Category Archives: Baltimore Orioles Pro Shop

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One member of the Orioles’ 2020 rotation competition instead will reportedly play overseas.

Right-hander Aaron Brooks is expected to join the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization, per Korean outlet Naver Sports and other reports. Brooks, 29, joined the Orioles midseason as a waiver claim from the Oakland Athletics, recording a 6.18 ERA in 14 outings with Baltimore.

Brooks made his first 12 appearances for the Orioles as a starter. His most effective performance in that role came against the eventual World Series-winning Washington Nationals on Aug. 27, when he allowed two hits across six scoreless innings. But even including that start, Brooks had a nine-start stretch in which he had an 8.33 ERA, soon thereafter prompting a move to the bullpen. In his first outing as a reliever, he pitched the final seven innings in a victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 20, giving up one run on one hit. He followed that with two hitless innings of relief in his final outing of the year.

All-Star and American League Rookie of the Year runner-up John Means, Dylan Bundy and a healthy Alex Cobb figure to make up the front end of the Orioles’ 2020 rotation, with 2019 returnee Asher Wojciechowski also in the mix. Other members of last year’s staff who remain in the organization to contend for rotation spots include David Hess, Ty Blach, Tom Eshelman and Chandler Shepherd, though Hess is the only member of that group who remains on the 40-man roster.

Brooks’ exit reduces the Orioles’ 40-man roster to 35, with a handful of prospects needing to be added ahead of next week’s deadline to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Among that group are left-hander Keegan Akin and right-hander Dean Kremer, both of whom figure to contend for a starting role at some point in 2020.

Shorebirds named MiLB.com minor league Team of the Year
The firsts keep coming for the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds, who on Tuesday were named MiLB.com’s 2019 Team of the Year for the first time in franchise history.

The Shorebirds’ 90 regular-season victories were the most in the minor leagues and bested the previous franchise record by seven games. They were the South Atlantic League’s first 90-win team since 2006 and led the league in various pitching categories, including ERA, strikeouts, shutouts and WHIP.

Delmarva’s roster featured several of the Orioles’ top prospects, including left-hander Drew Rom, shortstop Adam Hall and 2018 first-rounder Grayson Rodriguez, who shared Baltimore’s minor league Pitcher of the Year honors with Michael Baumann. Adley Rutschman, the first overall pick in the 2019 draft, joined the Shorebirds in August for their playoff push, catching a two-hit shutout in his team debut.

The Shorebirds’ season ended earlier than they hoped, losing two one-run games in a best-of-three series with Texas Rangers affiliate Hickory. But their lack of a postseason championship did not keep them from earning recognition for their season as a whole.

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Morning, Birdland!

Baseball’s winter meetings just recently concluded, and it feels like the Orioles may nearly be done the majority of their offseason movement already. They added three players this week and now have a full 40-man roster. Brandon Hyde will be introduced as the manager on Monday. And the only rumor swirling is that they may be interested in adding a veteran outfielder, which would be more of a wish list item than it would be a necessary addition.

This is not a surprising development. Mike Elias and his crew have made it known that the Orioles are gonna stink in 2019, and likely a few years after that as well. This off-season isn’t about fighting the big boys for high-end free agents. It’s about building the foundation for a winning club. For now, that means finding the right front office people and putting in place processes that continually produce winning baseball teams.

Are Richie Martin, Drew Jackson or Rio Ruiz capable of putting up numbers at the major league level? Their past employers weren’t so sure. The Orioles might not be convinced either, but it was worth a shot to find out.

At the very least Elias has implemented a plan and is on his way to fully realizing that plan. Here’s hoping it pays off…eventually.

Links

Should the Orioles still pursue a veteran shortstop via trade or free agency? – The Athletic
At this point it feels unnecessary to add another shortstop to the mix. The goal with Martin and Jackson was likely two-fold: find a big league starter at shortstop, bulk up the middle infield options in the upper minors going forward. It’s possible that neither one of them is the answer long term. However, if they can survive the season that then gives the Orioles two young, controllable infielders in Norfolk that can easily step in and do a nice job if needed. That is an option they do not currently have. It makes little sense to complicate the issue with an expensive vet.

Leftovers from the Winter Meetings – MASN Sports
After an extended delay due to, ya know, the lack of a front office, the Orioles are fully operational. They are wheeling and dealing.

Orioles Hire Brandon Hyde As Manager – MLB Trade Rumors
It’s official. Just like the Elias hiring, the addition of Hyde was leaked days before the contract was actually signed, but the Orioles got their man. Now, it will be interesting to see how Hyde fills out his staff this late in the offseason

5 things we learned from the Orioles’ week at baseball’s winter meetings – Baltimore Sun
It is extremely weird how almost all of the talk regarding the Orioles at the winter meetings this week was positive. Everyone loves Elias and Sig Mejdal. There were plaudits for the proposed hiring of Hyde. And we even picked the consensus top Rule 5 guy with the number one pick. There is no way this lasts, right?

Orioles birthdays and history

Is it your birthday? Happy Birthday!

Also celebrating is 37-year-old Luis Montanez. You remember Montanez, don’t you? He won the Eastern League Triple Crown during the 2008 season with Double-A Bowie despite missing a month’s worth of games following his big league promotion. His career with the Orioles was less noteworthy. He played 93 total games with the Birds between ‘08 and ‘10 and hit .223/.257/.323 with four home runs.

Rick Helling turns 48 today. The right-handed pitcher was a member of the O’s 2003 staff. That season he compiled a 5.71 ERA across 24 starts and 138.2 innings.

1962 – The Orioles acquire pitchers Stu Miller and Mike McCormick and catcher Johnny Orsino from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitchers Jack Fisher and Billy Hoeft and catcher Jim Coker.

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Though the Astros came up short in Game 7 of the World Series, they still nearly achieved something in 2019 that no team had ever done — sweep the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards.

The American League Cy Young Award was a two-pitcher race between Houston teammates Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, with Verlander ultimately prevailing by just four first-place votes. Earlier in the week, Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez was the unanimous pick for AL Rookie of the Year.

• 2019 BBWAA Award winners

That left only the AL MVP Award, which Astros third baseman Alex Bregman lost to Angels superstar Mike Trout by just 20 points. But the Astros are still in pretty exclusive company even by winning just two of the three major BBWAA Awards, while also finishing with the runner-up in the other category.

Through 2019, the same team has produced two of the three MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Award winners 54 times, including the ‘19 Mets (NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso and NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom) and Astros. That includes years in which the same player accounted for both, such as Clayton Kershaw winning the NL MVP and Cy Young Awards for the ‘14 Dodgers, or Ichiro Suzuki taking home AL MVP and Rookie of the Year honors for the ’01 Mariners.

Bregman finishes 2nd for AL MVP
Bregman finishes 2nd for AL MVP
00:29
Nov. 14th, 2019
Of those 54 instances, that same team was responsible for the runner-up for the third award just eight times — including this year’s Astros. That number drops to five when removing cases that include the same player vying for multiple awards. In other words, only six times in MLB history has the same team had three different players account for winning two of the awards and finishing second for the other.

Below is a list of those eight times the same team won two of three awards and produced the runner-up for the third (bolded names were runners-up; unbolded names won the award).

2019 Astros: Alex Bregman (MVP), Justin Verlander (Cy Young), Yordan Alvarez (ROY)
1993 White Sox: Frank Thomas (MVP), Jack McDowell (Cy Young), Jason Bere (ROY)
1988 Athletics: Jose Canseco (MVP), Dennis Eckersley (Cy Young), Walt Weiss (ROY)
1985 Cardinals: Willie McGee (MVP), John Tudor (Cy Young), Vince Coleman (ROY)
1974 Rangers: Jeff Burroughs (MVP), Fergie Jenkins (Cy Young), Mike Hargrove (ROY)
1973 Orioles: Jim Palmer (MVP), Jim Palmer (Cy Young), Al Bumbry (ROY)
1967 Red Sox: Carl Yastrzemski (MVP), Jim Lonborg (Cy Young), Reggie Smith (ROY)
1965 Dodgers: Sandy Koufax (MVP), Sandy Koufax (Cy Young), Jim Lefebvre (ROY)

Obviously, not every runner-up finish is created equal. Jason Bere finished second in the 1993 AL Rookie of the Year race, but the White Sox right-hander did not receive a single first-place vote in his quest to join teammates Frank Thomas (MVP) and Jack McDowell (Cy Young) in the winner’s circle. Angels outfielder Tim Salmon was voted the unanimous Rookie of the Year that season.

Likewise, Cardinals left-hander John Tudor received zero first-place votes in his runner-up finish for the 1985 NL Cy Young Award (Dwight Gooden was the unanimous winner). Orioles right-hander Jim Palmer was also second to unanimous ’73 AL MVP winner Reggie Jackson, though Palmer at least took home the Cy Young Award that season, while teammate Al Bumbry was named the Rookie of the Year.

While those three runners-up did not receive any first-place votes, Dennis Eckersley and Reggie Smith each received exactly one first-place vote, respectively, in the 1988 AL Cy Young and ’67 AL Rookie of the Year races. Eckersley lost out to Frank Viola, who received the other 27 votes, while Smith yielded way to Rod Carew.

That leaves two truly close calls — the 1974 Rangers and ’65 Dodgers.

Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs held off a trio of Athletics — Joe Rudi, Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson — for the 1974 AL MVP Award. Teammate Mike Hargrove won the Rookie of the Year Award in decisive fashion, beating out Bucky Dent and George Brett.

That left only the AL Cy Young Award. Texas right-hander Fergie Jenkins went 25-12 with a 2.82 ERA, 225 strikeouts and 29 complete games in 1974 — but it wasn’t enough. Jenkins’ 10 first-place votes were two fewer than Oakland righty — and fellow future Hall of Famer — Catfish Hunter, who received 12 votes after posting an identical 25-12 record to go along with a 2.49 ERA, 143 strikeouts and 23 complete games.

Moving on to the 1965 Dodgers, Sandy Koufax was the unanimous Cy Young Award winner at a time when the award was given to only one player across the Majors, instead of one from each league. That same year, Dodgers infielder Jim Lefebvre easily claimed Rookie of the Year honors over future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.

As for the NL MVP race, the Dodgers actually had two of the top three finishers — and three of the top five. Koufax received six first-place votes to go along with his Cy Young Award, and teammate Maury Wills received five first-place votes. Neither had enough to edge Giants outfielder Willie Mays, who received the other nine first-place votes after racking up 52 homers and 112 RBIs.

Koufax’s Game 7 gem
Koufax’s Game 7 gem
01:33
Oct. 14th, 1965
Though those are the two closest calls since the Cy Young Award was first handed out in 1956, it’s worth mentioning the 1952 Philadelphia Athletics. Left-hander Bobby Shantz won the AL MVP Award, while teammate and fellow pitcher Harry Byrd won AL Rookie of the Year honors. The Cy Young Award did not exist yet, but it stands to reason that Shantz would have won the award for the league’s best pitcher, considering he won the AL MVP Award in convincing fashion — and the MVP on the NL side was outfielder Hank Sauer.

The Astros figure to at least join the ranks of these close calls barring any surprises in Cy Young or Rookie of the Year voting, but time will tell if the MVP voting results in a first-of-its-kind sweep for Houston.

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FanGraphs | Tony Wolfe: The Orioles had a silver lining in 2019, and it was Jonathan Villar. He was one of the best players in the second half, and easily one of the best baserunners in the league despite non-elite speed. It’s not clear if the offensive progression sticks but with Baltimore looking to continue their rebuild, there’s always the chance he’s on the block.

Baseball Prospectus | Matthew Trueblood ($): Another thing to consider in Larry Walker’s complicated Hall of Fame case were his injuries, and one can imagine even given how prolific he was, how much more he would have compiled in ideal health.

Bill James Online | Bill James: If we assume that there’s a true value for each MVP candidate, you can say there’s always a gap between perceived value and actual value; because of that, voters will inevitably whiff on the most deserved candidate. In this model James maps out that if you added one more voter per team it could create better results by modeling success rates of differently sized voting blocs.

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Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Happy All Saints’ Day. Hope you enjoyed your Halloween, for those who celebrated. We took our 2-year-old daughter out trick-or-treating in her dinosaur costume, complete with custom-made velociraptor cage (a.k.a., a wagon decorated with Jurassic Park decals and strung-up lights as an “electric fence”). I look forward to eating all the candy she collected.

Meanwhile, in baseball, the World Series is over, the calendar has flipped to November, and it’s time for clubs to start jettisoning some of the flotsam and jetsam from the roster. The Orioles have more than most. In the last two days, they’ve excised five players from their 40-man, the most recent being outfielder Mason Williams, who declined an outright assignment to the minors yesterday and elected to become a free agent.

The fact that Williams was one of the best hitters at Triple-A Norfolk (batting .308/.371/.477 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs), yet still didn’t get called up until September for a club that was noticeably lacking a center fielder all year, tells you all you need to know about the front office’s opinion of his talents. The 28-year-old journeyman will now try to latch on with a new organization, which would be the fourth of his career. His brief Orioles stint will soon be forgotten.

He’s not the only player for whom that will be true. Looking at the current Birds 40-man roster, I count at least a half-dozen more players who could easily be sent packing without batting an eyelash. (Tell me, what’s your favorite memory of the Eric Hanhold era?) Expect to say your goodbyes to several other unremarkable Orioles throughout the winter.

Links
Nationals’ strange World Series win might be painful for Orioles fans – BaltimoreBaseball.com
I would agree that this wasn’t exactly the optimal outcome for O’s fans, though I’m not upset to see the Astros lose. And better the Nats than the Yankees or Red Sox.

Is There Hope For Orioles RHP Alex Cobb? – PressBoxOnline.com
I legit forgot about Alex Cobb’s existence until just now. Matt Kremnitzer didn’t, and he examines whether the veteran righty can provide anything useful to the O’s in the final two years of his contract.

Gerardo Parra’s ‘Baby Shark’ ditty conjures memories of Orioles’ sour note with poor Nick Markakis’ decision – The Athletic
The headline has about eight too many words, but the gist of this story is that the O’s screwed up letting Nick Markakis leave town five years ago. I don’t know if the loss of Markakis was the mistake so much as the Orioles’ complete inability to find a competent right fielder afterwards.

Last game marks beginning of free agency – School of Roch
If you had your heart set on Mark Trumbo returning to the Orioles, friend, then Roch Kubatko has some bad news for you.

Orioles birthdays and history
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have three O’s birthday buddies: 2012 infielder Steve Tolleson (36), 1993 rotation filler and former Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela (59), and the late Jim Pyburn (b. 1932, d. 2011), a utility man for the 1955-57 Orioles.

On this day in 1960, O’s shortstop Ron Hansen won the AL Rookie of the Year vote after posting a .781 OPS and contributing 22 homers and 86 RBIs in 153 games. Hansen received 22 of the 24 first-place votes, and the two he didn’t get went to two other Orioles: Chuck Estrada (18-11, 3.58 ERA) and Jim Gentile (21 HRs, 98 RBIs, .903 OPS). It was a good year for O’s rookies, folks.

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Hunter Harvey burst onto the major league scene last August and showed that he can be a shutdown reliever. Up until last year, the Orioles and Harvey had been clinging to the notion of him being a starter. But injuries and endurance concerns pushed that issue.

The hard-throwing right-hander made 11 starts at Double-A Bowie in 2019 and three relief appearances, putting up a 5.19 ERA. Then he was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk, where he was strictly a reliever, and he put up a 4.32 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 11.9 SO/9 and 4.40 SO/W.

And well all know the rest of the story — he had a stellar run in Baltimore the final few months of the season to end the year. In seven relief appearances with the big league club, Harvey had a 1.42 ERA and an eye-popping 15.6 SO/9.

Most of you probably already know that Hunter’s dad, Bryan, had a very successful nine-year MLB career as a reliever for the California Angels and Florida Marlins. In 322 games he had 177 saves, a 2.49 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10.4 SO/9. So in a way, being a closer is in Hunter’s blood. A converted starter breaking into the majors, who was raised by an All-Star closer — it just seems destined to be. A passing of the torch from father to son, if you will.

But does a rebuilding club like the Orioles really need a closer and are they willing to pass that torch to Harvey so soon? For much of last year, Brandon Hyde did not want to define roles, as he preferred to mix and match in the ninth inning in lieu of naming a single guy as the closer.

Of the eight players who earned at least one save last year, Mychal Givens led the field. In 19 save opportunities, he was successful 11 times. But it’s important to note that in save situations, Givens had a 5.90 ERA and in non-save situations that number went down to 3.44. Although Givens set a career high last year with 12.3 SO/9, he also allowed averaged 1.9 HR/9, which was the highest of his career.

Harvey has the age advantage over Givens, and it’s not even a sure thing Givens will be around much longer. His name has come up in trade rumors for some time now. So if it comes down to the older, more expensive Givens and the younger, cheaper Harvey, the club will probably choose the latter.

With Harvey, there are going to be injury concerns because of his history. The Orioles were careful not to overwork him late last summer when he was promoted to the majors, and that will be a consideration moving forwards. So he would need to stay healthy and show endurance in order to nail down a consistent closer job.

As much as folks want to say the ninth inning is just another inning, it’s not. Not every pitcher can handle the pressures of closing out a game. It’s just different.

From the brief glimpse we got of Harvey on the mound the last two months of the season, it looks like he’s got the intangibles. He looks unflappable on the rubber, as though nothing really gets to him. He’s also calm and cool off of it, answering reporters’ questions in his easy-going Southern drawl, and with his unique style choices — the goatee along with a hairstyle that’s business in the front and party in the back.

He’s already gained somewhat of a cult following around town, with fans in the stands at Oriole Park late last year spotted with Harvey jerseys, mullet wigs and mustaches. Baltimore baseball fans need a larger than life figure like him to cheer for in these dark days of the rebuild until the team is competitive again. Harvey certainly seems to fit the bill, so far at least.

I’m not sure the analytics would support this, but I’m of the notion that defined roles in the bullpen lead to success. Baseball players are creatures of habit, and if they know when they are normally going to pitch, they can prepare accordingly. Let one guy take the closer job and run with it and see how things go from there. Right now, Harvey has to be a prime candidate for that job.

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Happy Sunday, Camden Chatters! Did you stay up for last night’s game? If not, Paul Folkemer has the details of the back and forth 8-7 win. He stayed up so you didn’t have to!

The Orioles have actually been playing decent baseball on the west coast. They are 4-2 so far on the road trip and have won three straight from the Angels heading into today’s series finale. I have to say, it would be pretty strange if the O’s first series sweep was a four-game series on the west coast. Not that I’m counting any chickens.

With three games left in the month of July, the Orioles could actually capture a winning month if they can win two of the next three. That would be wild, man.

But what about that draft pick, you say? The Orioles are now a full three games better than the Detroit Tigers, who have lost five in a row. If you’re really hoping for that second #1 pick, you might be rooting against these so-called meaningless wins. I shall not join you. I like when they win.

Links

With ball and cap en route to Cooperstown, Orioles’ Stevie Wilkerson soaks up post-save stardom – Baltimore Sun
Stevie Wilkerson’s cap and ball are headed to Cooperstown after he became the only position player to earn a save. This makes Stevie wonder if his nickname as a pitcher should be Stevie Coop.

Baltimore Orioles Morning Rundown: So Many Pitching Moves – Birds Watcher
If you’re keeping track, John Means is on the IL, Nate Karns is gone, Tanner Scott is demoted, Evan Phillips is back, and Dillon Tate is on the MLB team for the first time.

In Aberdeen debut, Adley Rutschman gets another taste of being the face of the Orioles’ rebuild – BaltimoreBaseball.com
It was Adley day in Aberdeen, exciting even if he did go 0-for-5.

Mark Trumbo pauses rehab, John Means gets MRI – Steve Melewski
Brandon Hyde isn’t concerned about Means. The thought is that he’ll miss one start. As for Trumbo, you gotta feel bad for this guy.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You share a birthday with a former Oriole who was involved in the last no-hitter thrown by the Orioles. Bob Milacki, who was the starting pitcher on July 13, 1991 against the Oakland A’s. Six innings later he left the game having given up zero hits. Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, and Gregg Olson followed with one hitless inning apiece to seal the no-no. That was just one of 109 starts Milacki made for the Orioles from 1988-92. Today is his 55th birthday.

It’s also the 26th birthday of 2019 rule 5 pick Drew Jackson, who appeared in three games before the Orioles returned him to the Dodgers. Chad Paronto, who pitched in relief for the 2001 Orioles, turns 44 today.

On this date in 1971, Brooks Robinson committed three errrors. WHAT!? But his teammate Frank Robinson picked him up with a three-run walk off home run against the A’s, giving the Orioles a 3-2 win.

In 1978, Rich Dauer set a club record by having his 10th straight multi-hit game.

In 2000, the Orioles traded shortstop Mike Bordick to the Mets for Melvin Mora and a bunch of other players you don’t remember. Never fear, Bord-heads! Bordick was back with the Orioles as a free agent in 2001. Exactly one year from this trade, Mora’s wife gave birth to quintuplets. That means the quints are turning 18 today!

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BALTIMORE — When Mike Elias was pegged to lead the front office a year ago, it marked a new era of Orioles baseball. Elias soon unveiled his three-pronged approach to rebuilding the Orioles into a sustained winner, with plans to build an “elite talent pipeline” through scouting, analytics and player development. Coming off a franchise-worst 115-loss season, Elias did not run from how massive a task that seemed at the time, and has not since.

Flash forward one year, Elias admits there is still “a long ways to go as a team and as an organization.” But the warehouse offices at Camden Yards are a beehive. The Orioles are in the process of infusing more than two dozen new employees into the organization for the 2020 season, a wave of hiring that capped a year defined by transition.

When it’s complete, the entirety of the organization’s baseball operations will have been overhauled, the approximately 65 fresh faces in scouting, player development and analytics brought in with an eye toward modernizing the way Baltimore does business on each of these fronts. Under Elias, the Orioles’ previously bare analytics and international scouting departments have grown tenfold and fivefold, respectively. Their domestic scouting operations are in the process of drastic restructuring, and overhaul on the player development side, from philosophy to personnel, will soon be plain to see.

• O’s take major step forward in rebuilding effort

After it began in earnest with a round of dismissals in September, Elias framed the reshaping through the lens of a “very large wave of change going on around baseball” with regards to the data-driven processes organizations now adhere to. Keeping up with metaphor, the Orioles are an iceberg — rapidly changing but in ways mostly under-the-surface and out of public view.

“I’m proud of the organizational progress we’ve made in terms of setting up our staffing, infrastructure and capabilities for what we need them to be now and in the next couple of years,” Elias said. “Things are still moving in the right direction but it’s still relatively early in my tenure, and we still have more than half the offseason left and a long ways to go as a team and as an organization.”

Elias on Orioles’ 2019 season
Elias on Orioles’ 2019 season
02:03
Sep. 22nd, 2019
So, let’s peek under the hood. What’s changed? What hasn’t? What will? What won’t? We’re using the anniversary of Elias’ hiring to take an organizational snapshot of where the Orioles’ rebuild stands, one year into his tenure:

BASEBALL OPERATIONS

• Added: EVP/GM Mike Elias, manager Brandon Hyde, entirely new Major League coaching staff

• Retained/Elevated: Kevin Buck

• Dismissed: Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, Tripp Norton, Brady Anderson, Joe McIIvaine, Matt Haas, Lee Thomas, Jeremy Kapstein

The most visible changes came on the baseball side, where Elias and Hyde replaced Duquette and Showalter, and the Orioles cycled through 58 players in 2019. Nearly 40 percent of the current 40-man roster wasn’t with the organization a year ago.

Hyde hired five new coaches, and three more in 2020 will replace the remaining holdovers from Showalter’s staff. The club also dismissed longtime executives Norton and Anderson and several special assistants. It could look to hire an assistant GM and/or at least a couple more director-level positions in the coming months.

Elias on organizational changes
Elias on organizational changes
01:25
Sep. 10th, 2019
ANALYTICS

• Added: Assistant GM Sig Mejdal, analysts James Martin III and Michael Weis, developers Peter Ash, James Daniels

• Retained/Elevated: Di Zou

• Dismissed: None

When Mejdal arrived with Elias from Houston, he inherited an analytics department with one full-time member. That number has since swelled to five. Five additional interns effectively give Mejdal a daily team of 10 people with quantitative backgrounds, making analytics the organization’s fastest growing department on the baseball side.

While the hiring focus will be in other areas this winter, analytics is looking to add an additional developer and one fellow. Mejdal also indicated there will be opportunities for interns to graduate to full-time status throughout 2020.

“It’s dramatically different than when we came here,” Mejdal said. “We progressed more quickly than I would have thought a year ago, and that goes to the credit to the persons we hired. The skills coming out of universities today are markedly improved compared to just a few years ago. They were able to hit the ground running.”

The manpower allowed the Orioles to build software infrastructure systems that Mejdal estimated are about a year away from matching those he left with the Astros – who famously feature one of the largest and most advanced analytics department in the sport. Next comes expanding those databases to service what is a growing list of interested parties, from the Major League staff down the player-development chain, to amateur scouts preparing the Draft board and other areas.

Mejdal’s team was also integral in the implementation of various technology tools – Edgertronic cameras, Blast motion bat sensors, Diamond Kinetic swing trackers and others. They recently entered a partnership with the 3-D biofeedback company K-Motion they hope further advances those goals.

“We’ve seen how analytics and technology can help and it helps throughout the organization, from international scouting to player development to in-game strategy,” Mejdal said. “The buy-in has been wonderful. The days of such extreme skepticism and pushback are gone. This is such a part of baseball now, if you are in an organization that didn’t prioritize this, you knew or must have suspected you were missing out on something.”

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

• Added: Director of PD Matt Blood, director of pitching Chris Holt, 20-25 Minor League instructors

• Retained/Elevated: Kent Qualls, Ramón Alarcón, Gary Kendall, Buck Britton, Kyle Moore, Kevin Bradshaw, Alan Mills, Mike Bordick

• Dismissed: Brian Graham, Don Werner, Dave Anderson, Ron Johnson, Nelson Norman, Ryan Minor, Justin Lord, Bobby Rose, Jeff Manto, Jack Graham, BJ Surhoff, Carlos Tosca, Ramon Martinez, Scott McGregor (reassigned), Milt May (retired), Dan Radison (retired), Len Johnston (retired)

The Orioles saw pitching improvement up and down their system under Holt, whom Elias brought over from Houston to be his Minor League pitching coordinator. Now as director of pitching, Holt will continue to oversee Minor League development while also contributing on the big league side. The Orioles spent much of 2019 without a farm director, until Elias hired Blood from the Rangers in September to replace Graham, and gave him an immediate task: wholesale hiring.

With Blood taking the lead, the Orioles are in the process of hiring more than a dozen new Minor League coaches (they added six last winter). They must replace the entire staff at Class-A Frederick, fill five newly created developmental coach positions (one at each affiliate), and are considering coordinators in fundamentals, strength and conditioning and player performance.

All told, between 15-20 new hires are being finalized on the player-development side as of this writing, many of whom were chosen via a collaborative interview process that effectively functioned as group tryouts. During these sessions, which sometimes numbered as many as nine individuals, candidates were asked to interact with players, coaches and analytics staffers to complete tasks that simulated real-life situations.

The focus will soon pivot to on-boarding new hires and creating a culture meant to “service and develop our players in a holistic and efficient way,” Blood said.

“We are looking for intrinsically motivated people with a demonstrated history of growth. People who like to work hard and have a growth mindset, humility, aptitude, willingness to collaborate,” Blood said. “Most of the people we’ve reached out to explain the vision, direction we are excited to go, have been excited about it and wanted to be involved. The people we are attracting are inspired by the challenge.”

Holt on O’s young pitchers
Holt on O’s young pitchers
01:43
Sep. 28th, 2019
INTERNATIONAL SCOUTING

• Added: Senior director Koby Perez, scouting assistant Michael Cruz, Dominican scouting supervisor Geraldo Cabrera, Dominican-area scouts Francisco Rosario and Rafael Belen, Venezuela-area scout Adel Granadillo

• Retained/Elevated: Luis Noel

• Dismissed: Cale Cox, Calvin Maduro

One of Elias’ first moves was recruiting Perez from the Indians to be his senior director of international scouting, giving the Orioles immediate credibility in a market they’d long eschewed. Perez inherited a skeletal operation: A year ago, the Orioles’ entire Latin American scouting presence consisted of one full-time international scout (Maduro) and one part-timer each in Panama and Venezuela.

They plan to head into 2020 with five full-timers on the ground in Latin America, including the recently hired Cabrera (DR), Rosario and Granadillo (Venezuela), plus another Venezuela hire to be made this month. The Orioles also are looking to bolster the development staff at their Dominican academy and are exploring infrastructure upgrades to the facilities there.

Given how the most highly coveted international prospects are often courted by teams years before they’re eligible to actually sign, the Orioles acknowledged from the start that it would take time before they played at the top of the market. They instead siphoned off much of their sizeable 2018-19 bonus pool in trades, then spent roughly $3 million of their 2019-20 pool on 27 players last July 2. Though the highest bonuses given out were between $400,000-$450,000, it still represented the largest international class in franchise history.

The hope is to be able to make seven-figure signings by 2021.

“We are on pace with where we thought we’d be. There are definitely improvements on what we had,” Perez said. “We are going to be in a much better spot this year than last year, as far as the higher-end talent.”

DOMESTIC SCOUTING

• Added: Trent Friedrich, Logan Schuemann, Alex Tarandek

• Retained/Elevated: Brad Ciolek, Mike Synder, Hendrik Herz, Chad Tatum, Doug Witt, Rich Amaral, Jim Richardson, Dave Blume, Rich Morales, Arthur McConnehead, Scott Walter, Scott Thomas, Brandon Verley, Dave Jennings, Thom Dreier, Ken Guthrie

• Dismissed: Gary Rajsich, Patrick Di Gregory, Kirk Fredriksson, Wayne Britton, Dana Duquette, Dean Albany, Nathan Showalter, John Stockstill, Ron Schueler, Jim Howard, Dave Engle, Adrian Dorsey, John Gillette, Dave Machemer, Mark Ralston, Dan Durst, Frankie Thon

It’s been a transformative year for the scouting department, and more change is imminent. Rajsich, the former director, left upon Elias’ arrival. Elias played a hands-on role in this year’s Draft, while tabbing Ciolek to handle day-to-day preparation duties on an interim basis. He then promoted Ciolek (amateur) and Snyder (pro scouting) to managerial and director positions, respectively, shortly after letting go 10 veteran scouts in August.

At the time, Elias said baseball ops and scouting would eventually see an overall increase in headcount by the end of the hiring cycle, and promised “more cross-pollination of amateur and pro scouting” to catch the Orioles up amid the sport’s shifting scouting landscape. Less than three months later, progress can be seen on both fronts. Herz and Tatum were promoted to newly created scouting analyst positions; Tarandek was brought in from Detroit to fill the same role.

The Orioles are also looking to make three to four more analysts hires and recruited Friedrich (Great Lakes/Ohio Valley region) and Schuemann (Four corner region) to bolster their number of field scouts to 14. There may be space to add two more scouts on the pro side before the winter is over.

“We’ve really beefed up the analytics and tech, there has been transformation here in that regard, in terms of our data infrastructure,” Ciolek said. “Also the culture – during my tenure here, I haven’t been part of a group that is more close-knit than the group here now. Everyone is on the same page and hungry to build upon the foundation.”

Added Elias: “Next year is going to be a big year. So much of what we’re doing and have done, unfortunately, is getting up to speed on all of the basics. Our hope is we’ll look up very soon and think this is a franchise that is set up well and run well and among the better equipped franchises for the type of market we’re in.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.

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The fans poured into the Clark Sports Center on Sunday afternoon from just about everywhere, this year’s National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony reminding everyone that baseball is both the national pastime and a very international one.

Mariano Rivera fans waived Panamanian flags and Edgar Martinez expressed impassioned gratitude to his native Puerto Rico, while former Orioles Mike Mussina, Harold Baines and Lee Smith paid tribute to small-town America.

There was every reason to believe that the New York Yankees multitudes would drown out the rest of the estimated crowd of 55,000, especially with Rivera arriving in the Hall as the first-ever unanimous selection and starting pitcher Mike Mussina throwing out the ceremonial first speech.

Watch Mike Mussina’s full Hall of Fame speech »
The Yankees fans were loud, but they were not alone. There was a surprisingly large contingent that traveled coast-to-coast to cheer Martinez and team up with the friends, fans and family of the beloved Seattle Mariners designated hitter to deliver some of the loudest and most enthusiastic ovations. Apparently, Southwest Airlines had a very good weekend.

Mussina led off and deftly handled the difficult task of balancing his allegiance to both the Orioles and Yankees organizations, thanking his fans from both cities — as well as his hometown of Montoursville, Pa. — for making the trek to upstate New York to help welcome him into the Hall.

“I’m standing up here with the best who ever played the game,’’ Mussina said. “Some are my former teammates. Some are former opponents and some I grew up watching on television, so the obvious question is, what am I doing up here and how in the world did this happen?”

Welcome to baseball immortality, Mike Mussina. @Orioles @Yankees #HOFWKND pic.twitter.com/TE0Xa9shGM

— Baseball Hall ⚾ (@baseballhall) July 21, 2019
Not surprisingly, he struck the same chord that would resonate throughout the ceremony, as each player talked about his roots and the unique chain of events that led him to the greatest honor that can be bestowed on a baseball player.

Rivera played the closer one last time, coming in at the end and — ironically for the greatest short reliever of all time — making the longest speech. He spoke for about 25 minutes, during which he thanked everyone who had an impact on his amazing career and revealed that he never intended to pursue a career in baseball.

“I wanted to be the next Pelé,’’ he said, “but my ability was not good enough to be a soccer player. The Lord was pushing me toward baseball.”

Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera bookend Sunday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, much the way they did on the field »
He came up with the Yankees as a starting pitcher, but didn’t thrive in that role and was sent back to the minor leagues. When he made the switch to the bullpen and mastered his famous cut fastball, he emerged as a dominant closer and played a huge role in the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“I tried to carry the pinstripes the best way that I could,’’ Rivera said. “I think I did all right with that.”

Mussina, who chose not to designate whether he was going into the Hall as an Oriole or a Yankee, was highly complimentary of both organizations, thanking the Orioles for giving him his start in professional baseball and the Yankees for giving him the opportunity to pitch in two World Series.

“I want to thank the Orioles for giving me the opportunity to pitch and prove that I could succeed at the major league level,” Mussina said. “To the Orioles executives who brought baseball back to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, it remains one of the best ballpark environments in the game. To the Orioles fans who came out every game 48,000 strong to support us and support me, thank you. I have some great memories from those years and I loved pitching in orange and black.”

Mike Mussina reflects on his time in Baltimore during his Hall of Fame speech.

Check out Mike Mussina’s full speech: https://t.co/XfdHBOCph1 pic.twitter.com/7Z9pUm1j60

— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 21, 2019
Of course, the Yankees lured him away after the 2000 season and his decision to leave may have paved his way to Cooperstown.

“For the longest time while I was in Baltimore, I told myself I would never play in New York,’’ he said. “I’m a small-town guy and that place is too much for me. Well, obviously, I changed my mind, mostly because Joe Torre called me two or three days after they won the 2000 World Series over the Mets, and Joe simply said, ‘I just want you to know that were interested in you coming to New York to pitch for us.’ Well, his first impression was a big one, so after 10 years in Baltimore I was off to New York City.”

Harold Baines, who let his performance do the talking for much of his career, gets the last word »
Baines promised on Saturday that he would speak a lot about the importance of family and community and not much about himself, but opened his remarks by poking fun at his reputation as a man of very few words.

“To all my friends and teammates, you can start your start your stopwatches now,’’ Baines quipped.

Welcome to baseball immortality, Harold Baines. @whitesox #HOFWKND pic.twitter.com/GkcRTHOnAm

— Baseball Hall ⚾ (@baseballhall) July 21, 2019
Turned out, Baines did make the shortest speech of the five new Hall of Famers on stage, but only by a minute or so. He talked eloquently about the subject he came to address, the impact of his family and the Eastern Shore community of St. Michaels on his life and career.

“I owe a debt of gratitude to that entire close-knit community for raising me as a child and as a teenager,’’ he said. “St. Michaels formed me and I would not be where I am today in baseball and life without so many people in St. Michaels, who cared enough to do more than their expected part to help a youngster like me.”

Harold Baines remembers the importance of the St. Michaels community in his Hall of Fame speech. pic.twitter.com/0n2rFoj6eG

— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 21, 2019
The afternoon also featured an emotional appearance by the widow of new Hall of Famer Roy Halladay, who died in plane crash off the coast of Florida in 2017, and an upbeat speech by Smith in which he managed to say something nice about each of the eight teams he played for — including the Orioles — during his 18-year career.

Smith also mirrored Baines’ small-town theme with stories about growing up in tiny Castor, La., and the positive impact that community had on his life.

“If you think Cooperstown is a small town, you haven’t been to Castor,” Smith said, “[but] it was a that community that gave me the chance to play baseball.”

Welcome to baseball immortality, Lee Smith. @Cubs #HOFWKND pic.twitter.com/9dsHbZFR7T

— Baseball Hall ⚾ (@baseballhall) July 21, 2019
Baines eventually came back to the subject of his soft-spoken nature, acknowledging that it might have been embellished by the time he hit a dramatic walk-off home run, then answered the only question of his postgame interview with a single word. But he said it might be better explained by a quote from his father that he took to heart early in life:

“Words are easy, deeds are hard. Deeds can be silent, but sometimes they echo forever.”

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Good morning, Birdland!

Jonathan Villar is, objectively, a good baseball player. He is an intriguing offensive player than can swipe his fair share of bases, provide some pop and get on base at a solid enough clip while playing passable defense in the middle infield. He was arguably the Orioles best player in 2019 and seems set up to do the same in 2020. But he needs to make it to Opening Day in the orange and black in order to have an opportunity to do that.

Villar’s future with the Orioles is up in the air. The players are aware of what is happening in front of them. And a player like Villar, a 28-year-old entering the final season of team control, is surely savvy enough to understand that he is unlikely to be an Oriole for too much longer regardless of his performance in the upcoming year.

MLB.com’s Joe Trezza put together a post on Tuesday covering Villar’s situation. In that post, Trezza touches on Villar’s projected salary in 2020 ($10.4 million) and mentions that it is possible that the Orioles may non-tender Villar if unable to trade him rather than paying him that money.

Wait…what?

Sure, I suppose this was always a possibility. The Orioles are saving money on big league salaries and, instead, spending it on player development and technology. That’s fine. But Villar is a legitimate major league player, one of the few in the entire organization. And even if they don’t deal him in the offseason doesn’t mean they can’t find a trade partner over the summer.

I am fully on board with Mike Elias’s plan for this team. They do not need to go make moves in an effort to build a 75-win team that picks 13th overall in the draft. But there is a difference between standing pat and actively tanking. Dropping Villar because you don’t want to pay him what he the industry has determined he is worth would be tanking. There is no way to spin it.

Speaking for myself, Villar is one of my favorite things about the current Orioles. Sure, he makes some bone-headed mistakes, but he also does some of the most fun things you will ever see on a baseball field. I will gladly tune in to watch Villar play a game. I am not nearly intrigued by Richie Martin of Pat Valaika, the two players most likely to replace Villar.

If the Orioles trade him for a prospect or two that they find interesting, I can handle that. But non-tendering him would be more than a bit annoying.

Links & Notes

Productive Villar hopes his future is in Baltimore – Baltimore Orioles
The veteran infielder says all of the right things here regarding his time with the O’s He indicates that he wants to stay in Baltimore. That is very nice! I’m not sure I totally believe it, but I appreciate the effort.

Poking Around The 2020 Steamer Projections – Birds Watcher
It’s never too early to be disappointed by the Orioles potential big league production!

Using technology to help hitters on the O’s farm – Steve Melewski
For whatever reason, there is still plenty of consternation regarding the use of analytics and technology versus good old-fashioned scouting. People that are arguing about this are either ignorant or dumb. Every team has living, breathing scouts. All teams use technology to a certain extent. The two inform each other and the best teams know how to use both. The Orioles were behind the times in the technology department. Hopefully that will never be the case again.

Orioles Outright Gabriel Ynoa – MLB Trade Rumors
This happened a couple of days ago, but the Orioles news has been slow, so it deserved a spot in the Droppings. If you are Gabriel Ynoa, you have to be a tad worried about your big league future now that you have been dropped by the most pitching-needy club in the world.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

Former Orioles shortstop Deivi Cruz, who spent one season with the Birds back in 2003, is turning 46 years old today. Cruz was a nine-year MLB journeyman. Over his 152 games with the O’s he hit .250/.269/.378 while contributing steady defense to a team that finished the year 71-91.

It is also the 60th birthday of third baseman Leo Hernandez. The Venezuelan native played 78 games for the Orioles between 1982 and 1985. He earned a bWAR of -1.4 in that time, but he made it to the big leagues, and that’s something to be proud of.

1969 – Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar ties Tigers hurler Denny McLain in the voting for the American League Cy Young Aware.

2011 – Dan Duquette, the former Expos and Red Sox general manager who has been out of MLB since 2002, agrees to become the top baseball executive for the Orioles.

2013 – The Silver Slugger Awards are announced and include nine first-time winners like Orioles first baseman Chris Davis.