Category Archives: Orioles Jerseys 2020

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Fangraphs has released their 2020 Steamer projections. What do they predict for the Baltimore Orioles?
Immediate Disclaimer: We’re not gathering any major takeaways from the recently released 2020 Steamer projections on Fangraphs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t utilize them for what they’re best for, giving us something to talk about during a long, likely pretty quiet offseason for the Baltimore Orioles.

Here are some of the more interesting projections, including a few that would be welcomed numbers from Orioles players and a few that have us scratching our heads a bit.

Per Steamer, only four Orioles hitters are projected to finish with an fWAR higher than 1.0, with Trey Mancini leading the way at 1.9. Jonathan Villar (1.8), Hanser Alberto (1.4), and Austin Hays (1.2) are the other three. Mancini’s 30 doubles, 29 home runs, and 113 wRC+ are all projected to be team-highs.

There isn’t much that sticks out when it comes to the offense. A .246 average with 27 home runs for Renato Nunez seems on par, as does a 22 home run season with a .261/.305/.453 slash for a full year of Anthony Santander. A -0.5 fWAR season across 56 games for Chris Davis (.196 AVG, 11 HR, 91 K in 57 games) and a projected negative -0.1 fWAR from Stevie Wilkerson are also likely.

If Austin Hays can produce close to his projected 107 games played, 41 extra-base hits (19 home runs), .257/.298/.454 slash, 93 wRC+ it will be a successful season. He may have been electric in September, but can make it through an entire season while staying healthy?

I have questions about the catching projections. Steamer has Chance Sisco playing in 77 games and putting up a .238 average, .324 OBP, and 10 home runs, with Pedro Severino seeing action in 68 games with 21 extra-base hits, a .243 average, and a wRC+ of 83. There are still major questions surrounding Sisco’s future, so I’m not opposed to seeing him get the majority of the time behind the plate.

However, his projected 5.7 Defensive Rating is mind-boggling. According to Fangraphs, he recorded a -7.5 Defensive Rating in 2019. I’m not going to pretend to know the math that goes into creating these projections, but I put more faith into Chris Davis hitting .250 with 30 home runs next season than Sisco becoming valuable behind the plate. Only two catchers in all of baseball were rated worse than Sisco defensively this past season.

Baltimore Orioles 2020 Steamer Pitching Projections.
Here’s where things get even more interesting to look at. Steamer has Dylan Bundy leading not just Orioles pitching, but the entire Orioles roster with a 2.0 fWAR. His nine projected wins are tied with John Means for the team lead while his 8.54 K/9 IP and 5.12 ERA projections lead all starting pitchers.

Steamer doesn’t see a great season from John Means. Limited time in the major leagues plays a role here, but they have him going 9-13 with a 5.41 ERA, 1.4 fWAR, and a team-leading 41 home runs allowed. He recorded a 3.60 ERA in 2019, but owned a 4.41 FIP and 5.48 xFIP and a 30.9% groundball rate. Caleb Smith of the Miami Marlins was the only pitcher with at least 150 IP to record a lower GB rate last season. These numbers don’t help his 2020 projections.

As far as rookies are concerned, Steamer believes Dean Kremer will log the fourth-most innings, throwing 129 across 23 starts. He’s projected at 6-10 with a 5.62 ERA and 111 strikeouts. Keegan Akin is listed at 4-6 with a 5.82 ERA in 15 starts with an 8.09 K/9 IP rate (second-highest among starters) and a 4.93 BB/9 IP rate.

Akin’s command struggles are well noted and will be something to watch closely in spring training/early Triple-A starts next season. I wouldn’t be mad at all if Kremer posts something similar to these projections. That’s a fairly decent major league debut on a team likely to hit 100 losses again.

You can view the full Steamer projections here on Fangraphs. Check them out and let us know what you think? Think anyone will greatly outperform their projection? Is Steamer a little too high on anyone? Let us know!

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A headline in the April 8, 1962, edition of the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune read, “Senators Count on Edina’s Johnson.”

The article, published the day before the 1962 major-league baseball season opener, mentioned that Bob Johnson, an infielder, was one of keys to the upcoming season for the Washington Senators.

The next day, the Senators opened the season against the Detroit Tigers in the first baseball game in the new District of Columbia Stadium (now called RFK Stadium).

Johnson, beginning his third season in the big leagues, provided the crowd of 44,383 — which included the president and vice president, Cabinet members and members of Congress — with the first highlights of the season.

Playing shortstop, Johnson singled in the second inning for the Senators’ first hit and then hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning for the first home run in the new stadium. Johnson finished the day with three hits as the Senators defeated the Tigers 4-1.

It was good start to what would be the best season of Johnson’s 11-year major-league career. In 135 games that season, he batted .288 with career-highs in hits (134), doubles (20), home runs (12) and RBI (43).

Johnson, who played in the major leagues until 1970, died on Nov. 9 at age 83.

“He had a great career,” said former University of Minnesota athletic director Tom Moe, who was a high school teammate of Johnson’s. “He was a great guy. Enthusiastic and he loved baseball. He was two years ahead of me at Edina. He was so good with young guys like me. As a high school baseball player, he was a can’t-miss.”

Moe and Johnson were teammates on Edina’s 1954 baseball team, which finished third at the state tournament. Shortly after the tournament, Johnson signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers.

Johnson spent six seasons in the Tigers’ minor-league system before getting the opportunity to play in the major leagues with the Kansas City Athletics in 1960. Johnson was selected by the Senators in the 1960 expansion draft.

After two seasons with the Senators, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. He spent four seasons with the Orioles and was a member of the 1966 Orioles team, which swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

During his time with the Orioles, Johnson became known for his versatility — he played all four infield positions and in the outfield — and his success as a pinch-hitter.

In 1964, Johnson led the American League with 15 pinch-hits. In one stretch, he had six consecutive pinch-hits to tie an American League record. Following the 1964 season, he was named the Upper Midwest Player of the Year at the annual Twin Cities Winter Baseball Dinner.

Former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, tweeted last week, Johnson “was there in 1965, my first year with the O’s. One of the ‘good guys.’ ”

After retiring as a player, Johnson stayed active in baseball, helping put on youth clinics for the Minnesota Twins and managing a team every winter at the Baltimore Orioles Fantasy Camp in Florida. Outside of baseball, he had a long career in sales with Spartan Promotional Group.

Johnson was born on March 4, 1936, in Omaha to Wally and Lillian Johnson. The family moved to Minneapolis in 1947.

Johnson, who had lived in St. Paul since 1964, is survived by Karen, his wife of 58 years; daughter Stephanie and sons Greg and Todd, and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Nov. 29 at Woodbury Lutheran Church, 7380 Afton Road, at 11 a.m. A visitation will begin at 10 a.m.

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Hello, friends.

The All-Star starting lineups have been announced. Shockingly, there are no Orioles. No one even made it into the second round of voting. This was an inevitable outcome almost before the season even began, and it’s just as inevitable that next year there will be only one Orioles All-Star. Probably when the full rosters are announced on Sunday, the choice will be Trey Mancini, who’s earned a spot on the team even if it’s not a starting spot.

There’s nothing new to say about the Orioles being a bad team. The people who are in charge, including manager Brandon Hyde and general manager Mike Elias, are fully aware of what they have. When Hyde vents his frustration about the state of the starting rotation you can almost get the sense he’s hoping he’s still around when better pitchers start arriving from the minors.

Rosters of the O’s affiliates have their share of pitchers who still offer some intrigue. The O’s are determined not to rush Keegan Akin, who’s doing well enough in Triple-A. Bowie’s rotation has Zac Lowther and Alex Wells, and if you really want to squint, trade pieces from last July, Bruce Zimmermann and Dean Kremer. Hunter Harvey has been on fire in three inning bullpen stints.

This is not the end of the list. Michael Baumann pitched so well for Frederick that he earned a recent Bowie promotion. And down in Delmarva there are 2018 picks Grayson Rodriguez and Drew Rom, and some revival of good fortunes for wayward once-prospects Ofelky Peralta and Gray Fenter.

Probably more than half of these names will ever be any good for the Orioles. That’s the way it is with prospects. For a team as woeful as the Orioles are now, though, any prospect with some shred of hope feels like somebody to get excited about. Maybe that list of names will only grow as Elias and his people get more time to reshape the organization.

There have been 160 days since Mike Mussina was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Orioles have not yet announced any plans to retire his jersey number or erect his statue at Camden Yards.

Around the blogO’sphere
Adley Rutschman makes perfect blindfolded throw (Cut4)
If there’s anything he can’t do, we haven’t discovered it yet.

The Orioles have good reason to be excited about Trey Mancini (Fangraphs)
Great breakdown of some of the specific ways that Mancini has improved from last year to this year. Hopefully that continues into subsequent years as well.

Prospects Keegan Akin, Ryan Mountcastle to represent Norfolk in Triple-A All-Star Game (Baltimore Sun)
It’s not all bad news in the Orioles organization. See also below:

Delmarva’s first half success gives Orioles reason for optimism (Baltimore Baseball)
It’s been quite a while since the Orioles had an affiliate dominate with actual prospects, rather than just a collection of guys too old for the level.

Orioles bullpen still unable to provide much relief (School of Roch)
The present day, however, still stinks.

Keep swingin’: Hanser Alberto now among the AL’s top 10 hitters (Steve Melewski)
As you are a Camden Chat reader, you probably know better than to equate “top 10 in batting average” with “top 10 hitters.” Alberto’s quirky keeping an average above .300 is still cool, though.

Rays offering $2 tickets to July 1-3 games vs. Orioles (Tampa Bay Times)
I thought this was an interesting contrast to the Baltimore Sun article that I mentioned yesterday, wherein the Orioles claimed to have done research that shows that lowering ticket prices would not increase their attendance.

Birthdays and anniversaries
Today in 1957, Maryland-born Orioles pitcher Ray Moore threw a complete game shutout in a 6-0 victory over the Indians. This was the fourth consecutive CGSO for the O’s, setting a new American League record.

One lone former Oriole was born on this day: 1970-75 outfielder Don Baylor, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 68.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: England’s Henry VIII (1491), early Methodist John Wesley (1703), Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712), movie maker Mel Brooks (1926), actress Gilda Radner (1946), actor John Cusack (1966), and YouTube personality Markiplier (1989).

On this day in history…
In 1846, Adolphe Sax received the patent for his newly-invented instrument, the saxophone.

In 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia were assassinated in Sarajevo. Exactly five years later, the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end what we now call World War I, which was sparked by this killing. About 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians were killed in the war.

In 1942, Nazi Germany launched an assault it called “Case Blue” on the Soviet Union, aimed at capturing oil fields in the Caucasus region. Initially successful, this offensive ultimately led to the brutal Battle of Stalingrad and defeat for the Germans.

In 1950, despite South Korean forces blowing up a bridge in hopes of slowing their advance, North Koreans captured the city of Seoul.

In 1969, a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village led to the Stonewall riots, which are now recognized as the beginning of the gay rights movement.

**

And that’s the way it is on June 28 – or at least, until something happens later when the Orioles play the Indians. Have a safe Friday. Go O’s!

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NEW YORK — Mike Shildt began his life in baseball at his mom’s side, tagging along for her shifts at a Class AA ballpark and picking up odd jobs around the clubhouse.

When Shildt was recognized Tuesday night for the career that has followed, the late Lib Shildt was the first thing on his mind.

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Less than a week after his mother’s passing, Shildt was honored for piloting the St. Louis Cardinals back into the playoffs, narrowly beating Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers to win National League manager of the year.

Shildt earned the award in his first full season on the job, even though Counsell received more first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Minnesota Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli won the American League prize in a tight ballot over Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees. Both received 13 first-place votes, but Baldelli got more second-place nods. The 38-year-old is the youngest to win the award.

Shildt teared up upon learning he’d been chosen. The 51-year-old is the first manager of the year who never played pro ball at any level. Of course, he’s been around the pro game since he was a child, when his mom took him to her job with the Charlotte O’s in the Baltimore Orioles’ system.

“Appreciative of the time and love she and my dad invested in me,” Shildt said.

Shildt replaced Mike Matheny as Cardinals manager during the 2018 season, and under his steady guidance, St. Louis has been among baseball’s best teams since. The club won 91 games and the NL Central crown this year, ending the franchise’s three-year postseason drought. The Cardinals gave Shildt a contract extension through the 2022 season.

“I set my sights on being the best coach I could be, just like being the best player I could be, and the journey has led me here,” Shildt said.

Atlanta’s Brian Snitker was third after winning the award last year. The Dodgers’ Dave Roberts finished fourth, and Nationals Manager Dave Martinez was fifth. Washington turned a 19-31 start into a World Series championship, but voting for the award concluded before the postseason began. The Nationals entered the playoffs as a wild card, not far off from preseason expectations.

Baldelli and Shildt are the eighth and ninth managers to win this award in their first full seasons on the job.

Baldelli took over a team that won 78 games in 2018 and pushed them to 101 victories and an AL Central title. He worked tightly with Minnesota’s analytics-focused front office — a shift from predecessor Paul Molitor, who won this award in 2017 — and oversaw a turnaround propelled by the team’s major-league record 307 home runs.

The self-dubbed Bomba Squad thrived under Baldelli, whose big-league playing career was spoiled by a rare disorder that led to frequent fatigue and soft tissue injuries.

One of Baldelli’s priorities was keeping players rested, a strategy that worked especially well with his catchers. Nobody started more than 73 games behind the plate for Minnesota, yet the trio of Mitch Garver, Jason Castro and Willians Astudillo combined for 48 home runs, most in the majors by any team’s catchers.

Jorge Polanco emerged as a star at shortstop, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton began to meet the expectations that followed exceptional minor-league careers, Nelson Cruz kept putting up big numbers and the bullpen emerged as one of the most reliable in baseball.

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Tampa Bay Rays Manager Kevin Cash also earned three first-place votes and finished third. Oakland’s Bob Melvin was fourth, followed by Houston’s AJ Hinch and Cleveland’s Terry Francona.

Past managers of the year

AMERICAN LEAGUE

2019 Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota

2018 Bob Melvin, Oakland

2017 Paul Molitor, Minnesota

2016 Terry Francona, Cleveland

2015 Jeff Banister, Texas

2014 Buck Showalter, Baltimore

2013 Terry Francona, Cleveland

2012 Bob Melvin, Oakland

2011 Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay

2010 Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota

2009 Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles

2008 Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay

2007 Eric Wedge, Cleveland

2006 Jim Leyland, Detroit

2005 Ozzie Guillen, Chicago

2004 Buck Showalter, Texas

2003 Tony Pena, Kansas City

2002 Mike Scioscia, Anaheim

2001 Lou Piniella, Seattle

2000 Jerry Manuel, Chicago

1999 Jimy Williams, Boston

1998 Joe Torre, New York

1997 Davey Johnson, Baltimore

1996 Johnny Oates, Texas, and Joe Torre, New York

1995 Lou Piniella, Seattle

1994 Buck Showalter, New York

1993 Gene Lamont, Chicago

1992 Tony La Russa, Oakland

1991 Tom Kelly, Minnesota

1990 Jeff Torborg, Chicago

1989 Frank Robinson, Baltimore

1988 Tony La Russa, Oakland

1987 Sparky Anderson, Detroit

1986 John McNamara, Boston

1985 Bobby Cox, Toronto

1984 Sparky Anderson, Detroit

1983 Tony La Russa, Chicago

NATIONAL LEAGUE

2019 Mike Shildt, St. Louis

2018 Brian Snitker, Atlanta

2017 Torey Lovullo, Arizona

2016 Dave Roberts, Los Angeles

2015 Joe Maddon, Chicago

2014 Matt Williams, Washington

2013 Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh

2012 Davey Johnson, Washington

2011 Kirk Gibson, Arizona

2010 Bud Black, San Diego

2009 Jim Tracy, Colorado

2008 Lou Piniella, Chicago

2007 Bob Melvin, Arizona

2006 Joe Girardi, Florida

2005 Bobby Cox, Atlanta

2004 Bobby Cox, Atlanta

2003 Jack McKeon, Florida

2002 Tony La Russa, St. Louis

2001 Larry Bowa, Philadelphia

2000 Dusty Baker, San Francisco

1999 Jack McKeon, Cincinnati

1998 Larry Dierker, Houston

1997 Dusty Baker, San Francisco

1996 Bruce Bochy, San Diego

1995 Don Baylor, Colorado

1994 Felipe Alou, Montreal

1993 Dusty Baker, San Francisco

1992 Jim Leyland, Pittsburgh

1991 Bobby Cox, Atlanta

1990 Jim Leyland, Pittsburgh

1989 Don Zimmer, Chicago

1988 Tommy Lasorda, Los Angeles

1987 Buck Rodgers, Montreal

1986 Hal Lanier, Houston

1985 Whitey Herzog, St. Louis

1984 Jim Frey, Chicago

1983 Tommy Lasorda, Los Angeles

Sports on 11/13/2019

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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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Where should we expect to see the most improvements in 2020? It better come from the outfield.
For the Baltimore Orioles, there’s really nowhere to go but up. Their 47 wins in 2018 marked the fewest number of wins in a single season, breaking the franchise record by seven (54 wins in 1954 and 1988 set the previous record for fewest wins). Much of the roster was shipped away, new leadership was brought in, and fans are now hoping their patience through a complete rebuild pays off with a World Series, sooner rather than later.

We saw a number of improvements in 2019, but what can we expect to see in 2020? More specifically, which position group will make the biggest improvement from 2019 to 2020? It could end up being in the outfield, where the Orioles struggled to replace Adam Jones after his 11-year career in Birdland and saw some of the worst defense in the major leagues from the left field spot.

Let’s take a look at where each positional group ranked this season and see why we’re most excited about the potential improvements in the outfield above all other positions.

A look at the Baltimore Orioles infield in 2019.
Using data from Fangraphs, Orioles catchers ranked 24th in combined fWAR at -0.2 and ranked 21st in wRC+ at 82. Pedro Severino surprised with his offensive production, but struggled with his highly-touted defense for much of the season. Unless Chance Sisco can flip a switch, not much will change behind the plate in 2020, but that’s ok with Adley Rutschman coming soon.

First base could end up featuring a rotating group of players that include Trey Mancini, Renato Nunez, Ryan Mountcastle, and Chris Davis (if he survives spring training). Mancini had a big year at the plate, a performance that will be difficult to top. It would be great if Nunez could maintain his power output and develop a little more consistency at the plate, but a .244/.311/.460 with 31 HR and 90 RBI Nunez may be peak Nunez.

I don’t think even the optimistic Orioles fan has any hope Davis can turn things around and how much can we really expect from Mountcastle in his debut season? He’s only 22, owns an extremely low walk rate, and routinely falls behind in counts, which can’t continue against major league pitching. He’s going to need some to settle in and adjust. Looking squarely at 2020, there could be improvements, but the ceiling isn’t as high as it is in the outfield.

Jonathan Villar had a career-year this season and it will be hard for him to top it, should he remain with the Orioles, and we largely know what to expect from fellow projected infield starters Hanser Alberto and Rio Ruiz.

Fangraphs classifies Mancini as a first baseman, pushing the Orioles up to 15th in combined fWAR at 2.2. They rank among the upper half of the league at second base (5.9 fWAR) and shortstop (3.0 fWAR), but in the bottom-third of the league at third base (2.1 fWAR). Unless Richie Martin or Ruiz has an elite breakout season in 2020, we’re likely to see much of the same production totals by the end of next season.

Will the Baltimore Orioles see big improvements from their outfield?
It’s going to be in the outfield where we see the real improvements next year. There’s no other choice but to improve.

With Trey Mancini playing out of position in right field, Stevie Wilkerson logging the highest number of innings in center despite never having played the position, and one of the worst defensive outfielders in Dwight Smith Jr.seeing significant time in left field, the Orioles ranked 24th in combined fWAR at 2.4.

Baltimore ranked 29th in left and center field production, two specific positions where things look much brighter in 2020.

Cedric Mullins, Stevie Wilkerson, Mason Williams, Joey Rickard, and Keon Broxton were all significantly below league-average at the plate, and all but Broxton were worth below-replacement level in center field.

Enter Austin Hays. Hays appeared in just 21 games, making 75 plate appearances, but he did record a 146 wRC+ and was worth 0.9 fWAR in his extremely small sample size. Only Alberto, Mancini, and Villar were worth more in 2019.

Of course, health is a major concern when it comes to Hays. But after witnessing a full season of a healthy Hunter Harvey and nowhere to go but up in Birdland, it’s hard not to be optimistic. What do we have if we don’t have hope?

A healthy Hays in center and Mancini in right field means no need for Wilkerson or Smith in the starting lineup. It also allows Anthony Santander to slide in as the everyday left fielder.

Santander wasn’t great in left field, but his -1 Defensive Runs Saved and -1.6 Defensive Rating in 287 innings are extreme improvements over Smith’s -12 DRS and -11.7 Defensive Rating in 695 innings. Maybe working primarily at one position and entering next season with a bit more job security leads to bigger defensive improvements for Santander. No pressure, but the International Anthony Santander Fan Club will be watching.

Want to write about your favorite baseball team? Check out the link above to join a growing team of Baltimore Orioles fans here at Birds Watcher!

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It started innocently enough: Every time the Nationals clinched a playoff berth, Russell de Leon would buy cheap champagne and toast the team with a fellow bartender.

The problem, though, was what came next. Year after year—2012, 2014, 2016, 2017—the Nationals won their division; year after year, they flamed out of the NLDS in dramatic fashion. “I always got really excited, and then they lost,” de Leon says. “And then I’d root for them again, and they’d lose again.” By 2017, when the Nationals once again fell in the first round of the playoffs, it felt important to drink the champagne early, because the Nats weren’t likely to offer anything else to celebrate. Rooting for the Nationals in the postseason, he says, was “just tedious.”

On Wednesday night, de Leon held down the bar at the Pug in Northeast Washington, D.C., the kind of dive that brags about its bad Yelp reviews. (“Décor is a mishmash of anything goes and garage sale items, including the ripped booth cushions we sat on. It just felt dirty all over.”) To face Game 7 of the Nationals’ first-ever World Series, a grab bag of Washingtonians arrived: Long-time neighborhood residents who grew up rooting for the Orioles, politicos still wearing the day’s suit and tie, recent transplants who’ve helped make D.C. the most rapidly gentrifying city in the country, students from nearby Gallaudet University signing their anxiety and delight (de Leon, like a lot of H Street denizens, can do the basics). As Nats starter Max Scherzer labored through five innings against the Astros, each of the hits and walks he issued fell on the Pug’s crowd concussively—ducking, wincing, covering their heads, letting out quiet hisses. When Yuli Gurriel homered in the bottom of the second inning, the standing-room-only bar fell silent.

De Leon, 40, grew up in the Virginia suburbs and moved to D.C. proper in 2008. He started bartending at the Pug in 2011; the bar’s owner, Tony Tomelden, is a D.C. native and has covered the walls in assorted District bric-a-brac: a picture of the Washington Senators, torn-out sports pages from The Washington Post, bobbleheads of G-Wiz, Davey Johnson, and Tanner Roark. “My favorite athletes as an adult have been Sean Taylor, RG3, John Wall, and Bryce Harper,” de Leon says. “That’s really all you need to know.”

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This was a Nationals team with a tendency to make fans grind their teeth. Entering Wednesday, the team had trailed in all four of the postseason elimination games that it faced (the wild-card against the Brewers, twice in the NLDS against the Dodgers, and Game 6 of the World Series). The Nats did the same in Game 7, carrying a 2-0 deficit into the seventh inning before finally roaring back.

Anthony Rendon hit a one-out home run in the seventh, and then Juan Soto walked. The cheers for Howie Kendrick, already a postseason hero after hitting a 10th-inning grand slam to win Game 5 of the NLDS, began even before he smashed the go-ahead run off the foul pole; that ball, inked with the pole’s yellow paint, is already on its way to Cooperstown. At the Pug, beer flew.

The celebrations swept across D.C. At a drizzly watch party at Nats Park, one fan ripped off his T-shirt and flung himself belly first across the top of the dugout. A Metro driver leaped out of his idling bus to dance in the street. José Andrés cheered from the background of a newscast; Alex Ovechkin loosed a bottle of champagne at the Capitals’ Halloween party. This October, Tomelden—manning the Pug’s Twitter account—was fond of reminding followers when the Nationals were leading that it was still early. This time, with Washington’s championship sealed with a 6-2 victory, de Leon lined up a long row of shot glasses and poured. A man tried unsuccessfully to get a “fuck you Har-per” chant going, climbing onto a bench to direct a nonplussed crowd. De Leon told him to get down.

D.C. is a funny place, one whose sports fans are sometimes written off. It’s a city of transplants, of business casual and sterile downtown and nonstop politics talk; it’s also a city of mumbo sauce and go-go and people whose work has nothing at all to do with the Capitol and, until recently, rotten sports luck. Since they arrived 14 years ago, the Nats have been a unifying force—for the people who come to D.C. for work, for the people who stay many years later, for the people who’ve been here all along. They’ve welcomed in fans who mourned the Senators and the Grays alongside those who endured years of Major League Baseball’s dangling a new team before the city alongside those who moved to D.C. as adults and fell in love with baseball for the first time. On Saturday, all of them will get a parade.

This year, de Leon broke with tradition: There was no champagne when the Nationals secured their place in the playoffs, squeaking into a wild-card berth. Instead, when the last out of the World Series finally came, he shook a beer, aimed it at his customers, and let loose.

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Adley Rutschman won’t be the Orioles’ starting catcher in 2020. After making him the first overall pick in last June’s draft and signing him to a record $8.1 million signing bonus, the Orioles are grooming him to be their catcher for many years to come.

Rutschman briefly played at Rookie Level Gulf Coast, moved up to Short Season Aberdeen and finished his initial pro season at Low-A Delmarva.

At the major league level, the Orioles used four catchers — Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco, Jesus Sucre and Austin Wynns.

Sucre is gone from the organization. He began the season with the Orioles, but was in Norfolk after 20 games and didn’t play for the Tides after the end of July. He’s elected free agency.

Severino, claimed on waivers from the Washington Nationals just before spring training ended, started the most games, 80. He had a fine first half of the season, hitting .272 with an .818 OPS. In the second half, he slumped to .221 with a .644 OPS.

Sisco, who floundered badly in 2018, got another chance in 2019, hitting .210, but he had a .333 on-base percentage and a .729 OPS.

After he was called up in early June, Sisco got off to a nice start offensively, hitting .267 in 14 June games with 15 RBIs, but he again sputtered in the second half of the season. In September, Sisco hit just .143.

Sisco was the Orioles’ second-round pick in 2013, a draft in which the Orioles choose four catchers in their first 11 picks. Wynns was chosen in the 10th round. The other two catchers, Jonah Heim (fourth round) and Alex Murphy (sixth round), never played for the Orioles.

The Orioles hoped was that Sisco would succeed Matt Wieters as the franchise catcher, but that hasn’t happened.

Sisco hit well in the minor leagues but struggled defensively. In 2019, Sisco threw out just five of 30 (17 percent) of runners attempting to steal.

Severino’s defense sufered along with his offense in the season’s second half. He began the season by throwing out nine of the first 12 runners who tried to steal on him but ended the year by throwing out just 24 percent (42-for-55) of basestealers.

The Orioles’ top two starters, John Means and Dylan Bundy, had similar ERAs when working with Severino and Sisco. Mychal Givens, who struggled through a difficult season, had a 5.80 ERA when throwing to Severino but allowed just one earned run in 12 1/3 innings (0.73) with Sisco catching him.

Wynns hit .214 in 28 games and threw out 3 of 14 runners (21 percent) attempting to steal.

With Rutschman clearly the future, and the team in desperate need of pitching, should the Orioles punt on improving the catching in 2020?

Other than Martin Cervenka, who finished the season at Triple-A Norfolk along with Wynns, and Carlos Perez, who has four seasons of major league experience, there aren’t any other major league catching candidates in the system.

Cervenka remains in the organization but had a disappointing year. Perez played most of the season at Double-A Bowie and received praise for his work with the Baysox’s young pitchers.

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If Perez doesn’t stay in the organization, the Orioles will attempt to sign other minor league free agents to help with the spring training workload.

Brett Cumberland, whom the Orioles received from Atlanta in the Kevin Gausman trade, also caught for Bowie but isn’t considered a major league prospect.

Rutschman could return to Delmarva to begin the season or could jump to High-A Frederick, but he won’t be catching for the Orioles next season.

While the temptation to stick with Severino, Sisco and Wynns might be there, the Orioles need better catching to work with the pitching prospects who are likely to join the team later in 2020.

It remains an opportunity for the three incumbents to prove they belong in the major leagues until Rutschman arrives. Catching once or twice a week might not seem appealing but caddying for a top-shelf catcher is a major league job.

In general manager Mike Elias’ first draft, he did what his predecessor, Dan Duquette, did in 2013. Elias loaded up on catchers. He picked Stanford’s Maverick Handley in the sixth round and Jordan Cannon, from Sam Houston State, in the 10th round.

Handley, who wasn’t an offensive force in college, had trouble at the plate for Aberdeen, hitting just .202 but threw out 63 percent of basestealers (19-for-30).

Besides Cannon, who didn’t have great stats in his first taste of pro ball, the Orioles also picked Harris Yett, another college catcher in the 32nd round. Yett hit .340 for Gulf Coast.

Perhaps Cannon, Handley or Yett can someday back up Rutschman.

While we wait, we’ll see if Severino, Sisco and Wynns get additional chances to prove they’re worthy of staying around.

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Will the Baltimore Orioles have another rookie contend for Rookie of the Year honors in 2020? The competition will be intense, but it’s possible.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, or buy into a large amount of hype based on small sample sizes, but it’s November and the Baltimore Orioles are expected to be very quiet this winter, so we’re going to allow ourselves to daydream about a few young rookies looking to make in impact in 2020.

It’s been a long time since Gregg Olson won Rookie of the Year honors in 1989, but plenty of Orioles rookies have made immediate impacts in their first year in the major leagues and put together strong resumes for ROY honors.

The Orioles have had seven players named American League Rookie of the Year since 1954, with Trey Mancini finishing third in 2017 voting and John Means emerging from middling minor league pitcher to a second-place finish in 2019.

Will we see another Orioles rookie among the finalists in 2020, perhaps even take home the award? It won’t be easy, but there are a few very early contenders.

Next season should be another exciting year of big name prospects making the jump to the major leagues, so the competition for Rookie of the Year honors is likely to be intense. Just in the American League East, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Nate Pearson and Tampa Bay’s Brendan McKay are primed to become impact starters for their ballclubs and cause fits for AL East hitters.

Outfielders Luis Robert (Chicago White Sox) and Jo Adell (Los Angeles Angels) will surely slug their way through highly-anticipated rookie campaigns, while a slew of other pitchers, including Casey Mize (Detroit Tigers), Jesus Luzardo (Oakland Athletics), and Forrest Whitley (Houston Astros) all bring hope for a bright future when it comes to major league starting pitching .

And these names are just the tip of the iceberg who represent the American League. What about the Baltimore Orioles?

Here are three Orioles to keep an eye on in the race for the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year award.

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The Orioles will once again host the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry Program Thanksgiving Sorting Day in the East Lot of Ed Smith Stadium on Friday, November 22 between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Volunteers are invited to help sort and package donated food items for pick-up by charities, food pantries, and religious institutions that serve families in need in the Sarasota area. Volunteers do not need to register in advance. Orioles catcher CHANCE SISCO and his wife, JORDAN, and Orioles pitcher EVAN PHILLIPS and his girlfriend, ELIZABETH, will be on site to volunteer beginning at 1:00 p.m.

Media interested in covering the event should RSVP to [email protected] Media parking will be available in the East Lot. Downloadable photos of Orioles pitcher ASHER WOJCIECHOWSKI and Orioles outfielder DWIGHT SMITH, JR. collecting items earlier this week are available via Photoshelter, courtesy of the Orioles.

Sponsored by mayors and government leaders in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry Program is a nonprofit coalition of charitable organizations, service agencies and religious institutions. Last year, the program collected and donated 72 tons of nonperishable food and 2,300 turkeys. All the food collected is given to the needy at no charge in time for Thanksgiving. Mayors’ Feed the Hungry also uses cash donations to distribute food gift cards. For more information, visit www.mayorsfeedthehungry.org.

The program is endorsed by the mayors of Sarasota, Bradenton, Palmetto, Venice, Longboat Key, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria, and North Port, as well as the chairs of the Sarasota County and Manatee County Commissions.

The Orioles’ support for All Faiths Food Bank and Mayors’ Feed the Hungry Program is part of Sarasota 365, a host of initiatives through which the Baltimore Orioles and Orioles Charitable Foundation demonstrate the ballclub’s year-round engagement with the Greater Sarasota community. An independent analysis commissioned by Sarasota County Government concluded that the Orioles generate approximately $92 million in annual economic impact back to taxpayers and residents. By marketing Sarasota to fans in the Mid-Atlantic region, operating a year-round athletic training facility, producing entertainment and sporting events, partnering with charitable causes, and hosting and often subsidizing youth sports tournaments and activities, the Orioles demonstrate an abiding commitment to their Florida home that goes far beyond baseball. For more information, media may visit Orioles.com/Sarasota.