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View from the other side: Orioles questions for Mark Brown of Camden Chat

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Blue Jays start a four-game series against the Orioles, this time in Buffalo.

The Orioles are 23-51, last in the AL East, 21 games back of the first-place Red Sox, and 15 games back of the Jays. The Orioles are second-last in the AL in runs per game at 3.97 (Jays are third-best at 4.94). And last in runs allowed per game at 5.39 (Jays are seventh at 4.31).

I sent off some questions to Mark Brown, manager at Camden Chat, SB Nation’s Orioles blog, and he was nice enough to answer them for us.

Can we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays are likely to see?

The Orioles rotation is a chaotic maelstrom that cannot be predicted. They have announced no starters for the series yet! As far as who is on turn to start based on the last time through the rotation, you’re probably talking Dean Kremer, Matt Harvey, Keegan Akin, and Jorge Lopez. It’s a decent guess those three guys will pitch. The short version is that everyone sucks. The slightly longer version is that Kremer sucks and is giving up too many home runs, Harvey sucks because it hasn’t been 2013 for eight years now, and Akin sucks because he can’t put batters away, gets elevated pitch counts, then makes mistakes. The starter in the fourth game is Jorge Lopez. He sucks because he has a 4.03 ERA in innings 1-4 and a 14.46 ERA in the fifth inning.

We are getting towards trade season. Are there moves you are expecting the Orioles to make? There wouldn’t be a reliever or two you would like to send to a fellow Corvidae?

One reason why the Orioles are under a .333 winning percentage - it’s certainly not the only reason or the biggest reason - is that several of the players who might have been trade candidates at this year’s deadline (Maikel Franco, Anthony Santander, Pedro Severino) are playing poorly. Longtime Phillie (and former Jay) Freddy Galvis feels like the biggest trade chip to me, as he is hitting acceptably while playing acceptable shortstop defense. His contract comes with no commitment beyond 2021. If someone wants to squint at the O’s relievers, maybe they could talk themselves into one of Paul Fry, Tanner Scott, or Cole Sulser. Scott throws hard and can’t find the strike zone. Fry just became a sort of closer by default. If the Blue Jays want to offer a pitcher drafted in the 3rd-5th round two years ago and an infielder signed internationally three years ago, Mike Elias will probably take their call.

What prospects are you looking forward to seeing come up this season? Is it too much to think you might get a look at Adley Rutschman before the season’s end?

It looks a lot like the Orioles are going to run the “squeeze out the extra year of service time” play on Adley Rutschman, so I don’t expect to see him until three weeks or so into next season. The most interesting O’s prospects are at Double-A or below. That puts a real damper on excitement for possible 2021 callups. Still, I’m holding a candle for second baseman Jahmai Jones, acquired for Alex Cobb, because Orioles second basemen have combined to hit .208/.269/.313. I’d also like to finally see outfielder Yusniel Díaz, the headliner of the Manny Machado trade three years ago. Unfortunately, he’s had many injury issues, including this year, so he’s only played seven Triple-A games to date. And then there’s Australian lefty Alexander Wells on the 40-man roster, who’s been my favorite lower-ranked pitching prospect for a while. Wells is in the “crafty lefty” mold at best. I think it would be fun if he made it.

Who do you expect will represent the Orioles in the All-Star game?

So, I won’t hold it against anyone who laughs at this, but here’s the deal: Orioles fans right now are talking themselves into maybe having two All-Stars in 2021. This is the rationale. Cedric Mullins, who gave up switch-hitting this spring to bat exclusively lefty, is in the top 10 among all MLB players in both bWAR and fWAR. He’s batting .310/.379/.538 while playing some sparkling center field defense. On a talent basis, he should be in the game without question. Then there’s Trey Mancini, who has more of a narrative case: He was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in last year’s spring training, missed the entirety of 2020 due to cancer treatments, and now he’s back. Mancini isn’t playing like Mike Trout or anything, but he lived, and now he’s hitting .268/.347/.483 with 14 home runs, which makes him possibly the most interesting human story in baseball. I think one of those guys will probably make the roster, and I will be mad about the other one not making it.

The Orioles are one of the few MLB teams whose injury list doesn’t take 5 minutes to read. But losing two top starters would be tough for any team. So what are the timelines on John Means and Bruce Zimmermann?

The Orioles are one of those teams where they put a guy on the injured list and give an optimistic timeline that seems like it is seldom achieved. There were hopes Means would be back in 10 days. Now it looks like he won’t be back until at least after the All-Star break. Zimmermann’s latest timetable is also about 2-3 weeks until a return.

Any thoughts on who the Orioles might get with the #5 pick in this year’s draft?

I’ve spent the spring eyeballing Brady House, one of the four prep shortstops that the experts all expect to go in the top 10 picks of this year’s draft. The latest round of mock drafts from the mainstream prospect writers have been hammering the possibility that the Orioles will once again choose an under-slot type of player with their top pick rather than the best player available. Those folks think Mike Elias has spent the spring doing his homework on Boston College outfielder Sal Frelick and Houston outfielder Colton Cowser, players who might sign for $1 million or more under the #5 pick value.

Sorry to bring up sad subjects. The Orioles haven’t finished above .500 since 2016. When do you see them getting to that mark again? Also, which current players will still be with the team when they are contenders again?

In April, if you caught me on a good day, you might have gotten me to say that the Orioles would be .500 next year. The way the 2021 season has played out so far, I think even hitting .500 is at least two years off. There are just too many holes to fill, and the only way it happens any sooner than that is if basically every prospect pans out, which just doesn’t happen even when you have a good farm system. Your second question is the big, anguish-inducing one among Orioles fans. How many of these guys will even be here when the team is good? The intersection of the Venn diagram for “Guys who are playing well, or at least decently” and “Guys who aren’t free agents until after 2023 or later” is pretty much Mullins, Means, and Ryan Mountcastle, and that’s only if you look at Mountcastle’s homers and not his OBP or outfield defense.

Anything else we should know about the Orioles?

The last time that the Orioles won a road game was when John Means threw his no-hitter, May 5. Since that time, they have lost 19 straight road games. Amazingly, this is not any kind of record because the 2021 Arizona Diamondbacks have been concurrently losing road games and have set an MLB record by losing 23 straight on the road. That streak, like the Orioles, is still active. So I guess the main thing you should know about the Orioles is you should feel embarrassed if the Blue Jays lose a game in this series and end up being the streak breakers.

Thank you, Mark.