The real, and only, reason to read this season preview is to know a little about a division foe and plan your trip down to the Charm City (I lived there for two years and have no idea why that’s the nickname) because just like the pizza in Baltimore, the Orioles are not good.
In truly shocking news, the Orioles actually finished ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East last season, finishing the season at 25-35 after getting off to a decent start. The 2020 Orioles not finishing in the AL East basement would qualify as a top 10 “WTF” moment in any other year because this team is going through a massive rebuild. Per Spotrac, their total team payroll is $46 million, nearly half of which is tied up in Chris Davis’ contract. Their entire 26-man roster this year will make less than Gerrit Cole.
The TL;DR is the Orioles will not be good this year, will almost certainly finish in last place in the AL East, and only our wonderful, nerdy, and devoted readers would consider reading the rest of this preview to hear the names of players who I first learned while researching for this article.
For the final time this season, we get the pleasure of watching Yankees-Orioles. As a reminder, the Bombers have already set a record with 52 homers against Baltimore this season.
Since They Last Met
The last-place Orioles are great friends to the Yankees this season. Not only are they 2-13 against the Yanks (and have lost 12 straight), they also manage to do just enough against other teams to help out New York.
This weekend, the O’s hosted Houston. They lost the first game 3-2 and the second game … 23-2. They were poised to lose the finale before Rio Ruiz hit a walk-off homer. Thanks to that, the Yankees and Astros share the AL’s best record coming into today. Even when winning, they still had this mishap.
In addition to a 26th man, the Orioles will be adding a player to their roster before this game as they optioned RHP Tayler Scott after Sunday’s contest.
RHP Alex Cobb and LHP Josh Rogers are out for the season while DH Mark Trumbo very well might be. OF DJ Stewart is on the 7-day concussion IL after having a ball hit off his head during Yanks-O’s last week, and LF Dwight Smith Jr. is out with a calf strain.
The Orioles’ current 40-man roster is as bleak as life in a Cormac McCarthy novel, so I had to reach down to the New York Penn League to spotlight Baltimore’s shining hope: Adley Rurschman.
For those unfamiliar, Rutschman was the 2019 Golden Spikes Award (best amateur player) and Dick Howser Award (best college player) winner as the switch-hitting catcher for Oregon State. That came after leading the Beavers to the College World Series as the Most Outstanding Player in 2018.
The Orioles selected him first overall in the 2019 draft and gave him a record $8.1 million signing bonus. Right away, the catcher becomes the Orioles’ best prospect and the expected future leader of the franchise, a lot of weight to put on a 21-year-old. He’s touted for just about everything in his game from his swings and his defense.
Rutschman had a slow start to pro ball after homering in his first game, but he just came off a full college season. He did just hit a walk-off single against Staten Island this weekend.
Whether he turns out to be a bust, a solid talent like Matt Wieters or a superstar remains to be seen. As the Orioles reach their nadir, Rutschman represents the promise of a brighter future in the Charm City.
Hanser Alberto, 3B (.315/.338/.409, 97 wRC+)
Trey Mancini, 1B (.280/.344/.534, 127 wRC+)
Anthony Santander, RF (.302/.344/.500, 119 wRC+)
Renato Nunez, DH (.241/.309/.475, 103 wRC+)
Jonathan Villar, 2B (.271/.336/.441, 105 wRC+)
Pedro Severino, C (.265/.339/.442, 106 wRC+)
Stevie Wilkerson, CF (.226/.272/.399, 73 wRC+)
Jace Peterson, LF (.254/.274/.424, 77 wRC+)
Richie Martin, SS (.191/.250/.296, 43 wRC+)
Their bench right now is backup catcher Chance Sisco (95 wRC+), 1B Chris Davis (53 wRC+) and INF Rio Ruiz (78 wRC+).
Monday Game 1 (1:05 PM ET) James Paxton (vs. O’s) vs. Gabriel Ynoa (vs. Yankees) Monday Game 2 (7:05 PM ET) TBD vs. TBD
After working in long relief for all of July, Ynoa stepped back into the rotation against the Yankees last week. All things considered, it wasn’t bad, allowing just three earned runs and one homer in 4.2 IP. This came after not throwing more than 34 pitches in 19 days.
Ynoa should be more stretched out this time around and the O’s will need him to step up. Game 2 of the doubleheader will likely be a bullpen game for both teams, so length is imperative for both Game 1 starters.
This is a marquee pitching matchup as far as these two teams are concerned. Means held the Yankees to one hit for the first time through the order last Wednesday before the Bombers knocked him out in the fourth inning with a series of long at-bats culminating in a Kyle Higashioka home run.
The left-hander is a lean, mean, changeup machine. He had it going for the first three frames last time out, but the Yankees have now seen him multiple times, so they may not be as susceptible to his best offering.
The Yankees have seen Bundy thrice this season and each time he has allowed exactly three runs, either in 3.2 IP (twice) or 5.2 IP (once). The former top prospect comes into the series with a 5.04 ERA, 118 strikeouts and 24 home runs in 114.1 IP this season.
Funny enough, despite the high home run total, he’s actually giving up slightly fewer long balls per nine. There was very little room to go up after he led baseball with 41 allowed a season ago. Bundy has allowed fewer hard-hit balls and a slightly lower average exit velocity this season.
The right-hander attacks with a low-90s, high-spin four-seamer, which has been the victim of most of his homers. He tries to put hitters away with a low-80s slider and low-to-mid 80s changeup. The slider elicits a 49.1 percent whiff rate.
The Orioles used five relievers for three or fewer outs Sunday after three relievers and a position player covered six innings Saturday. As with the Yankees, they could be aided by another pitcher as their 26th man.
Right now, here’s their staff:
RHPs: Shawn Armstrong, Miguel Castro, Tom Eshelman, Mychal Givens, Branden Kline
LHPs: Richard Bleier, Paul Fry
Both Bleier and Fry have some high leverage experience while Givens, despite a down season, has operated as their top high-leverage reliever. Armstrong and Castro could get work in the middle-to-late innings as well, though Kline and Eshelman are primarily long men.