As pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Tuesday for the Orioles, there are still a few burning questions for a franchise in the second full year of a new regime, led by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.
Baltimore has 67 players in camp in Sarasota, Florida, meaning there’s a newfound excitement for top prospects and the potential for growth throughout the organization.
Here are five things to watch for with the Orioles now in camp:
1. Adley Rutschman’s first spring training
As with any discussion about the Orioles, the conversation starts with Adley Rutschman.
The 2019 first overall pick is in his first MLB spring training where he’ll get major league coaching for the first time — manager Brandon Hyde expects that to impact him as much as anything in Florida.
With an MLB ETA of 2021, according to MLB.com, baseball’s No. 4 prospect will join the Orioles as the face of the rebuild. While he won’t join the Orioles out of camp, the first look at the 22-year-old catcher in major league will be an exciting one for Orioles fans.
He played 20 games in short-season A-ball with Aberdeen last season and 12 in full-season A-ball with Delmarva and slashed .325/.413/.481 and .154/.261/.333, respectively.
2. Outfield conundrum
Austin Hays appears set to patrol centerfield, Trey Mancini is the team rightfielder and Anthony Santander is in left. The starting outfield, for now, looks set.
From there, it gets tricky.
Dwight Smith Jr. is in the mix, as is Cedric Mullins and Stevie Wilkerson. Smith had a strong start to the season but cooled as the year wore on, while Wilkerson is available to play all three positions.
The outfield is a strength, but exactly how they’ll use those puzzle pieces remains to be seen.
3. Starting rotation
With John Means and Alex Cobb — now healthy — seemingly set for the rotation, there’s an opening for additions to the starting five for the Orioles. And Elias said last week there’s still potential to add an arm to the starting rotation.
Keegan Akin, a 24-year-old left-hander, is likely to start the season in Triple-A with Norfolk, meaning there are a few spots left to fill. Asher Wojciechowski had a 4.92 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP to eat up some innings last season for the Orioles and could join the rotation.
After that? There’s a handful of names that could vie for innings in an Orioles pitching staff that allowed a 5.59 ERA and MLB record 305 home runs in 2019.
4. What to do with Chris Davis?
Chris Davis presents perhaps the most interesting, and perhaps darkest, scenario of the 2020 Orioles season.
Signed to a seven-year 161 million dollar contract, Davis has not only not lived up to that deal, he hasn’t come close. He’s got three more years on his contract, and with prospects slowly making the rise to the big league, he’s going to get in the way of development.
Davis slashed .179/.276/.326 last season in 105 games, including an 0-for-54 start to the season. He made slight improvements from his 2018 season, but not enough to become a productive player for the Orioles in the short-term.
He’ll be 34 years old at the start of the season and isn’t in the team’s future plans. How the organization will manage Davis, who will be owed deferred money until 2037, will be one of the top storylines of the season. If he continues to trend downward, there will be a decision to make when it comes to whether or not to buy Davis out of his final years.
The better Davis plays, the more palatable it will be to keep him around. If it trends for the worse, and there will be decisions to make.
5. There will be losing, but how much?
The Orioles, as an organization, aren’t making any false promises about how they expect the team to fare in 2020.
Baltimore lost more than 100 games in each of the last two seasons and another triple-digit loss season is likely on the way. But how much is too much?
The Orioles will be in contention for the league’s No. 1 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft and aren’t going to be bogged down by the success of the big league club. As for how long the fans stay involved is another question, but with the team committed completely to the rebuild, there’s good reason to believe that the losses won’t matter much to the organization as a whole.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.
MORE ORIOLES NEWS: