It’s been a busy couple of weeks in Baltimore and there’s a lot to talk about, so let’s talk about it.
Trade Deadline Moves
The Orioles only made one actual move on the day of the trading deadline, sending reliever Miguel Castro to the New York Mets, but made two more in the days prior, shipping reliever Mychal Givens to Colorado and starter Tommy Milone to Atlanta.
Here’s where each prospect acquired fits in to the increasingly loaded crop of future big leaguers.
The Tommy Milone Deal
The first player dealt was Milone. The 33-year old starter was signed to a minor league deal prior to the season and, thanks to a strong spring training and summer camp and an injury to John Means, became the Opening Day starter. Atlanta, who has lost Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels to the 60-day IL, needed starting pitching, and in six games with the Orioles, Milone pitched to a respectable 3.99 ERA and 9.51 K/9. The two PTBNL’s, who are to be named later because teams are only able to trade players either on their big league roster or at their alternate training sites this season, will likely be lower level prospects.
The Mychal Givens Deal
The second trade made that day sent Givens to the Mile High City for another PTBNL and two prospects who do have names: Tyler Nevin and Terrin Vavra. Vavra, a former first round pick, is the better of the two, and slotted in at 13th in Baltimore’s prospect rankings after being 7th in Colorado’s according to MLB Pipeline. The 23-year old shortstop was named the 2019 South Atlantic League’s MVP after slashing .318/.409/.489 with 10 homers in 102 games. Nevin, also 23, was added to the Rockies 40-man roster following his .744 OPS and 13 home run 2019 Double-A season. He’s played first and third base in the minor leagues and projects as a super utility guy at the major league level.
The Miguel Castro Deal
The Orioles got back Kevin Smith, a 6’5, 23-year old left-hander, from the Mets in exchange for Castro. After bouncing around from the rotation and bullpen in college, New York placed him full-time in the rotation in his first full season last year and watched him flourish, finishing first among Mets minor league pitchers in strikeouts with 130 and second with a 3.15 ERA in 2019. He is now the O’s 12th ranked prospect according to Pipeline, the same spot he found himself in the Mets system.
Other In-Season Trade Notes
An interesting note I want to add: the O’s made two deals prior to the deadline, sending pitchers Richard Bleier to Miami last month and Hector Velazquez to Houston earlier this summer. Each trade brings back a PTBNL, bringing the total players to be named later acquired following the deadline to five.
In MLB Pipeline’s latest organizational rankings updated following the deadline and draft, Baltimore now has the 8th best farm system in baseball, up from 13 prior to the season, after acquiring three new faces in the team’s top 30 via trades and another top pick in Heston Kjerstad. The minor leagues are trending in the right direction under Mike Elias.
Ryan Mountcastle’s Debut
A former top prospect himself, Ryan Mountcastle has been arguably the O’s best player since his August call-up. Through 14 games and 54 plate appearances, the rookie is slashing .347/.407/.571. His best display came last week in the four game series against the Blue Jays, where he whacked two homers, the first and second of his career, in the third game of the four game series and flashed the leather the next day.
His defense was what kept him at the alternate site to start the season, but so far his glove in left field has been a bright spot. Mountcastle has yet to commit an error and has 19 putouts.
“He showed you the raw power, he’s playing a nice left field and he’s playing hungry,” manager Brandon Hyde said on Mountcastle. “It’s really fun to watch a young guy with hype playing with this much energy and this much confidence. He’s been a big boost and it’s been a lot of fun to watch him.”
More prospects are on the way, too. Pitcher Keegan Akin, the team’s number 15 prospect, made his debut earlier this season and was lights out Saturday in his matchup against Gerrit Cole, tossing 5.1 innings of scoreless baseball with 8 strikeouts.
Dean Kremer, the team’s number 10 prospect, was brought up from the alternate site and made his debut Sunday pitching 6 innings of 1 hit ball to go along with 7 strikeouts. He is the first player acquired in the Manny Machado trade from 2018 to reach the majors, and is also the first Israeli citizen to play major league baseball.
“He’s been throwing the ball well in our secondary site at Bowie, I like the way he threw in spring training, I like his stuff, I like the pitch mix that he has,” Hyde said. “He’s got a starter arsenal with four pitches, knows how to pitch, and can strike people out.”
A Return to Bunting
Bunting has hit an all-time low across baseball, even more so this year as sacrifices have been cut in half with both leagues now utilizing the DH. The Orioles didn’t get the memo.
Bunting is back and better than ever in Baltimore. Cedric Mullins, Hanser Alberto, and Andrew Velazquez have successfully used bunts to spark big rallies all season. Mullins leads baseball with seven bunt hits, more than every other major league team combined. The team has 13 bunt hits total, more than twice as many as the next closest teams. Mullins and Alberto are tied for second in the league with three sacrifices, and the O’s have 13 sacrifices as a team, which leads the AL.
“That’s what we do when we’re at our best,” slugger Renato Núñez said. “We bunt, we move runners, and then we bring them in.”
The game plan in recent seasons has been the longball. With Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis again, and Mark Trumbo, the Orioles lineup featured the major league home run leader four straight years from 2013 to 2016. As the rest of baseball is following suit, smashing league-wide and team records for home runs left and right, the focus in Baltimore seems to have gone back in time.
Other News and Notes
In injury news, breakout star Anthony Santander is headed to the IL with an oblique strain and will miss “significant time” according to MASN’s Roch Kubatko. With less than a month remaining this season, this may be the last time we see Santander in 2020. This gives the Orioles some interesting options on how to replace him. The centerfield spot seemed to be Austin Hays‘ to lose, but with Mullins playing well in Hays’ absence, the future of that position is up in the air. With Santander now out, right field may be more suitable for Hays when he returns, which Hyde says can hopefully be in the next couple of weeks, to ease him back into action. He played right field during his short stint in the majors in September of 2017, when he became the first player from the 2016 draft class to reach the big leagues. DJ Stewart has filled in quite well for Santander to this point, homering three times in two games against the Yankees this weekend.
Featured Photo: @Orioles on Twitter