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Orioles Second-Half Preview: Opportunities Abound

July 12, 2019
The Orioles begin the second half of the season with a nine-game homestand, beginning July 12  against the Tampa Bay Rays. This means several players have a little more than two months to show they can be a viable part of the future of the club. 

Here are some main issues that will be resolved in the coming weeks:

1. Which players need a big second half to seize their opportunity and be a part of the 2020 team? 

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has given numerous players a chance to show they can be everyday players at the major-league level. Some have taken advantage of the opportunity, while others have fallen short. 

Rio Ruiz, 25, has been solid at third base, committing just five errors. He has also appeared in 79 games, fourth on the team behind Jonathan Villar (89), Trey Mancini (84) and Renato Nunez (84). If Ruiz can find more consistency with the bat (.235/.307/.328), he could be a fixture for the club moving forward.

Also in the infield, Rule 5 player Richie Martin, 24 has been spectacular defensively, but is batting .166. The Orioles want to hold onto him so he will remain with the big-league club this season. However, if his offense doesn’t improve, he might have to spend some time back at the Triple-A level to work on his skills. 

Infielder Hanser Alberto, 26, has been a pleasant surprise and Hyde loves his enthusiasm. He leads the club with .309 batting average and has an opportunity to show he can be more than a stopgap player. 

Chance Sisco, 24, has platooned with Pedro Severino, 25, at catcher. Sisco worked on his defense in the minors earlier this season and has played much better than last year. He has been solid at the plate, batting .283/.394/.667 with six homers and 17 RBIs in just 19 games. Hyde loves what Severino brings to the game and how he handles pitchers. He is batting .272/.339/.479 with nine homers and 25 RBIs throughout 54 games. He has also thrown out 10 of 28 (36 percent) of the players attempting to steal a base. With Adley Rutschman knocking on the door in the next few years, Sisco and Severino are playing for long-term job security.  

The Orioles also need someone to step up and show they can be an everyday center fielder. Keon Broxton, 29, has been solid with his glove but is batting just .198/.245/.323 with three home runs and seven RBIs during 32 games. Anthony Santander, 24, has been another player that has seized an opportunity with the club. He is batting .274/.333/.443 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 28 games. Santander might get an extended look in center field during the second half. Other outfielders who have to show they can contribute on a daily basis are Stevie Wilkerson, 27, and DJ Stewart, 25, who is on the IL. 

2. What veteran players are most likely to be dealt?

Orioles 2018: Andrew Cashner (April 28 vs. Tigers, glove out)
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

General manager Mike Elias said everything is on the table when it comes to potential trades. The most obvious candidate is Andrew Cashner, 32, because his contract expires at the end of the season. Cashner (9-3, 3.83 ERA) leads the team in wins and is second behind rookie phenom John Means in ERA. He'd be a valuable starter or reliever for a contending team. Cashner has expressed a desire to remain in Baltimore, but perhaps a chance at a World Series would change his mind. 

Trey Mancini, 27, has become the face of the club. Elias said his preference is to hold onto him but will listen to any offers. Mancini is batting .291/.351/.517 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs. The Orioles would have to be overwhelmed with an offer to trade him. Some team looking for the final piece for a title run might be willing to take that chance.

Dylan Bundy, 26, is another player whose name will eventually be discussed with potential suitors. Bundy (4-10, 4.65 ERA) is having another uneven season and a change of scenery might help his career. That was initially case with Kevin Gausman (2-5, 6.21 ERA) before he faded this year for the Atlanta Braves. The Orioles, however, are short on starting pitchers and Elias would also have to be overwhelmed with an offer to deal Bundy. 

Mychal Givens, 29, leads the team with six saves and appears to have overcome some of the struggles that plagued him in June. He could be a valuable part of a contending team’s bullpen. It would also behoove him to get away from home-run-happy Camden Yards. Givens has allowed eight homers in 30 appearances and has a 4.76 ERA. 

Villar, 28, could be attractive to teams because of his versatility. He is also solid offensively, batting .259/.326/.421 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs. However, he has suffered from some mental lapses on the basepaths. Villar's name will likely arise in some trade discussions. Alberto fits the same mold and is batting .423 against left-handed pitchers, best in the majors. His bat could be attractive to a contending club.  

3. Which prospects are we most likely to get a look at in August and September?

Bowie Baysox: Dillon Tate
Bill Vaughan/Bowie Baysox

Many Orioles fans are anticipating some young prospects getting an opportunity to play at the major-league level. Hunter Harvey, 24, has thrived since being moved to the bullpen and will likely get his chance to show what he can do with the Orioles in the coming weeks. Dillon Tate, 25, has made a similar transition and could get an opportunity in the next month or two. Both Harvey and Tate are on the 40-man roster.

Ryan Mountcastle, 22, has also shown enough progress to earn his major-league debut in 2019. He is batting .307/.329/.505 with 18 doubles, a triple, 15 home runs and 51 RBIs in 80 games. Mountcastle has spent time at fist base, third base and the outfield, which will help his chances with the Orioles.

4. How likely are the O's to end up with the No. 1 pick again?

The Orioles own the worst record in the major at 27-62 (.303) and trail the first-place New York Yankees by 30.5 games. There’s no reason that record will get much better in the second half as the team evaluates more players and potentially trades away some veteran starters. The Kansas City Royals (30-61), Detroit Tigers (28-57) and Miami Marlins (33-55) are also pushing for that top pick, so that might not be decided until the final week of the season. Next year’s MLB Draft is stocked with pitching talent and the Orioles could certainly use some young arms.

Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox and Bill Vaughan/Bowie Baysox