Rumors abound that the 2020 MLB season will begin sometime soon in some shape or form. And boy do we need real games, so much so that ESPN is showing our brethren in Korea live in the early AM hours. On the bad side, Blake Snell speaking out can go from praised to vilified in moments. On the good, spring is about hope, and hope right now springs eternal, especially in places like Baltimore. The Orioles are among many teams that can figure in a shortened season with a potentially expanded playoffs ‘Why not us?’. They were dealt a blow with the Trey Mancini news. Ryan Mountcastle has the best chance to fill Mancini’s shoes in the lineup, but he’s at first base. So who is left to fill his shoes in the outfield?
The Slow Riser
Anthony Santander has been a whisper on the waiver wire for a couple years in AL only formats. Last year his hint of promise finally paid off. His 16 second half homers guarantee him one of the three outfield spots. However, his .255 batting average and .285 on base leave much to be desired, so his spot is by no means secure. There are three others for the final two spots, with the potential to beat out Santander altogether if his bat fails to impress.
The First Rounder
D.J. Stewart came to the Orioles in the first round of the 2015 draft. He finally popped with a .948 OPS in AAA, leading to a call up and a .773 OPS in the second half of 2019. He underwent microfracture surgery on his right ankle in November of last year, meaning that somewhat disappointing performance was mitigated by an injury. He is iffy for the theoretical start of the season (is this not a crazy time we’re living in?), but it’s easy to see him taking an outfield spot and running with it in 2020 once he’s healed. This is the kind of bat that could hit 10 homers in Baltimore in August alone. But of course he might not play either.
The Machado Blockbuster Piece
Yusniel Diaz was part of the 2018 trade of Manny Machado to the Dodgers. At the time of the trade he was the prize of the deal, the 84th ranked player according to MLB Pipeline, and the Dodgers 4th ranked player. He has raw power. Over three minor league levels the 22 year old had 22 doubles and 11 homers in 358 at bats last year. Because of his association with the Machado deal he is highly thought of in the Orioles system, almost as much as the 1st rounder Stewart. He managed to hit .300 with two triples in spring training this year. He’s a close to lock in an MLB outfield as any young player in the league.
The MLB The Show Player
Last comes Dwight Smith, who made news making the playoffs in the MLB players pool of MLB The Show earlier this month. He won some daily fantasy leagues in April and May last year when he posted 10 home runs. Soon after he suffered various injuries that derailed his season. Now 27 it’s nearing the end of his chances to show he belongs. But because of the uncertainty in the Orioles outfield he will be given another chance to prove his hot April and May last year were no fluke.
The surest thing is definitely Yusniel Diaz to pop for the 2020 Orioles OF, if and when a season does finally begin. Monitor Stewart’s return to health and Santander’s bat to see how much of a chance Smith gets. Camden Yards gives a rising tide to all bats in the summer, whoever gets the chance will definitely be worth owning.