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What a 60-game regular season means for Adley Rutschman and the Orioles’ prospects

What a 60-game regular season means for Adley Rutschman and the Orioles’ prospects

Through the mess created between the Major League Baseball and its Players’ Association has emerged some hope for those fans that want to see legitimate baseball played in 2020. 

Monday night, it was reported that a 60-game will be put into place so that games will be played this summer. Players will report to camp on July 1 and play games beginning on the weekend of July 24-26.

While a 60-game regular season won’t change much for the Orioles, it’s worth asking the question of what it means for the organization’s top prospects. 

Of the team’s top 10 prospects, according to mlb.com, five have an expected arrival to the major leagues after the 2020 season — including the team’s top three prospects: Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall. 

The five prospects expected to make an impact in 2020 are: first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, outfielder Austin Hays and pitchers Michael Baumann, Dean Kremer and Zac Lowther. 

Hays was the first player from the team’s 2016 draft to make the big league — he did so in 2017 — but didn’t play for the Orioles in 2018. Last season, he slashed .309/.373/.574 in 21 games and 68 at-bats for the Orioles, a promising sign for a potential long-term contributor. 

The biggest name on that list, though, is Mountcastle. 

A 2015 first-round pick, Mountcastle has yet to make his MLB debut. Last season in AAA, he slashed .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs in 127 games for the Tides. Now, at just 22-years-old, it’s time to see what he can do at the major league level. While he might not stay at first in 2020, depending upon what the Orioles do with Chris Davis, Mountcastle would’ve made his debut in one fashion or another. 

As for the trio of pitchers in Baumann, Kremer and Lowther, their impacts would’ve likely been felt in 2021. 

RELATED: WHAT DOES 60-GAME SEASON MEAN FOR ORIOLES?

If rosters are expanded to 30 players with a handful of players ready to be called up, opportunity exists for pitchers like Keegan Akin and Cody Sedlock to see significant innings in the shortened 2020 season. 

In short, prospects near minor league maturation will be benefitted by expanded rosters and the potential to show what they’re worth at the major league level. 

While an announcement hasn’t been made yet, it’s expected there will not be a minor-league season this year. With a lack of at-bats for players like Heston Kjerstad, Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson and a lack of innings for Rodriguez and Hall to throw, development could be stunted. 

That’s where the Orioles’ farm system will take a hit.

As players deep in the system, even if they were high draft picks, struggle to find opportunities to get on the field, some might only have a handful of opportunities before spring training commences in 2021. 

While Rutschman and Hall weren’t expected to join the Orioles until 2021, and Rodriguez until 2022, it’s reasonable to assume those dates can be pushed back without much seasoning in the minors. Therefore, it’s possible Rutschman doesn’t see a game at Camden Yards until 2022. 

Make no mistake, the Orioles are only going to bring up their talented crop of prospects when they’re ready to play at the major league level. With general manager Mike Elias’ draft class of 2019, an abbreviated one in 2020 and a future class of 2021 on the way, the Orioles have the elements of a successful rebuild in place. 

But the Orioles will wait until each prospect is ready before they officially turn the corner. And if the coronavirus pandemic means a delay of those debuts, then so be it.

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Three home runs, Rio Ruiz flip, power Orioles to series victory and sweep opportunity vs. Phillies

Three home runs, Rio Ruiz flip, power Orioles to series victory and sweep opportunity vs. Phillies

With two outs in the eight inning and the Phillies threatening to tie the score, Andrew McCutchen hit a sharp ground ball to the left side of the infield. 

Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz dove to his left, corralled the ball, and as he was falling, flipped a backhand shovel that rolled to second base just in time for the final out of the inning. It was one of the Orioles' best plays, on offense or defense, all season long. 

The standout defensive play kept the Orioles ahead 5-4, a score they’d win by, in their second straight win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. It was the team's second-straight series win.

“That was a huge play,” Chance Sisco said. “It was crazy. Just going into the hole, obviously, is a tough play. And then I don’t know what happened, he stumbled a little bit and fell to the ground. I don’t know what it takes just to get that ball out of his glove. Just a great play.”

Ruiz’s defensive play assuredly prevented a run, and with a bullpen that had to work big innings, that play’s significance cannot be overstated.

“He’s just reading the ball really well, his feet are great, he’s just playing outstanding defense at third base,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That play that he made in the hole, that was game-saving and really won us the game.”

Ruiz had a good night at the plate as well, as he hit a solo home run — as did Anthony Santander and Sisco, to lead the way offensively for the red-hot Orioles.

RELATED: HOW SOON IS TOO SOON FOR THE O'S TO START THINKING ABOUT THE DEADLINE?

After falling down 3-1, they rallied to tie the game in the fourth inning then took the lead in the fifth. An insurance run, by way of Sisco’s home run, gave the Orioles a two-run lead entering the eighth inning. 

Then, they held on — aided by Ruiz’s absurd defensive play — to push their record to 9-7 with a chance for a sweep over the Phillies on Thursday.

Through 16 games of the 2020 season, the Orioles have already surpassed some people’s expectations of what figured to be a year without any notable or exciting games. 

Now, they’re just riding the wave.

“It seems like good teams have different guys on different nights,” Hyde said. “And right now, that’s what we have. We had some big hits tonight. Chance Sisco, Smitty. Middle relief is what won us the game, to me. We pitched well and we got enough runs to hold on.”

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Orioles 3B Rio Ruiz makes jaw-dropping play to preserve win over Phillies

Orioles 3B Rio Ruiz makes jaw-dropping play to preserve win over Phillies

A night after the Philadelphia Phillies dropped a game to the Orioles due to defensive mistakes, Baltimore did the opposite to preserve a win on Wednesday.

Up 5-4 in the eighth inning, the Orioles found themselves in a jam with runners on first and second with two outs and Andrew McCutchen up at the plate. The Philadelphia outfielder slapped a ball between third base and shortstop that should have probably gotten through and tied the game.

But, unfortunately for the Phillies and luckily for the Orioles, Rio Ruiz was at the hot corner.

Not only was the range to stop the ball impressive, but Ruiz then had the instinct to flip the ball to second for the force out. The incredible play essentially saved the game and allowed Baltimore to pick up a 5-4 victory.

RELATED: PHILLIES ANALYST CALLS LOSS TO O'S 'EMBARRASSMENT TO BASEBALL' 

Ruiz also launched a solo homer in the top of the fifth inning to help the Orioles break a 3-3 tie, so it was an all-around impressive performance for the third baseman.

Manny Machado who? Okay, maybe not. But, one thing is true: You can't spell "Orioles" without "Rio." At least on Wednesday night. 

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