After the Baltimore Orioles uninspiring start to the 2018 campaign, the flaws that have plagued the team, the management, and the front office in years past appear relevant once again. Over-aggressive hitting has resulted in piles of strikeouts, poor bullpen management has lost at least one game, and dumpster-fire additions have stunted the development and emergence of key prospects. All of this has me thinking – and realizing – just how badly the Orioles have spoiled their future.
Yes, I have written on this subject before, focusing on their inability to deal Manny Machado and receive a quality return and therefore jeopardizing a quick rebuild. This week, I realized that – though that has become the present issue – the current state of the team would have been much more promising if the team hadn’t made a grave mistake two years ago. When the Orioles resigned first-baseman Chris Davis, they crippled their future far more than we realized at the time. Here’s why:
Despite his disastrous numbers since signing the contract, the commitment the team made to Chris Davis has strapped them at the position. For starters, Davis’ contract forced now fan-favorite Trey Mancini to shift from his natural position to the outfield. While that transition has gone smoothly for Mancini, the Orioles’ depth in the outfield – especially in the coming years with Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart and Ademar Rifaela – creates a logjam. If the O’s had let Davis walk, Mancini could have filled in at first base and the team could have implemented an outfield platoon or orchestrated a trade to further bolster the roster.
In addition, if the team hadn’t invested so heavily in Chris Davis, perhaps they would be willing to do so for Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, the team’s real stars. And this fact is crucial because the team is closer to relevancy than many believe. If the Orioles locked up their cornerstone players for the next 5 years, it is quite possible that their farm system could surround the two stars with the pieces necessary to win a championship.
The Baltimore Orioles biggest problem has been its pitching. That’s why they collapsed last year; it’s why they have skeptics this year. While part of that has been the owner’s unwillingness to sign pitchers (or, if they do, signing the wrong ones), the primary issue has been the lack of development by high draft picks devoted to pitching. However, the Orioles have a fair number of pitching prospects moving forward, and they could be the makings of a solid rotation in the coming years. While Dylan Bundy figures to be the team’s ace moving forward (he looks the part, too), hurlers such as Hunter Harvey, Keegan Akin, and David Hess look on the verge of breaking the major league roster. Further down in the minors there are even more prospects. 2017 1st-round pick DL Hall, who the Orioles felt was a steal at their position, will enter his first full professional season and looks to be an exciting left-handed arm. Alex Wells, another southpaw from Australia has thrived so far in his career, owns the “best control and command in the Orioles’ system,” according to MLB.com. He is the Orioles #11 prospect and pitched to a 2.38 ERA at Delmarva last season. Following Wells is 2016 draft pick, Cody Sedlock, a right-hander who pitched at the University of Illinois. Although his debut season was somewhat underwhelming, Sedlock could prove to be a valuable back-end starter at some point down the road.
While contemplating the Orioles’ farm system, I came up with what I think the roster could look like 3 years from now. For the purpose of this article, I will have one column showing a lineup with Chris Davis and without Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop, as well as a second column showing the opposite outcome.
2021 Pitching Rotation:
- Dylan Bundy (RHP)
- Hunter Harvey (RHP)
- Kevin Gausman (RHP)
- Alex Wells (LHP)
- Keegan Akin
** At this point in time, Cody Sedlock and DL Hall would likely be knocking at the door, and Alex Cobb could still be in play considering he is on a 4-year deal.
2021 Lineup/Defense W/ Davis 2021 Lineup/Defense W/O Davis
- Cedric Mullins – CF 1. Cedric Mullins – CF
- Austin Hays – RF 2. Austin Hays – RF
- Trey Mancini – LF 3. Manny Machado – SS
- Chris Davis – 1B 4. Trey Mancini – 1B
- Ryan Mountcastle – 3B 5. Jonathan Schoop – 2B
- Tim Beckham – SS 6. Ryan Mountcastle – DH
- Anthony Santander – DH 7. Tim Beckham – 3B
- Chance Sisco – C 8. Anthony Santander – LF
- Second Baseman (No Prospects) 9. Chance Sisco – C
In my opinion (and I’d imagine, the opinions of many others), the lineup without Chris Davis is far better than the other, as it has a blend of speed, power, and – most importantly – contact. Considering the projections of the prospects listed above (that is, Mullins, Hays, Mountcastle), this order would not only be as feared but likely more feared than today’s Orioles lineup. Supporting that offense with a deeper, more balanced and – hopefully – more consistent pitching rotation could mean danger for other AL teams.
Unfortunately, though, Chris Davis is still in the club, Manny Machado will be long gone, perhaps wearing pinstripes or dodger-blue, and Jonathan Schoop will be reaping the benefits of a new contract – let’s just hope it’s with the Orioles. And even though a portion of this week’s blog should serve as a source of hope, as the O’s do have some talent in their system, it should be taken with a grain of salt, as the outlook would be so much more hopeful if the Orioles had handled their business wisely just three offseasons ago.