BALTIMORE -- Welcome to the dog days of August. The weather is hot and it feels like forever since we’ve tackled your burning questions in an Orioles Inbox. Let’s use this opportunity to break that trend and touch on several issues concerning the team as it heads into the season’s home stretch.
Who are some potential September callups we could see?
Last winter, I went on record saying that I believed every prospect added to the 40-man roster during the offseason would appear in the Majors at some point in 2021. I’m sticking by that, for the most part. So far, Alexander Wells and Isaac Mattson have, and Mike Baumann, Yusniel Diaz and Rylan Bannon have yet to make it to the Majors. Jahmai Jones is also at Triple-A Norfolk and remains a strong candidate to get September at-bats. The main factor holding Diaz back is his health; he returned to Norfolk on Tuesday after a rehab assignment.
Ultimately, I think Baumann, Diaz and Jones all will get the call, with Bannon in jeopardy of being left out (he’s hitting .133 at Norfolk). It’s also worth noting that rosters won’t expand to 40 players in September like in the past. Rosters will now expand from 26 to 28 players, meaning that a 40-man shuffle would be necessary to add multiple players to the big league club.
Besides the obvious answers (Adley, Rodriguez, D.L. Hall), what close-to-ready prospect do you think will make the quickest impact at the Major League level?
Fans are clamoring for Jones, but the Orioles are going to keep giving a long look to Richie Martin and Jorge Mateo up the middle, and Jones is having a rough month of August at the plate in Triple-A. Keep an eye on right-handers Baumann and Kyle Bradish. Baumann is healthy, was lights out in his first two starts with Norfolk and is on the 40-man roster. Bradish isn’t, and his numbers have slumped at Triple-A. But he’ll turn 25 next month and is seen as close to big league ready.
Who is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year from the top 30 prospects, and who will the Orioles protect and not protect?
A quick reminder about Rule 5 Draft protection: Players signed at 19 years or older must be protected within their first four professional seasons, or else be exposed to 29 other clubs via the Rule 5 Draft. For players who were signed at age 18 or younger, the cutoff is five years. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the MLB roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.
Other eligible prospects include righties Blaine Knight and Cody Sedlock, outfielder Lamar Sparks and catcher Brett Cumberland.
None of Cumberland, Knight, Sedlock and Sparks were protected last winter, and all remained with the organization. The O’s did lose righty Zach Pop to the Marlins and righty Gray Fenter to the Cubs (and later received Fenter back). The ranked prospects are near-locks to be protected.
What’s the latest with Heston?
There wasn’t much of an update on Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles’ top pick in the 2020 Draft and their No. 3 overall prospect, last time general manager Mike Elias addressed the issue. Kjerstad has yet to play professionally due to myocarditis. At this point, there is an outside chance he will sit out all of 2021.
What is your opinion on Buck Britton? Obviously he’s been doing a phenomenal job in Bowie, but do you think he gets a shot in the MLB as a manager in the near future?
I think Britton is certainly someone to keep an eye on, since he fits the profile of a future big league manager. Why do I say that? He’s young (35), with a strong baseball background, an upbeat style and an appetite for analytics and interest in blending them into traditional coaching techniques. Furthermore, Britton has drawn praise from team officials for his work at the alternate training site in 2020 and managing this year at Double-A Bowie, where top prospects Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, Hall and others spent significant time. If they are the foundation of the Orioles’ future, it's only logical to think that Britton is as well, in some prominent way.
Will the Orioles officially move on from Chris Davis after this year?
Davis is under contract through 2022. The official word is that he is expected to report to Spring Training next season fully recovered from the hip surgery that cost him 2021.