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Twelve Orioles thoughts with Grapefruit League action underway

Posted on 25 February 2019 by Luke Jones

With Grapefruit League action beginning over the weekend, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The early reviews of the culture being created by Brandon Hyde have been very positive. That probably won’t mean much in the standings this season, but it will matter for players continuing to buy into the process and to play hard as losses likely mount.

2. Top outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz is unlikely to break camp with the Orioles, but his two-run home run in the first spring game was a glimpse of the power the organization believes is still ascending. General manager Mike Elias offered a glowing review on Saturday.

3. It’s no secret the Houston Astros emphasized slider usage with much success, a philosophy that figures to be applied in Baltimore. Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Tanner Scott, and Jimmy Yacabonis are a few pitchers to watch in this regard.

4. Alcides Escobar has been Baltimore’s most notable signing — even on a minor-league deal — despite registering a .593 on-base plus slugging percentage and minus-0.7 wins above replacement last season. Rule 5 pick Richie Martin is still preferable if he at least proves he can play quality major league defense.

5. I’m excited to watch Cedric Mullins in his first full major league season, but he’s produced no better than a .662 OPS against left-handed pitching at any level of his professional career. That did come at Triple-A Norfolk last year, so you hope the development of his right-handed swing continues.

6. Branden Kline struck out the side to earn Sunday’s save. The Frederick native missed two full seasons due to elbow surgeries, but he posted a 1.80 ERA and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings for Bowie last year and features a mid-90s fastball and plus slider. Keep an eye on him.

7. Aside from Diaz, it’s been a rough start to the spring for two others acquired in the Manny Machado trade as starting pitching prospect Dean Kremer recovers from an oblique injury and hard-throwing reliever Zach Pop showed substantially diminished velocity on Saturday, which is always concerning.

8. Chris Davis striking out in his first two spring at-bats wouldn’t be noteworthy if he weren’t coming off one of the worst seasons in major league history from an everyday player. As it stands, every trip to the plate will be under a microscope. I’m curious to see his adjustments.

9. I’ll miss the retiring Joe Angel, but more Ben McDonald on Orioles broadcasts would be a great development. He has an engaging personality and was very enlightening discussing spin rate and other pitching-related topics during Saturday’s broadcast.

10. MASN is televising seven Orioles spring games. NESN shows 18 Boston games, YES has 12 Yankees games, and the Rays are televised 11 times. Rogers is televising two Toronto games from Florida and carrying the opponent’s feed for eight others. The Pirates are televised 10 times and the Phillies 16.

11. Machado going to the National League West was probably the best-case scenario for the Orioles, but anyone mocking him for signing with San Diego — I would too for $300 million — is overlooking a loaded farm system. The Padres could be very interesting in the not-too-distant future.

12. One of the more vivid memories of my early childhood was chanting “Edd-ie! Edd-ie!” at Memorial Stadium. Orioles legend and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray turned 63 on Sunday. Where have the years gone?

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Orioles deal Machado to Dodgers for five prospects

Posted on 18 July 2018 by Luke Jones

The inevitable became official on Wednesday.

Manny Machado is no longer an Oriole as Baltimore traded the four-time All-Star infielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for five minor-league prospects, a group headlined by Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz. The move boosts the Dodgers’ chances of winning their second straight National League pennant and officially begins a rebuild for the last-place Orioles, who own the most losses in the majors at the All-Star break.

“Manny Machado provided Orioles fans with many great memories over his eight years in Birdland,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “We will always appreciate his talent, and we wish him the best in the National League.”

Diaz, a 21-year-old Cuban outfielder, ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 prospect in the Dodgers system and is the No. 47 prospect in Baseball America’s top 100 list. He hit two home runs in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game and has seen his stock rise in 2018 with a .314 batting average, 20 extra-base hits, 30 runs batted in, eight stolen bases, and a .905 on-base plus slugging percentage in 264 plate appearance at Double-A Tulsa. Diaz has played all three outfield spots in the minor leagues, but he projects as a major league corner outfielder and could serve as a future leadoff hitter with a .428 on-base percentage this season.

Baltimore also received third baseman Rylan Bannon, right-handed starting pitcher Dean Kremer, right-handed reliever Zach Pop, and infielder Breyvic Valera.

The 22-year-old Bannon has batted .296 with 20 homers, 61 RBIs, and a .961 OPS in 403 plate appearances for Rancho Cucamonga. He was an eighth-round pick out of Xavier in last year’s draft and ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 27 prospect in the Dodgers system.

Kremer, 22, could be the most intriguing talent of that secondary group despite ranking as MLB Pipeline’s No. 28 Dodgers prospect. The 14th-round pick of the 2016 draft was recently promoted to the Double-A level and posted a 3.30 ERA and struck out 13.0 per nine innings in 79 innings at high Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

Pop, 21, was a seventh-round pick out of Kentucky in last year’s draft and has posted a combined 1.04 ERA with a 9.8 per nine strikeout rate in 43 1/3 innings split between two Single-A levels.

The 26-year-old Valera is the only one of the group with major league experience, but he projects as no better than a utility infielder. He’s a career .154 hitter in 45 career plate appearances split between the Dodgers and St. Louis. He owns a career .748 OPS in nine minor-league seasons.

“As we begin the task of rebuilding our roster to compete in the AL East, we look forward to the contributions of the five players we added to the organization [Thursday],” Duquette stated. “Diaz is a young and gifted hitter. Valera and Bannon are versatile fielders with excellent on-base skills, and Kremer and Pop’s excellent seasons are indicative of their bright futures.”

Upon announcing the deal Wednesday night, the Orioles optioned Valera to Triple-A Norfolk while Diaz, Bannon, Kremer, and Pop were all assigned to Double-A Bowie.

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