Hall back down afterwards, but that is for him to adjust to a bullpen role to help the Orioles down the stretch, similar to what the Mariners have done with Matt Brash this season.
Fans are clamoring to see Gunnar Henderson, Kyle Stowers, and Jordan Westburg play in Baltimore, and for good reason. All three of them have been tearing it up with the Tides. Henderson has a .971 OPS on the year, including .925 in Norfolk. Westburg isn’t quite as impressive, with an .820 OPS and very similar lines between AA and AAA. Stowers already made a brief MLB debut and has a .901 OPS one level below.
It just so happens these three studs would neatly replace three players at the bottom of the Orioles roster. Let’s take a look at who is running out of time to perform.
We can endlessly discuss how much Rougned Odor is worth to this team, and we have. He often comes through in the clutch, but he doesn’t really show up in the other eight plus innings. You might hear some Orioles fans call him “Net Zero” because he has been worth exactly zero WAR this season, which is hard to do in 353 plate appearances.
Roogie has a poor batting average of .205, but his on base percentage is an even worse .266. It feels like he has a lot of power, but his slugging percentage is a low .376. His .642 OPS equates to an 81 OPS+. A number that bad must mean he is playing good defense, but that hasn’t been the case, either. In 96 games at second base, he has -4 defensive runs saved and is in the 9th percentile for outs above average after being in the 95th percentile last year. We have seen him makes some nice snags and double play turns, but he also makes a lot of bonehead plays.
Odor is a leader in the clubhouse (like Robinson Chirinos, who could have also been on this list), and we have seen him run interference during mounds visits. He has definitely played a role in some of the Orioles’ biggest wins this year, but I don’t think intangibles are enough to outweigh the tangibles. The left-handed Henderson would easily take his spot in the lineup.
Yes, I know that the Orioles only recently acquired Brett Phillips, and I am a big fan of his, but there are clearly better outfield options. I think he is better than the line he has put up this season, but there aren’t any signs his numbers will improve in the short term. No matter how you square it, a .144 batting average simply isn’t playable. The Yankees learned that the hard way with Joey Gallo. Brett’s numbers have actually gone down in his two weeks with the Orioles.
Phillips is an elite defender and a fast runner, but Brandon Hyde already has a much better bench outfielder in Ryan McKenna (who, by the way, now has an above-average line). Phillips is a joy to be around and makes the sport better, but he just isn’t hitting well enough to deserve a roster spot in the midst of a playoff race. The Rays came to that conclusion and the Orioles should too. I hope Phillips latches on with an MLB team that can afford him more playing time under lower stakes. Stowers is an obvious replacement.
Ryan Mountcastle’s hand injury over the weekend created a mini crisis resulting in Tyler Nevin playing first base. That should tell you more about a lack of 1B options than a belief in Nevin’s ability. In his first look at extended playing time, Nevin has a paltry .564 OPS in 54 games. He has a great 10.7% walk rate, but that doesn’t help much when his average is .199 and his slugging percentage is lower than his on base percentage. Yuck. I can understand if you think he needs more opportunities, but I have seen enough/
Unlike Odor or Phillips, “moving on” from Nevin would not necessarily mean he leaves the organization. As experienced veterans, Mike Elias would likely put Odor and Phillips on release waivers, or they would elect free agency on their own. Nevin, meanwhile, still has an option year, so the Orioles can send him back to AAA for more seasoning. They can take him off the Major League roster without giving up on him. Westburg is no guarantee to succeed, but he brings more right-handed power to the table.