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Know Your Enemy: Baltimore Orioles

They finished in last place in the East in 2019, and 2020 looks less hopeful

Atlanta Braves v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

For a team that finished 2019 with a 54-108 record and a -252 run differential, it’s easy to be optimistic that things will be better in 2020. However, they haven’t done a whole lot to improve their team, while actively working to make it worse. There is a very real chance that they finish dead last in all of MLB this year, after the Tigers out-terribled them last year.

Outgoing Players

Jonathan Villar, SS (4.0 fWAR in 2019)
Dylan Bundy, SP (2.5 fWAR in 2019)
Mark Trumbo, DH (-0.3 fWAR in 2019)
Gabriel Ynoa, SP/RP (-0.5 fWAR in 2019)

Incoming Players

Jose Iglesias, SS (1.6 fWAR in 2019)
Ramón Urías, 2B (Reached AAA)
Pat Valaika, 2B/SS (-0.3 fWAR in 2019)
Andrew Velazquez, 2B/3B/OF (-0.3 fWAR in 2019)
Wade LeBlanc, SP/RP (-0.4 fWAR in 2019)
Kohl Stewart, SP/RP (-0.2 fWAR in 2019)
Hector Velázquez, SP/RP (0.2 fWAR in 2019)
Bryan Holaday, C (-0.3 fWAR in 2019)
Taylor Davis, C (-0.1 fWAR in 2019)
Richard Ureña, 2B/SS (-0.2 fWAR in 2019)

Iglesias takes the spot of the surprising and impressive Jonathan Villar at SS, after a very awkward end to his time in Baltimore. After putting up his 4.0 WAR season, the Orioles tried hard to find a trade partner before the deadline to tender contracts for the 2020 season, and nearly failed to find a suitor for Villar and his projected ~$10m arbitration salary. Shortly before the deadline, they did manage to ship him off to Miami for Minor League left handed starter Easton Lucas. Villar eventually settled with the Marlins for an $8.2m contract to avoid arbitration, while Easton Lucas will spend 2020 in A-ball.

Dylan Bundy was traded to the Angels for a quartet of Minor League pitchers, with only maybe Isaac Matteson likely to pitch more than a few innings at the Major League level in 2020. The other 3 were in High-A or lower last season, and will be a while before they provide value to the Orioles, if ever.

Longtime Oriole Mark Trumbo no longer donning the Oriole orange will be a bit of a change, but considering the struggles he has had with injuries the last few years, it’s not surprising either. He hasn’t caught on anywhere else yet, and it appears that his playing days may be behind him.

The Orioles picked up former Blue Jay Richard Ureña, and considering that is probably the second most notable addition to this squad, it’s pretty obvious that the Orioles had no intention of even trying to get better.

Projected Batting Order

Austin Hays, CF
José Iglesias, SS
Anthony Santander, RF
Chris Davis, 1B (against righties anyway)
Renato Núñez. DH
Dwight Smith Jr., LF
Hanser Alberto, 2B
Rio Ruiz, 3B
Pedro Severino, C

The notable missing name here is obviously Trey Mancini, the undisputed best player on the team. He has recently left camp and is undergoing a “medical procedure unrelated to baseball”. I’m not really sure what this is for, but it sounds scary, and I hope that whatever it is is minor and he can be back out on the field as soon as possible.


John Means, LHP
Alex Cobb, RHP
Asher Wojciechowski, RHP
Wade LeBlanc, LHP
Kohl Stewart, RHP

Led by 2019 All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner up, the Orioles rotation might not be completely terrible. All 5 pitchers are projected for ERAs over 5.00, but I would take the under for Means, and wouldn’t be surprised if they get another pitcher stepping up with a handful of good starts for them too. But it’s still a weak rotation in a heavy hitting division, and it will be a long season for them.


Mychal Givens will anchor the back of the bullpen, with some combination of Richard Bleier, Hunter Harvey and Miguel Castro filling in in some later innings. They brought in veteran Hector Velázquez to potentially give them a mid-season flipper, but otherwise seem more likely to cycle through a bunch of kids to see what they can get. I would imagine the answer to that is “not much”, but maybe there’s another Givens or Brad Brach in there somewhere.

2020 Outlook

It’s looking bad, potentially worse than 2019. They’re projected to be the worst team in baseball by WAR at 17.4 total, almost 5 below the second worst Mariners. Fangraphs has them at 61 wins, and I personally would be surprised to see them crack 50 wins. The 2003 Tigers and their 43-119 season is likely out of reach, but the 2019 Tigers’ record of 47-114 could probably be a good floor for them. If things go exceptionally well, I’d maybe see them push 70 wins, but their chances of finishing anything but last in the AL East this year are essentially 0.

But, There is an exciting Future!

And his name is Adley Rutschman. Rutschman likely starts the year in High-A, but could push his way to the Majors by mid-season next year. He’s the most exciting catching prospect since Matt Wieters, although maybe the hype isn’t quite as high yet. Also joining the exciting future for the Orioles are pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and DJ Hall (Fangraphs’ #29 overall prospect, and #86 overall), plus whoever they select second in this year’s draft. So there’s hope for some exciting ball in Baltimore again, perhaps as early as 2022.


Will the Orioles have the worst record in baseball in 2020?

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  • 86%
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