The Orioles are staring down the barrel of a second straight 100-plus loss season. Unlike last year, the struggles were expected because the franchise is embarking on a complete rebuild. New general manager Mike Elias said 2019 was more about evaluating talent rather worrying about the teams place in the standings. The Orioles have certainly followed that blueprint
As the final month of the regular season approaches, here are five things to watch the rest of the way:
1. September Promotions
The Orioles have given several players an extended opportunity to shine season. Some of them, such as Anthony Santander, John Means and Hanser Alberto, have taken advantage. Others, namely Cedric Mullins, Dan Straily and Mike Wright, struggled in their roles.
Several more players could get an opportunity to shine at the major-league level. Fans have been beating the drum for Ryan Mountcastle, 22, to make his debut. Mountcastle, who's played first base and left field for Triple-A Norfolk this year, is slashing .308/.340/.528 with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs.
Outfielder Austin Hays should get an opportunity to showcase his skills in center field. Hays, 24, might have been an earlier call-up if not for an injury. He's hitting .249/.301/.451 with the Tides this year. Left-hander Tanner Scott, 25, could look to make the same early impact as recently promoted Hunter Harvey, who is emerging as a potential future closer.
2. The No. 1 Pick
The Orioles (44-88) used the No. 1 pick in the 2019 MLB Draft to land catcher Adley Rutschman, the consensus top-rated player out of Oregon State. Rutschman has already created a buzz among two minor-league affiliates (Short-A Aberdeen and Low-A Delmarva). As it stands, the Detroit Tigers (39-90) hold the top overall selection in the 2020 draft, which is deep with pitching. The Orioles might be playing their most important series of the season Sept. 13-16 at Comerica Park.
3. 100 Losses -- Does It Matter?
The Orioles need to go 19-11 the rest of the way to avoid a second consecutive 100-loss season. If they do reach the 100-loss mark, they would be following a similar arc of the Astros rebuild. The 2013 Astros finished 51-111 and 45 games out of first place. Four years later, they went 101-61 and won the first World Series in franchise history. That title-winning team was the culmination of a complete rebuild that began with three consecutive 100-plus loss seasons. The Orioles' blueprint for success is often compared to the situation in Houston because Elias and assistant GM Sig Mejdal are two of the main architects of the Astros' success.
4. The Future Of Jonathan Villar
Infielder Jonathan Villar is just the sixth player in franchise history to hit at least 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. The other players to reach that milestone are Paul Blair (1969), Don Baylor (1975), Reggie Jackson (1976), Brady Anderson (1992, 1996 and 1999) and Manny Machado (2015). That's pretty good company. Villar, who was acquired as part of the Jonathan Schoop trade last season, is earning $4.825 million this year, but is eligible for arbitration, which could put him in line for $6 million or more in 2020. Do the Orioles make that investment? Villar's production in September could make that decision extremely difficult.
5. The Status Of Chris Davis
Manager Brandon Hyde said earlier this month that struggling first baseman
Chris Davis will see less playing time
during the final stretch of the year. The Orioles want to get a look at some of their younger talent on the current team and when rosters expand. Davis has endured another frustrating season, slashing .173/.263/.303 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 93 games. He also had a
confrontation with Hyde in the dugout
Aug. 9 during a game against the New York Yankees. It was not a good look for the club. There is some speculation the Orioles cut ties with Davis in the offseason despite his hefty contract. The final month of the season could provide some insight into his future.