It has definitely been a crazy, yet productive season for the Baltimore Orioles organization, ending the season with a 54-108 record in year one of the Mike Elias rebuild era.
Even though we knew the major league team was going to have its fair share of struggles in 2019, we didn’t know what players were going to produce and what the farm system would look like with the new Elias regime.
Let’s take a dive into key factors that contributed to the successful year one of the rebuild in Baltimore.
The Draft and Minor Leagues
It is completely fair to say that the first year of the rebuild was a success when it came to the minor leagues. From the draft, to dominant starting pitching in every minor league affiliate, the Orioles farm system went from the mid-twenties to the eighth best system in all of baseball.
Breakout campaigns from Grayson Rodriguez, Michael Baumann, and Alex Wells, among others, showed that for once in a very long time, the organization had pitching depth.
The draft also played a crucial role in the rank increase this season. The Orioles selected Adley Rutschman with the No. 1 overall pick, and he quickly ran through three levels of the minor league system, ending the season with postseason baseball in Single-A Delmarva.
But with all the attention on Rutschman, many people forgot about the other picks Elias and crew made this year.
Seventh round pick, outfielder Johnny Rizer, slashed an impressive .308/.365/.456 in 63 games played between Aberdeen and Delmarva. Right-handed pitcher Connor Gillespie pitched to a 1.77 ERA in 14 games with Aberdeen, after being drafted in the ninth round.
It’s good to see that some of these late round picks were successful in their first year in the pros.
Another minor league standout is a man named Ryan Mountcastle, or who Orioles fans like to call “Lord Mountcastle.”
The 22-year-old infield prospect had a fantastic season in his first stint with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, where he hit .312/.344/.527 in 127 games played.
The International League MVP Award-winner crushed 25 home runs and tallied 83 RBI, which was enough for Mountcastle to earn the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year honors.
Don’t be surprised to see Mountcastle get the call-up mid-season next year.
The Major League Club:
Now, let’s talk about the major league team. It was certainly a down year when it came to being competitive.
It was a given that the team would be pretty bad, and even though that was true, the Orioles found a few diamonds in the rough.
How about the year Hanser Alberto had. The man was claimed off waivers four different times this past spring before making the major league Opening Day roster.
Who would’ve ever thought that Hanser Alberto would finish … in the American League Batting Title? Not many fans did. In fact, Alberto was initially supposed to be the utility infielder coming into the season.
Alberto spent the entire season with the major league club, hitting an amazing .305/.329/.422 in 139 games played. If you think those numbers are impressive, check out his numbers against left-handed pitching! Alberto hit .398 against lefties this season!
Let’s not forget, Alberto is only 26 years old and is under team control until 2023. There is definitely a possibility that Alberto plays a significant role in this rebuild, maybe even earning a starting second base job next Opening Day.
Anthony Santander made his name known in Baltimore this season, after starting the year with Triple-A Norfolk. It’s hard to believe that Santander would’ve never been called up if it weren’t for Dwight Smith Jr. running into the left field wall at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Needless to say, Santander took advantage of his opportunity, hitting .261/.297/.476 in 93 games played with the club this season.
Santander quickly became a fan-favorite, so much so that he even had his own fan club created by over 4,000 Boys and Girls Scouts from the United Kingdom!
Santander will undoubtedly be a building block for this team going forward. He is only 24 years old and won’t be a free agent until 2024, plus his ability to hit from both sides of the plate is a huge benefit to have in your starting lineup.
John Means was the Orioles’ best starting pitcher this season, going 12-11 in 31 games during his rookie campaign and sporting a 3.60 ERA.
Means was the shocking 25th man to make the Opening Day roster, beginning the season in the bullpen. After a few outings of relief, Means would shift to the starting rotation, where he would stay the remainder of the season.
Means was so efficient and effective that he was the lone Orioles representative in the All-Star Game, even though he never entered the game.
Needless to say, the 26-year-old leftie pitcher will be a big factor for the starting rotation in the next few years, not hitting the free agent market until 2025.
Finally, we can’t forget the 2019 Orioles MVP, none other than Trey Mancini.
Can you say “Boom-Boom Mancini?” We sure can! What a season the 27-year-old outfielder/first baseman had!
Mancini slashed an impressive .291/.364/.535 in 154 games played this season, hitting a career-high 35 home runs and 97 RBI.
With Mancini being a free agent after the 2023 season, Mike Elias certainly hopes he can be the leader of this rebuilding club for the next seasons and hopefully for years to come.
Also don’t forget after the “Superman-like” Austin Hays, who took the league by storm, after being called-up for the September roster extensions.
For more on Austin Hays, check out this article: https://thebaltimorebattery.com/2019/09/27/why-austin-hays-is-the-next-best-center-fielder/
Although this season was hard to watch for most fans, I’m here to tell you that it was a productive, successful season for the organization.
All-in-all, I would grade the 2019 season a B+ because of the transformation of the farm system and the few bright spots found at the major league level.
I cannot wait for the 2020 season and what Mike Elias has planned moving forward!