Much like the second half of 2018 and 2019 in its entirety, the 2020 season will bring with it far more losses than wins for the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles.
The top-to-bottom organizational rebuild, now in its second full season, is expected to take about four or five years before the team is ready to challenge again. During which, General Manager Mike Elias and Skipper Brandon Hyde are set to assess the stock on hand – throwing as many youngsters as possible into the deep end to see whether they sink or swim as big leaguers.
While the likelihood of a winning season or a postseason berth are low, hopes are high. The ballclub unearthed some genuine MLB talent in 2019, led by the likes of John Means and Renato Nunez who each compiled seasons far greater than anyone imagined. In 2020, things are likely to be better still, with a handful of young prospects set to make their mark under baseball’s brightest lights.
The 24-year-old left-hander has long been touted as a future arm in the Orioles rotation and through four seasons in the minor leagues, he owns a 27-23 record with a respectable 3.78 ERA (80 games). His 2019 season however was hampered by inconsistency, ultimately finishing with a 6-7 record and a 4.73 ERA through 25 outings (24 starts). At the Triple-A level he struck out 10.5 hitters per nine innings, however also allowed 4.9 walks. His consistency and control needs to improve, however if it can, he could certainly establish himself within an inexperienced rotation.
It was hard to find a better player in the minor leagues in 2019 than the highly touted 22-year-old who was named the International League’s MVP. This came on the back of an incredibly consistent season where he hit .312/.344/.871 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI through 553 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk. In addition to this impressive production at the plate, he offers roster versatility to Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, being capable of playing first base, third base, shortstop, or an outfield corner. Healthy, fresh, and full of confidence, Mountcastle looks set for a big 2020 season too.
Ravaged by injury since being drafted by the Orioles 22nd overall in 2013, the 25-year-old put together his most consistent season to date in 2019 and was duly rewarded with a late-season call-up. It was a long time coming for frustrated Orioles fans and the flamethrower didn’t disappoint – working to a 1.42 ERA through seven relief appearances (6 1/3 innings). Capable of reaching triple digits with his fourseam fastball and mixing it with a 90mph changeup and mid-80s curveball, if Harvey’s body can hold up, 2020 may well be his breakout season.
One of the brightest sparks of the 2019 season was the development of Austin Hays who managed to play 21 games with the Orioles, hitting .309/.373/.947 with four home runs and 13 RBI. In addition to his solid production with the bat, Hays proved himself to be a more than capable outfielder and seemed to find himself a home at center field towards season’s end – frequently making outstanding plays and showing off a plus arm that caught opponents off guard. Expect to see a full season from Hays in 2020, hopefully replicating the hype he brought to Camden Yards late last year.
While the MLB debut of baseball’s No. 6 batting prospect is not expected until much later in the piece – if at all, the 21-year-old catcher will continue his fast-tracking in 2020 and may see some MLB game time down the stretch. Drafted No. 1 overall by the Orioles last year, the Oregon State college standout who possesses maturity beyond his years, showed glimpses of his potential after making his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Orioles in July. Across three levels, he hit .254/.351/.774 combined from 155 plate appearances and it’s hoped he can increase that production this coming season – likely starting with the Class A Advanced Frederick Keys.