Orioles manager Buck Showalter joined Jason La Canfora and Jerry Coleman on the B-More Opinionated podcast to discuss his team’s 2017 struggles, the upcoming offseason and the many roster decisions facing the club. Among the many topics discussed were the team’s catching situation, Showalter’s thoughts on a number of up and coming prospects in an improved Orioles system and the importance of improving the organization’s development of young pitching. Showalter quickly dismissed any notion that the team couldn’t compete with larger-market clubs for top-tier free-agent pitchers, calling it an “excuse” and emphasizing that the O’s need to develop their own pitchers more effectively. “Whether it’s [Kevin] Gausman, [Dylan] Bundy, [Hunter] Harvey — we’ve got to be about eight or nine [starters] deep,” said Showalter. Asked about Double-A right-hander David Hess, Showalter suggested that the 24-year-old could be a factor for the O’s at some point next season, noting a tendency to get stronger and improve as the season wears on. Showalter also candidly acknowledged the sting that’s felt from trading away some young arms (e.g. Zach Davies, Parker Bridwell) but dismissed the suggestions that there’s tension between him and general manager Dan Duquette.
The entire interview is about 18 minutes long and is an excellent listen for Orioles fans and fans of other clubs alike. A couple more highlights and some other notes out of Charm City…
- Showalter also heaped praise on several minor leaguers, including Hess, catcher Austin Wynns, infielder Steve Wilkerson, and outfielders Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart and Austin Hays (the latter of whom made his MLB debut with the O’s in 2017). Showalter sounded particularly bullish on Mullins’ glove in center field and Wynns’ ability to help out behind the plate if needed, listing him right alongside top prospect Chance Sisco and stating that he “[doesn’t] spend a lot of time separating them” when thinking about the ways in which they can help the team down the stretch. Wynns, Showalter opines, is often overlooked because he’s 26 years of age and was a senior sign out of the draft, but the skipper sounded highly encouraged by his development. Both Wynns and Hess are candidates to be added to the 40-man roster as Rule 5 eligible players, and while Showalter noted it’s not his decision, his preferences on the pair seem rather clear.
- Showalter told La Canfora and Coleman that he hoped the front office would bring back his entire coaching staff in 2018, and MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports that that will indeed be the case. Per Kubatko, the entire coaching staff has been extended an offer to return next season. Kubatko notes that first-year pitching coach Roger McDowell was a popular target for criticism in Baltimore thanks to the rotation’s struggles, but Kubatko notes that several pitchers on the Orioles’ pitching staff have campaigned for the return of McDowell, who has a long track record as a successful pitching coach at the Major League level.
- Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun takes a look at the Orioles’ catching depth with the likely departure of Welington Castillo this offseason, noting that Baltimore can lean heavily on the combination of Sisco, Caleb Joseph and Wynns, the latter of whom Meoli lists as a candidate to be added to the 40-man roster (as Showalter suggested). Meoli notes that veteran minor league backstops Francisco Pena and Audry Perez are likely to test the waters of minor league free agency this offseason, making the potential addition of Wynns seem all the more plausible, on paper. It’s worth noting that Showalter did tell La Canfora and Coleman that he hopes Castillo “will find his way back to us,” and Meoli notes that there were no readily apparent concerns about his framing or game-calling abilities among the Orioles’ pitching staff in ’17. Nonetheless, it seems quite likely that Castillo, who slashed .282/.323/.490 with 20 homers and an MLB-best 49 percent caught-stealing rate, will seek a greater deal than his $7MM player option in 2018.