Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (Aug. 2, 2015 – Source: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images North America)
Hey Alfred, what do you do with a team that is coming off a 47-115 season, and also gave up three of their top four leading players in WAR?
This is really all you can do in Baltimore, right now. Now, one may think, if their Major League team is so bad, they must have some prospects coming up, right? Well, unfortunately for the Bird Gang, they have a very mediocre farm system. Their best prospect is ranked #64 in the MLB, and there are two others in the top 100, which is pretty standard. Now, I don’t think their season should be a complete disaster, because there were some good players who had some real down years last year.
The first example of someone who did not play to their ability is Alex Cobb. In 2018, Alex Cobb was in the first year of a 4-year deal, which was signed in late March. Prior to last year, he had a career 3.50 ERA through 700.0 IP, and never had an ERA above 4.03 in a full season prior to 2018. Yet, last year, he had a very disappointing 4.90 ERA and .814 OPS against through 152.1 IP. It may have very well been from lack of preparation, as he wasn’t signed until March 20th. Cobb, at the age of 31, can easily bounce back with a full offseason of preparation, as he has a good history of hanging with the bats of the AL East.
Another example of someone who can easily bounce back is left fielder/first baseman Trey Mancini. You may remember him from being a Rookie of the Year finalist in 2017, when he slugged .488 and posted an .826 OPS in 586 plate appearances. He took a step back in 2018, only getting on base at a .299 rate, and putting up a below-average .715 OPS. His defense also digressed. In 2017, he had a pretty passable -5 defensive runs saved between left field and first base. But, the next year, that number decreased to -14. He is due to get back to his 2017 self, which would make the team more respectable.
What should also be factored with this team are the new young players that showed glimmers of hope at the end of last year. One example is Jonathan Villar, who proved to be a solid return on investment for Jonathan Schoop, putting together a .336 OBP in 236 plate appearances with the team, and also stealing 21 bases. Also, one should consider Renato Nunez, who posted a .781 OPS in 220 plate appearances after being claimed off waivers by Baltimore in May of last year.
All of this being said, a last place finish should be expected from the Baltimore Orioles. They finished 47-115 last year, and they don’t have Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, nor Brad Brach this year. They are at the foundation of a long rebuilding process, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lose 100+ again.