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Hyde addresses 5 key topics ahead of 2021

@JoeTrezz
December 14, 2020

For every big league manager, each season presents different challenges. But over the course of the last year, Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde often remarked on how 2020 kept presenting difficulties few in his seat have had to face before. From navigating safety restrictions required by the pandemic to playing without

For every big league manager, each season presents different challenges. But over the course of the last year, Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde often remarked on how 2020 kept presenting difficulties few in his seat have had to face before.

From navigating safety restrictions required by the pandemic to playing without fans to actively entering discussions surrounding social justice, Hyde’s sophomore season at the helm presented challenges well beyond what happened inside the white lines. On the field, Hyde oversaw the arrival of several exciting prospects and progress from other young players despite the rebuilding O’s fourth-place finish in the American League East.

“I thought it was a really productive year, even though it was a strange year,” Hyde said Monday. “There were a lot of things we dealt with that we normally don’t have to, and what I learned was there is going to be something different every day. … I was really proud of how our club, our whole organization -- the way we handled everything.”

Speaking on a wide-ranging Zoom call with the media Monday, Hyde addressed a variety of 2020 topics while also looking forward to '21:

Topic: Recent player moves

The skinny: Departure has been a theme of the 2020 offseason so far: The O’s parted ways with starting shortstop José Iglesias (trade), second baseman Hanser Alberto (non-tender) and designated hitter Renato Núñez (release) in the weeks since the season ended, letting some of the most popular and productive pieces of their rebuild go. Two of those moves were payroll-related, sparking criticism in some corners from a team that played '20 with MLB’s lowest payroll. The Orioles say the moves are necessary to move forward with their rebuild, but they have left sizable holes on the current roster that have been hard to stomach for the fanbase.

Hyde: “We’re losing some good players. This is part of where we are as an organization and a team, but I have confidence that we’re going to replace them. We feel really good about the young players we have coming up through our system and the guys we already have here. It’s tough to lose Iggy and Nuney because they were huge parts of our offense and our club. But it’s a 'next man up' mentality, and we have young players who are going to get an opportunity to play and are up for the challenge.”

Topic: Trey Mancini

The skinny: Mancini is hoping to return in 2021 after missing '20 while undergoing treatment for Stage 3 colon cancer. The O’s best hitter in '19, Mancini resumed baseball activity in October and has been working out without issue, with an eye toward being ready for Opening Day '21.

Hyde: “I check in with Trey periodically. I talked with him a couple of weeks ago; he just got done working out. He’s doing great. Feels great, looks great. I’ve got video on him hitting in the facility he works out in, and he looks exactly the same. I’m excited to have Trey be part of a full Spring Training, and I can’t wait to see him. All signs are great and he looks fantastic.”

Topic: 2021 expectations

The skinny: Three of the O’s Top 15 prospects per MLB Pipeline arrived in the Majors in 2020. At least eight more Top 30 prospects could in '21, including No. 1 overall Draft pick Adley Rutschman. After two difficult rebuilding years, some might expect the O’s to turn a corner toward contention next summer.

Hyde: “I thought we made a lot of progress last year, even though it was a shortened season. I felt we made big strides as an organization in a lot of areas. Some of our young players got to the big leagues … we have to continue to keep getting better. Next year will be more about that: giving more guys opportunity, continuing to get our young players better and creating a core group of players to compete in the American League East going forward.”

Topic: The 2021 rotation

The skinny: Prospects Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann enjoyed strong 2020 debuts. All are candidates to win spots alongside John Means and Alex Cobb in a rotation that looks more promising than at any point in years.

Hyde: “[Kremer and Akin] gave themselves every opportunity to win a starting job next year. As for the number, the more starters the better in Spring Training. … You never know what’s going to happen, so 8-9 starters would be fantastic and we’ll get it rolling from there.”

Topic: Chris Davis

The skinny: The former home run champion was a non-factor in 2020, and after the recent player moves, he accounts for nearly one-third of the Orioles' payroll. He defended his contract and was outwardly critical of the front office in a recent interview, but remains rooted to the roster.

Hyde: “Chris has had a few tough years. He’s still a part of the club. He’s going to come in like everybody else and try to win playing time. I am going to give him a ton of at-bats in the spring to try to get him right. But we have younger players who are getting here also, guys who play his position, and he’s going to have to perform to get at-bats during the season.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.