Written by Andrew Atkins.
The Baltimore Orioles are in quite a unique situation heading into the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season. They have no expectations. The ball club that finished a league worst 47-115 in 2018 and a surprisingly better 54-108 in 2019, is expected to finish at the bottom of the league once again in 2020. Fangraphs predicts that the Orioles will finish the 2020 campaign in last place and with a record of 61-101. However this is all part of the plan.
When Baltimore hired Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Elias prior to the 2019 season, they knew that a big overhaul was in store. Even though they had traded away big stars such as Manny Machado, Zack Britton, and Kevin Gausman in order to acquire numerous prospects, the Baltimore farm system ranked in the bottom third of MLB. Elias, who was previously in charge of scouting with the Houston Astros, knew that there was a lot of work to be done and he has already begun to make his mark. In just one full season Elias has stockpiled not only international talent, but also been able to use analytics to further develop the prospects already in the O’s system. This has led many baseball experts to now rank the Orioles near the top ten in farm systems.
While some of the young stars in the O’s system are not quite ready to make their Baltimore debut, they have been tearing up the minor leagues. In particular the Orioles have a young core of pitchers who have been making a big impact as of late. These include Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore’s 2018 first round pick, DL Hall (2017 first round pick), Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, and Keegan Akin. They also have 2019 MLB Rookie of the Year finalist John Means who is already cemented in the big league rotation. Baumann and Akin are the oldest of this group of minor leaguers at 24, while Rodriguez is the youngest at 20.
On the offensive side Baltimore has some star studded players on the way as well. This group is highlighted by the 2019 number one overall draft pick Adley Rustchman. Rustchman, a catcher out of Oregon State University, has quite the impressive pedigree. He won the College World Series in 2018, the Golden Spikes Award (best amatur baseball player) in 2019, and numerous college baseball player of the year awards in 2019. The switch hitter shows not only impressive power, but also can hit for average. He will soon be the face of the franchise within the next few years. Orioles fans have already gotten their first taste of watching him play in their jersey at spring training this year.
They have also gotten to see young prospects such as outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the top prospect in the Machado trade, infielder Ryan Mountcastle, and center fielder Austin Hays make impressive plays in spring training. Both Mouncastle, 23, and Hays, 24, are making strong cases to be on the Opening Day roster.
The other players on the major league roster this year additionally will be interesting to watch. They are all attempting to prove to Elias and the Orioles that they deserve to be on the team when the O’s are in contention again. Players who stood out last year such as second baseman Hanser Alberto and designated hitter Renato Nunez will have to replicate that success in order to be a part of the team’s future.