After back-to-back postponements in Philadelphia, the Yankees will resume play tonight against the Orioles in Baltimore. The Yankees weren’t scheduled to play the Orioles until next week, but the fallout from the Marlins’ outbreak, the Nationals’ vote to not travel to Miami, and the Phillies’ ongoing testing resulted in various scheduling changes. So, here we are. MLB an absolute mess in terms of testing, quarantining, and protecting its players/staff, but that’s not going to stop them from plowing forward yet.
This will be a quick two game series in Baltimore before the Yankees head home. Today was supposed to be the Bombers’ home opener, but instead that’ll come Friday against the Red Sox. The Orioles are bad and the Yankees have had a ton of success at Camden Yards, but I can’t imagine the team is too thrilled to have been in limbo for the past few days. Perhaps they can take out some of that frustration against the lowly Orioles.
Their story so far
Maybe it’s not fair that I called the Orioles “bad” or “lowly” to close out the introduction. They’re 2-1 after all. Heh. The O’s took two out of three from the Red Sox over the weekend, and folks, you love to see it.
The Birds dropped the opener to the Red Sox in ugly fashion, 13-2. But things were pretty smooth sailing in the next two games. The Orioles lineup tallied seven runs in each of the next two at Fenway. That speaks volumes about how awful Boston’s pitching is. Just wait until you see some of the projections for Orioles’ hitters in a bit.
Unfortunately for the O’s, that series against Boston will probably be the pinnacle of the season. PECOTA projected a 22-38 record and Fangraphs had them at 24-36. Both projections are worst in the league.
- 1B/OF Trey Mancini is currently under treatment for stage three colon cancer and isn’t expected to play this season. He wrote about this back in April for The Players’ Tribune and noted that he probably won’t play this year. From the sounds of it, he’s fortunate to have had the malignant tumor found early. Best wishes to a full and speedy recovery.
- SS Richie Martin broke his wrist in Summer Camp and probably won’t be back this season. He had surgery earlier this month.
- LHP John Means was in the midst of a dead arm period in recent weeks, but is expected to return this series and start against the Yankees on Thursday.
- RHP Hunter Harvey is on the injured list with elbow soreness. His return is unclear, though the hard-throwing righty has a long injury history in the minors.
- RHP Dillon Tate, who was part of the package that to acquire Zack Britton in 2018, is also hurt. He’s dealing with forearm soreness after he was drilled by a comebacker in Summer Camp.
Spotlight: Gleyber Torres
Normally, we reserve this section to highlight a player on the opposing team. But since it’s the Orioles, I think it has to be Gleyber. Will we get a redux of 2019 when Gleyber tormented Baltimore?
Those were two of 13 (!!!) home runs Torres hit against the Orioles last season. Overall, Gleyber hit .394/.467/1.045 in 75 plate appearances against O’s pitching. And no, that 1.045 mark wasn’t his OPS. It is indeed his slugging percentage. Just absurd.
Anyway, is there any reason to not expect Torres to feast against Baltimore again this year? I can’t think of any.
Here’s the Roster Resource projected lineup along with projected wRC+ and DRC+ per ZiPS and PECOTA, respectively:
- Austin Hays, CF (85 wRC+, 98 DRC+)
- Anthony Santander, RF (88 wRC+, 88 DRC+)
- José Iglesias, SS (85 wRC+, 84 DRC+)
- Rio Ruiz, 3B (82 wRC+, 82 DRC+)
- Hanser Alberto, 2B (86 wRC+, 86 DRC+)
- Chris Davis, 1B (60 wRC+, 82 DRC+)
- Renato Núñez, DH (95 wRC+, 97 DRC+)
- Pedro Severino, C (70 wRC+, 79 DRC+)
- DJ Stewart, LF (87 wRC+, 91 DRC+)
C Chance Cisco, IF Pat Valaika, IF/OF Andrew Velazquez, OF Cedric Mullins, and OF Dwight Smith round out the bench. This is a bad offense, folks.
On the podcast released this morning, I mentioned that Tommy Milone was slated to start this game. That would have been a fantastic matchup for the Yankees’ lineup. Instead, 6-foot-4 righty Wojciechowski gets the nod for his first start of the year. Now, he’s an upgrade from Milone, albeit not much. No reason the Yankees can’t knock him around tonight. Last year, Wojciechwoski allowed 17 homers in just 82 1/3 innings, or 1.86 per 9. That’s not a recipe for success against this lineup.
One has to imagine that the Orioles are not salivating to face Gerrit Cole. This is arguably the best pitcher in baseball vs. perhaps the worst lineup in the league. For reference: Baltimore is last in projected runs scored per PECOTA by a 15 run margin. Anything less than a perfect game will be a disappointment. I kid…or do I?
As bad as 2019 was for the Orioles, John Means was an incredibly pleasant surprise. In 155 innings, he recorded a 3.60 ERA at the top of Baltimore’s rotation. That was far from the expectation for the former 11th round pick in the 2014 draft. There are some lingering doubts for the 27 year-old, however. Last year very well may have been a fluke, especially if FIP (4.41) or DRA (4.61) have anything to say. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, Means has been dealing with a dead arm.
I couldn’t envision a better opportunity (Baltimore) for JA Happ to get 2020 off on the right foot. He’s gone from an offseason trade candidate, to in the rotation but don’t let his vesting option exercise, to now potentially a key cog in the rotation. Without Luis Severino and some concerns about James Paxton, the Yankees could really use a rebound campaign from Happ. Although I’ve harped on the Orioles’ offense, there is one matchup to look out for here. Renato Núñez has clobbered Happ in the past: he’s 11-for-19 with a double, four home runs, and two walks.
RHP: Mychal Givens, Cole Sulser, Miguel Castro, Shawn Armstrong, Cody Caroll, Travis Lakins Sr., Evan Phillips, David Hess
LHP: Richard Bleier, Paul Fry, Tanner Scott
If there’s any strength for the Orioles, it’s the bullpen. And by strength, I mean relative to the rest of the squad. This is the 16th-best bullpen in MLB per Fangraphs, which is much higher than I would have anticipated. That said, these rankings accounted for having Hunter Harvey, who’s currently out due to elbow soreness. Harvey impressed in a brief stint with Baltimore last year during which he fanned 42.3 percent of opponents.
Baltimore’s best bullpen arm is Givens, though he’s not necessarily the closer. It seems like Givens, Richard Bleier, and Cole Sulser could all receive save chances this season. Harvey too, should he return. Back to Givens: the righty had a down season last year (4.57 ERA), but was victimized by a horrendous 22.8 percent home run to fly ball rate. In the meantime, he set a career-best 33.1 percent strikeout rate, so perhaps he can revert back to his previous form. He sure seems like a good trade candidate for Baltimore within the next year or two.
There’s no other way to slice it: the Yankees should sweep this short series. Granted, the season may not finish for good reason and everyone’s playoff odds are higher with an expanded postseason, but it wouldn’t be a good look to drop any games against Baltimore. Sure, they could lose because this is baseball, but none of us would be very pleased.