Orioles reset: No matter the September call-ups, youth has been served for the Orioles this season

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Until the minor league seasons end and the Orioles make their final decisions on which of their once and current top prospects they want to summon to the majors, the drumbeat will continue for the team to add some of its famous young players, even if it’s against the organization’s best interests.

No matter what the front office decides in the next few weeks, manager Brandon Hyde believes this team has made a good first step toward getting younger and blooding young talent.


“We’ve talked about not being shy with where we are organizationally, and how far we have to go,” Hyde said. “This is the first step. This year was the first step, really, in this process of being where we need to be, and that’s competing for a division title. And we’re a long ways away.

“What we wanted to see was signs of young players that are going to be a part of it down the road when we are contending for an American League East title, and guys that we can wrap our arms around and say, ‘This is a guy that’s potentially going to be on this type of club.’ I think John Means, Anthony Santander, the year that [Hanser] Alberto has had — those types of things. Hunter Harvey, we’re excited about that. Those are big pieces for that going forward. We just need to continue to develop and continue to get better, and hopefully we trickle in three or four guys every year where these guys are building blocks to what the club is going to look like when we’re spraying champagne in the clubhouse. That’s what it’s all about.”


Through that lens, the Orioles’ season has checked those boxes. Hyde notably changed course early in the season from calling the Orioles young to calling them inexperienced at this level during a particularly rough patch in May, but since then they’ve actually gotten younger. Beginning in late May, DJ Stewart, Chance Sisco and then Santander all came up to try out regular roles. At 25, Stewart’s the oldest of that bunch. Those are the types of players who could be peaking in three years, when the Orioles want to be good again.

More recently, former first-round picks Harvey and Dillon Tate joined the Orioles bullpen, with varying levels of success. If the success of less-heralded players entering the season, like Means and Alberto, count as additions to the foundation of future winners in Baltimore, as they do for Hyde, then the Orioles have already more than filled that quota.

If Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins can successfully show that there’s nothing more they can do in Norfolk before getting to Baltimore, the same way Stewart, Sisco and Santander did, those players would count toward next year’s quota as well.

There’s plenty of pitching that has had success in the high minors this year; all of Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, Bruce Zimmermann, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and Mike Baumann have put themselves on the major league radar at the very least. But there’s no real telling how this front office will handle pitchers who aren’t ready — Akin being parked in Triple-A all year notwithstanding. Depending on any of them to contribute in a meaningful way would be impressive for a rookie starter, though Kremer and Akin presumably being on the 40-man roster will accelerate their arrivals.

One thing this year made clear for anyone on the Orioles’ farm, however, is that the only real qualification for being in the majors is being fully ready for it. Roster status complicates that some, as seen in the cases of Harvey and Tate, but for the most part they aren’t going to add someone to the roster just for the sake of it. Last week, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias laid out many of the factors that would go into this week’s call-ups, and indicated that the players who needed to be added would be added in the fall.

This weekend, Hyde said his focus was on maintaining enough pitching to get through the end of the season. Adding someone like Mountcastle would mean taking a pitcher off the roster, and Hyde isn’t exactly clamoring for another corner outfield bat with a half-dozen others to rotate through three or four positions already.

That won’t stop him from heaping praise on Mountcastle, but it won’t make him start banging the drum to get him here, either.

“Ryan has had a nice year,” Hyde said. “We’re excited about the year he’s had in Triple-A, 22 years old, doing what he’s doing. It’s fantastic. He’s improved not only offensively but defensively as well, continuing to work on his defense, learning a new position out there in left field, getting some time out in the outfield. We’re really excited about the progress that’s he made this year.”

What’s to come?

A bunch of games in a short amount of time with the Tampa Bay Rays, for starters. With Hurricane Dorian on its way to Florida, the Orioles’ game Wednesday at Tropicana Field was moved to Tuesday as part of a doubleheader, creating a day off before a four-game set with the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards.

The identity of the eventual September call-ups will be most of the focus, but there’s also the return of designated hitter Mark Trumbo that’s worth noting. Trumbo hasn’t played in the majors since Aug. 18, 2018, after a complicated surgery to repair a cartilage defect in his knee, the likes of which few major leaguers have successfully returned from. Complications from a similar surgery seem to have ended Boston Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia’s career.

His return for the last month of the season comes as the other veteran hitter on the club — Chris Davis — is being further phased out, but Trumbo is a welcome addition for a team focusing so much on youth. Trumbo’s return will be a bright spot for a lineup that hasn’t exactly lacked thump and for a clubhouse that’s been getting younger by the day.

What was good?

John Means’ weekend was good, albeit under pretty awful circumstances considering his father, Alan, was recently diagnosed with cancer. He spent the week in the Kansas City area to be with him before being activated off the family medical emergency list Friday for a start at Kaufmann Stadium, where he estimates he attended 200 games as a fan.


He threw seven-innings of two-run ball in front of 100 family members and friends, then took in the Friday fireworks on the field with his nearest and dearest. On Saturday, he and fellow Gardner, Kansas, native Bubba Starling of the Royals received keys to the city in a pregame ceremony.

Nothing will make what Means and his family are dealing with off the field any easier, but this weekend in Kansas City couldn’t have gone better for him at the ballpark.

What wasn’t?

Two weeks ago, nothing was good. This week, nothing was really bad. Sure, the defense left a lot to be desired Saturday, especially Chance Sisco’s throws to try and get the lead runner as the Royals loaded the bases on three straight bunts in their go-ahead eighth inning.

The usual suspects for this category performed well. Chris Davis homered. The Orioles bullpen mostly held up, and shouldn’t be blamed when things don’t go well in the field late in games. The rotation was mostly fine. Jonathan Villar kept hitting.


So, let’s go with the fact that Hurricane Dorian cancelled the end of the Gulf Coast League season, robbing the Alan Mills-led GCL Orioles of a chance at the playoffs after winning their division with a league-best 38-15 record. That wasn’t good.


On the farm

With the playoff fates of Double-A Bowie and Short-A Aberdeen coming down to the wire, this weekend is only officially the end of the season for Norfolk and High-A Frederick. As he prepares to head to the Arizona Fall League, infielder Rylan Bannon is certainly going to be carrying a good feeling from the way he ended his time with the Tides.

Bannon, who was promoted from Bowie on Aug. 13, had eight doubles and three home runs in his first 18 games in the International League while batting .311 with an .878 OPS. He’ll return there to start 2020 in all likelihood, but is the most advanced of any Orioles infield prospect and still only 23. There certainly won’t be anything blocking him when the front office feel he’s accomplished everything he needs to in the International League.

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