For the first time in a few years, the Baltimore Orioles plan to begin the 2021 season with a rotation that fans can dream on. They’re not quite ready to challenge the Yankees or the Rays for the division, but neither will their roster be flooded with journeymen and July trade candidates – at least not entirely.
Make no mistake, the Orioles will count as a surprise if they don’t finish in fifth place in the East, but songs of progress are sung in many different keys. The Orioles are entering Year Three under GM Mike Elias, which under most circumstances should call for the beginnings of the organization’s on-field transformation. Last year’s 25-35 record was a step in the right direction after back-to-back 100-loss seasons, but that still put them on a roughly 95-loss pace over a full campaign.
Progress for the Orioles this season begins in the rotation where youngsters Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin plan to slot behind John Means and Alex Cobb, per MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Means and Cobb hardly make for a bone-chilling front of the rotation, but there ought not to be much question about their ability to stick in the rotation for a full season.
Means has been worth roughly 2.2 bWAR per 150 innings over his first two seasons, though there’s a stark contrast between his first half of 2019 and the time since. The 33-year-old Cobb, meanwhile, returned to form in 2020 with a 4.30 ERA/4.87 FIP in 52 1/3 innings over 10 starts. He’s a back-end starter at this point and could serve as eventual trade bait, but at least for the first half of the season, he ought to help protect the bullpen from overuse.
Where Means and Cobb secure the floor, Akin and Kremer raise the ceiling. The right-handed Kremer made four starts in 2020 with a 4.82 ERA/2.76 FIP. He struggled a bit with command (5.8 BB/9), but a high-spin fastball deployed up and a cutter with 4.4 inches of horizontal movement helped him secure 10.6 K/9 in his first taste of big league action. Kremer came to the Orioles as part of the Manny Machado package, but his slider looked like a difference-making pitch at the time, and his arsenal has shifted in the years since.
What that means isn’t yet clear. There’s been some question about whether Kremer has stuff enough to stick in the rotation long-term, but the Orioles are going to give the soon-to-be 25-year-old a chance. Internally, he might be their best chance for a first-division rotation type before prospects like Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall start arriving in a couple years.
The southpaw Akin boasts a similar profile, but from the other side. Both pitchers surrendered hard contact in 2020, but they still showed enough to manage a spot in the rotation. If either one can build on their 2020 performance to take firm hold of rotation innings, the Orioles could continue to grow their win totals in 2021. On the other hand, none of the front four seem particularly likely to develop into a frontline arm. They still seek high-impact talent in that department. The Orioles rotations ranked 19th in fWAR, 23rd in ERA and 24th in FIP, so they’ll need to improve to make much hay in the American League.
On the offensive end, Adley Rutschman has the chance to be the kind of impact player an organization can rally around. The former first overall draft choice will begin 2021 in Double-A, noted Kubatko. As Rutchschman nears, Elias should feel some pressure to field a competitive team around him. Even if Akin and Kremer aren’t exactly Johnson and Schilling, they can begin to lay the groundwork for a professional roster.
they should being back Eshelman to compete for the 5 spot.
but songs of progress are sung in many different keys…. Songs of progress…. I like this
Somehow I could see Monty Python singing that kind of song, just not sure what they would say
HMMM, “They’re not quite ready to challenge the Yankees or the Rays for the division”???? Do you not mean, they are not ready to challenge the Blue Jays for the division???? they Rays and Yankees are not going to be the leaders ya know!!!
You should try more punctuation to get your point across.
Okay on the next post!!!!!! 🙂
Steve: jaysfan’s punctuation is ridiculous. However, his main point could be VERY accurate.
you expect the reigning AL Champions to be pushovers? boy do i have news for you.
Dark, I never said they would be push overs, and guess what, neither will the Blue Jays be pushovers! So here is a bit of news for you: 2021 AL East division winners WILL be the Blue Jays!!
and I will tell you” as someone whose 2nd favorite team is TOR and is quite high on their core, they need to put their money where their mouths are if they actually want to distance themselves from NYY and TB.
As a DET fan, that is one race I’m most excited for in 2021. Cannot wait for baseball to be back!! I’ll take the dog days of summer, over this barren winter any day.
As far as the O’s go, small progress is still progress! I would feel way more at-ease having GM Elias than Avila, throughout this exhausting rebuild.
BlueJays aren’t winning anything this year unless they add two frontline starters, a CFer, and a 3B.
Oh Jimmer, Ye of little faith. Jays can win without adding a CF’er, and they will be adding TOR pitching and Kim when he signs will fit perfectly at 3rd! See ya at the finish line Bud!
you wish or hope, we will see you are talking like the Mets. You assume you will somebody back you want him.
I think the writer is just basing that on how things have played out the past couple years. There is no doubt the Yankees and Rays have been the class of the division these past two years. That being said The Jays very well could win the East. But all these moves you are talking about hypothetically have not happened. Until they make a few additions most people will probably have them penciled into third place. But their future is certainly bright and a lot crazier things have happened than the Jays winning the East In 2021.
Bluejays are like a 75 win team at best lol
Well MetsFan22, that will be better than the 67 wins your team puts up! Tell me how many playoff games the Mets played in last season?
Seems like bait…. don’t fall for it… don’t do it….
Rays will not challenge in 2021, Rays and Yankees are the teams to beat until somebody beats them. You can’t call Blue jays challenger until they show something and whatever changes you make the Yankees and Rays may match you. I think Rays will be better than Blue Jays in 2021. Blue jays lost 95 games in 2019 and 28 in 2020 barely 500. Need a lot more moves than they will do in 1 year.
Ha, sure the Rays already lost Morton, and Snell could well be traded, the Yanks have no pitching after Cole and may not have Le Mahieu! things change quickly in baseball, in 2018 Boston won the division and fell off the map in 2019 and 2020
What drugs are you on exactly? Judging by all your comments, they must be the REALLY good ones!
Jaysfan – your optimism is nice. Except the Blue Jays have done nothing over 5 seasons. Until they actually prove it in a full season nobody should be talking about them.
All they have is a Robbie Ray overpay. We can stop talking them up until they show a modicum of desire to win.
If a team wants to pay the Archer/Pirates price+ then yes Snell will be on the move this offseason.
Morton lost fastball velocity in 2020 & his overall Rays stats look great due to a outstanding 2019. Rays will be a playoff contender again & they have W. Franco knocking on the door to the big leagues.
The only thing the Jays will be winning is title of best team in Canada if they don’t add at least two frontline starters. All their help has been arriving in the field and the pitching hasn’t gotten any better. If they enter the season relying on the likes of Roark & Stripling to provide 300+ innings they’re in trouble.
I feel for Orioles fans but it looks to me the rotation they can “dream on” is four #4s and no depth.
and that’s why I’ve never been too high on the O’s rebuild. a few solid SP but nothing to build around. Means is a transitional piece. Akin might be a workhorse but probably wolnt ever be stellar. Kremer’s track record makes him harder to project, but its hard to assume he’ll be top of the line. I like Hall but he’s no guarantee either. cant just bulid a team with a good C, 1B, CF, and DH
Nobody can pass a final judgement when a team’s best pitching prospects have yet to progress to double-A. If Rodriguez & Hall can progress at the same pace pre-COVID then 2022 is the year you get a much better feel for where the organization is headed. 2021 is still a rebuild season. If all goes well Rutschman comes to Baltimore later in the season and the focus shifts to 2022.
The Orioles top ranked SS is 19 years old. Also, their top 5 prospects have two OF’s (or 1B and one OF). How much diversity do you think their top 5 or so has to have? Way to early to call time of death on the Orioles rebuild.
This current round of guys has never been really viewed as producing frontline starters for the rebuild. Means last year looked like he could be a mid-rotation piece but the rest are just hoping they can stick as a 4 or 5 and anything better would be house money. Hall and Rodriguez are our chances at a 1/2 at the front end.
Personally, I see them trading some of these young arms in a year or two if they do well enough to further fuel the actual competitive push.
When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of MLBTR and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.
trolls: and I took that personally
Groundhog Day reference.
It’s these kinds of articles that keeps me sane during slow off seasons. Please give us more.
I think it’s fair to be more bullish on Means’ potential than this article implies. He showed another large uptick in velocity last year flashing 97 at times from the left side. It hurt him in the beginning of the season, but he got back to pitching vs throwing his last few starts and was dominant with his rolling wOBA hitting the lowest marks of his career. If he can harness that velocity and reach back for it when he needs it, he could at least be a solid 3 or maybe a less than ideal 2.
That being said, I do agree that he gets dealt prior to the next legitimately competing O’s team.
I agree that Means has mid rotation talent with flashes of more. I think with a good start next year, he has Matt Boyd value of a few years ago. I just dont think Elias will trade Means until he is 2 years from FA. By then hopefully this team is close to being competitive by then.
I do think staying competitive in the ALE is tough for all teams not the Sox or Yanks. The O’s gameplan needs to be this: sell tradeable assets that are within 2-3 years of FA for prospects to keep pushing the window to the right until a sustainable competitive core is in place, then pounce.
When you stop selling tradeable talent and start winning, the farm system will inevitably thin from no longer receiving talent via trades and lower draft picks, let alone trading away prospects. This probably buys the Orioles a 5 year competitive window give or take. If the pipeline continues to produce via international talent or great development, that window extends but all teams without unlimited $$ have shelf lifes. Elias is working towards maximizing the O’s shelf life which is tough for fans to see.
The O’s have to know that their “rebuild” is doomed from the start. This isn’t the AL West (Houston) or the NL Central (Cubs) where you can “tank” and rebuild in 3 years. It’s the AL East; a very unforgiving division.
The Yanks will always be there; the Sox may be confused right now, but ownership won’t allow that to continue; the Rays are not only young and good, they’ve got a TON coming; and the Jays can become contenders essentially whenever they want to be (Rogers has LOTS of money).
The O’s need to at least keep it interesting while they’re putting together a core. With that gorgeous park and rabid fan base, they should be shopping for any and all of the foreign talent they can accumulate, and be willing to take on a bad contract or two to increase their prospect capital. Otherwise they stand to lose their brand value, which they shouldn’t allow to happen.
I realize they’ve got those insane deferrals, and the MASN migraine. But the family isn’t hurting for coin. At this point, the rebuild can never catch up with the rest of the division; teams in the AL East aren’t going to just sit there while you get better.
Jack Cust’s ghost
I know a lot of people are very skeptical about the Orioles. I am a big fan and the players that are listed in this article are good. Means is a legitimate #1. Sure he started off slow in 2020 but afterwards he got going and then he was lights out. He will come into 2021 with something to prove.
As for Kremer he is a #3 or #4 starter. Akin is solid also. Which is another #3 or #4 starter. Rodriguez is an absolute #2 starter. I have no idea on Hall because I have not seen him play yet.
2022 starting pitching rotation: Means, Rodriguez, Kremer, Akin, and maybe Hall or another veteran pitcher.
By the way the Bluejays are not that good yet. Biggio(my favorite baseball player) has tailed off a little. He still has a lot of upside but if the Bluejays sign another infielder where is he going to play at? Guerrero in my opinion is never going to be the star everyone thinks he is going to be.
Guerrero is a victim of his namesake. Being the son of a Hall of Famer carries a lot of weight and expectations. Very rarely do the sons end up surapssing the fathers ( Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr.) I don’t think we are looking at a Tony Gwynn Jr. or Tim Raines Jr. type bust. Vlad Jr. is still young and still has a tremendous upside, it’s way too soon to write him off
Vlad Jr. Needs to show up in shape. Few have the pedigree or God given talent that he possesses. Pushing himself away from the dinner table would be a good start.
Young by Oriole standards. Not a consistent (more than 1 ML season) pitcher in the bunch. The desperation to find something positive increases with each uninspiring season.
If the season started today the Orioles would likely look like:
C Pedro Severino/Chance Sisco platoon
1B Trey Mancini
2B Yolmer Sanchez
3B Rio Ruiz
SS Pat Valaika
LF Ryan Mountcastle
CF Cedric Mullins
RF Anthony Santander
DH Chris Davis*
Bullpens are too volatile to predict especially this early
*Unfortunately for O’s fans as long as Chris Davis and his contract linger on the roster they are going to have to play him
You missed some players here.
No. I just named the likely lineup. I didn’t name a bullpen because there are little no locks in December.
The bench will likely have one of Severino/Sisco, Austin Hays, Ramon Urias, and one other player
Mullins of the lifetime .290 OBP? If he’s even on the roster, this “rebuild” is doomed.
He will be. At least until Yusniel Diaz is ready. Then they could move Santander to CF. O’s likely aren’t springing for a new CF this winter
I think there’s a chance they’ll cut Davis in 2021 but won’t do so until the season starts and salaries are prorated.
A rotation to dream about? Kind of like having a wet dream about your best friend’s 80 year old grandma. If you have a dream like that you shouldn’t tell anybody! As pointed out by others in this thread there might be a 4 or two( personally I think 5’s) in the group. After that who knows. Given the Orioles’ track record in pitching development at both the minor and major league levels I ‘m not holding my breath to see a rush of blossoming talent in the next few years. It’s going to take a lot more than what’s currently going on to make me believe that this “rebuild” isn’t just a cover for the Angelos family’s desire not to spend any money, except on Chris “Swing and Miss” Davis. The Owners are lucky that Orioles fans are so tolerant.
Jack Cust’s ghost
Well since you personally think that it must be true and Elias is just a dumb bumbling idiot lol
Nope.I just suspect Elias has his marching orders from ownership which is spend no money, pee on fans’ shoes and tell them it’s raining.
Poor Orioles having to pay and play Davis and Cobb. Lousy rotation
Not as bad as you think.
They are still in a deep rebuild. I know this will sound crazy but I also don’t know what his health status officially is, but I’d love the Braves to strike a deal with the O’s to get Tray Mancini. The hope is they would have to sell low and Braves assume the risk of his health and any regression. I’m thinking a De La Cruz and maybe another lower ranked prospect for Mancini ?
Mancini is not going anywhere in the near future
I think thats a logical package given the circumstances but I also think there’s a heightened chance he takes a 2-3 year extension from the O’s because of those same circumstances.
Players like him in the “good not great” (Garner, Adam Jones, JJ Hardy, Markakis) category sometimes sign a reasonable extension to sell FA years because they are not likely to make a killing in FA. The stability is worth a million a year, so a 3 yr, 36M extension for Mancini may get it done.
Fanbase loves him and he is a great clubhouse presence. But most importantly for this team, his trade value is rock bottom.
He is about to attempt a comeback that is extremely difficult and unlikely for him to be the same player. O’s fans hope so, but it isn’t necessarily realistic. I wish him nothing but the best and maybe he is back and becomes a trade chip in the summer. But I don’t think im alone in the thought that Mancini won’t be able to bring back the return necessary to trade him this season, especially given the resigning potential.
Examining The Ori
There are so many idiots in this comment section talking about the Orioles rebuild. This isn’t the duqette era, this is Elias’ team now. He knows how to develop talent and has done a good job so far. Stop judging this team until the blue chips get to the majors
Which Angelos family member are you? Or are you just on the payroll?
Hard to believe that in a discussion of the O’s future pitching staff, no one is talking about the 3 guys just added to the 40 man roster.
Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther and Alex Wells.
In 2019 all 3 were at double AA Bowie.
Baumann: 6-2 2.31 ERA
Lowther: 13-7 2.55 ERA
Wells: 8-6 2.95 ERA
All 3 of these guys have just as much potential as Kremer & Akin if not more. They should all get their MLB shots in 2021.
Also Rodriguez and Hall are both starting in Bowie this year and will be a September call up away from the bigs. These two both hit 97-98 with a nice 4 pitch mix and are considered future #1/#2.
By 2022 the rotation should feature 3 #1/#2 guys in Means, Rodriguez and Hall, followed by 5 strong mid rotation candidates in Kremern Akin, Baumann, Lowther and Wells. That group could be together for at least 4 years, in what could be one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
Asd that to young bats like Mancini, Santander, Mountcastle, Rutschman, Hays, Diaz and Kjerstad and it would appear that Orioles will be a couple middle infielders away (Gunnar Henderson, Adam Hall, Jordan Westburg) from being a very competitive team.