- Speaking with Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com and other media Wednesday, Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander revealed he was late reporting to Summer Camp because of a positive COVID-19 test. Santander said he dealt with “mild” symptoms, but he’s now “healthy” and “not contagious.” That doesn’t mean Santander will have enough time to ramp up to avoid an IL stint, but he and the Orioles are hoping he’ll be ready for Opening Day. Santander received his first extensive MLB action last season and hit .261/.297/.476 (97 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 405 plate appearances, gaining an international fan club in the process.
The 35-year-old LeBlanc and Milone, 33, signed minor league contracts with the pitcher-needy Orioles over the winter after spending last season with the Mariners. They’ll open 2020 in Baltimore’s rotation, Joe Trezza of MLB.com suggests.
LeBlanc has been a capable swingman for most of his career, which began in 2008 in San Diego. He was effective in Seattle as recently as 2018 (3.72 ERA/4.28 FIP with 7.22 K/9 and 2.22 BB/9 in 162 innings), but the wheels came off last year. LeBlanc could only manage 121 1/3 innings of 5.71 ERA/5.49 FIP pitching with 6.82 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 2019.
Milone has five seasons of at least 100 innings under his belt, even though the overall results haven’t been great. He piled up 111 2/3 a year ago and notched a 4.76 ERA/5.00 FIP, though he did post an impressive K/BB ratio with 7.58 K/9 and 1.85 BB/9.
The Orioles announced Tuesday that they’ve added right-handed pitching prospect Dean Kremer to their 60-man player pool. He’s reporting to alternate training camp at the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate in Bowie, where he’ll be joined by righty Hector Velazquez, whom the club has optioned out of Summer Camp (per that same announcement). The O’s also put Richie Martin on the 60-day IL and removed him from their 60-man pool, which formally ends his season. Martin is set to undergo surgery to repair a broken wrist tomorrow.
Kremer, 24, was one of the pitchers acquired from the Dodgers in the trade that sent Manny Machado to Los Angeles. The former 16th-round pick had a solid year in 2019, reaching Triple-A and pitching to a combined 3.72 ERA with 9.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9 and a ground-ball rate just shy of 40 percent. Kremer also showed quite well in the Arizona Fall League (five runs on 13 hits and four walks with 23 strikeouts in 19 innings), and he’s generally considered one of the better pitching prospects in the rebuilding Orioles’ system.
Kremer ranks 11th or better among Orioles farmhands at Baseball America, FanGraphs an MLB.com, and scouting reports on the 6’3″, 180-pound righty project him as a fourth/fifth starter. Given that he’s already reached Triple-A and is on Baltimore’s 40-man roster, it’s quite possible that Kremer will make his MLB debut in 2020.
Orioles shortstop Richie Martin and left-hander Ty Blach will both undergo surgery on Wednesday, manager Brandon Hyde announced to reporters Monday (Twitter links via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com). Martin will undergo wrist surgery after sustaining a fracture over the weekend, while Blach will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a ligament tear in his elbow. Martin is expected to be sidelined for two to three months, which all but eliminates him as an option for the team in 2020. Blach will likely be out until late next season at least, as recovery from Tommy John surgery typically takes between 12 and 14 months.
Martin, 25, was the top pick in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft, and the Orioles carried the former Athletics first-rounder all season despite his struggles against MLB pitching. Martin saw action in 120 games but only logged 309 plate appearances, turning in an underwhelming .208/.260/.322 batting line against big league opponents. Martin had never played a game at the Triple-A level when Baltimore selected him, but he’d posted an encouraging .300/.368/.439 slash in a pitcher-friendly Double-A setting in 2018.
The O’s had surely hoped to get him some time in Triple-A now that they could send him there after getting through his Rule 5 season, but the prolonged shutdown and cancellation of the 2020 minor league season made that impossible. Now, Martin won’t even get reps in at the MLB level or in alternate camp during this summer’s shortened season.
As for Blach, the former Giants southpaw had been hoping to crack the roster as a rotation or long relief candidate, but he may not ever throw another pitch as an Oriole now. Blach struggled in 20 2/3 frames with the O’s in 2019 and was removed from the roster, but Baltimore liked him enough to bring him back on a minor league pact. That deal will run out at season’s end, and Blach will search for a new club either next summer or in the 2021-22 offseason, depending on his recovery process.
Blach, 29, was a solid piece for the Giants from 2016-18, racking up 299 1/3 innings with a 4.36 ERA over the course of 85 appearances (39 of them starts). Blach doesn’t throw particularly hard (90.1 mph average fastball) or miss many bats (career 4.9 K/9), but he’s found success in the past due to strong control (2.7 BB/9 prior to ’19) and his ability to keep the ball on the ground (50.1 percent).
Orioles infielder Richie Martin has a broken bone in his right wrist, manager Brandon Hyde told reporters (including Roch Kubatko of MASN) this morning. It seems he suffered the injury diving into a base during an intrasquad game yesterday. There’s no timetable for Martin’s return, but Dan Connolly of the Athletic tweets that the team expects him to be “out for a while.” He’ll begin the season on the injured list, confirms Joe Trezza of MLB.com (Twitter link).
The first pick in the 2018 Rule V draft, Martin stuck with the Orioles throughout the 2019 season. As with many Rule V selections, he looked overmatched at the plate, hitting just .208/.260/.322 (50 wRC+) in 309 plate appearances. Nevertheless, the Baltimore organization was sufficiently intrigued to carry him on the active roster all season and retain his rights long-term. The club did sign José Iglesias this offseason to solidify shortstop, but Martin looked to have a good chance to break camp with the club as a utility infielder, particularly in the absence of a minor-league season. Dilson Herrera, Andrew Velazquez, Pat Valaika and Stevie Wilkerson are among the other utility options on the O’s player pool.
Hyde also provided updates on a handful of other injured players in camp. Left-hander Ty Blach has some soreness in his elbow and will go for an ominous-sounding “second opinion,” Hyde says (via Kubatko). The former Giant is in camp as a non-roster invitee. Meanwhile, right-handed reliever Dillon Tate has elbow soreness of his own, but he remains day-to-day.
Hyde also acknowledged yesterday (via Rich Dubroff of Baltimore Baseball) the club may be without outfielders Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith, Jr. in the season’s early going. For undisclosed reasons, neither has yet participated in team workouts. Naturally, that will lead to some speculation about COVID-19 protocolos, but it’s possible one or both is dealing with some other issue. Their questionable availability helps to explain the O’s reported interest in free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig, although there’s certainly room on the rather thin roster for Puig even if Santander and Smith return to the field quickly.
The Orioles are interested in signing free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig and have made “at least one offer,” according to a report from Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. We don’t yet know an estimate of the value of that contract offer, but one can only assume it would be a one-year pact for Puig, who evidently didn’t garner the interest he had hoped to in free agency.
Puig, 29, is certainly the most intriguing player left on the open market, with teams expressing a relative lack of interest in the former Dodger compared to other outfielders. That, combined with an extended stay in free agency due to the roster freeze enforced during MLB’s shutdown, means that Puig has largely been forgotten as the regular season approaches.
But he may have found a match in Baltimore. With just about two weeks until the season is set to get underway, there’s a clear need in the outfield. Whereas one might have projected the O’s Opening Day outfield to consist of Dwight Smith Jr., Anthony Santander, and Trey Mancini, none of those three are currently in camp. Mancini, of course, is recovering from surgery to remove a malignant tumor. But the unforeseen absences of Santander and Smith Jr., who have yet to report for camp, have made the Baltimore outfield mix especially thin.
Assuming that Santander and Smith Jr. will return to full health in the near future, that need will be mitigated some, but signing Puig might be preferable to relying on some combination of Stevie Wilkerson, D.J. Stewart, and Austin Hays. Puig could slide right into Mancini’s spot in right field, forming a respectable outfield trio alongside (hopefully) Smith Jr. and Santander.
If Puig were to sign with Baltimore, he would instantly become the most recognizable—and perhaps the best—player on an otherwise destitute roster, especially one that will likely be without Trey Mancini for 2020. And while Puig is no longer the electrifying young star that quickly rose to fame when he entered the league, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive Major Leaguer.
Last year, between Cincinnati and Cleveland, Puig batted .267/.327/.458 and slugged 24 home runs. He also managed to steal 19 bases—albeit without great efficiency—and has a track record of solid defense in right field. Needless to say, this wouldn’t be a slam dunk signing for the Orioles, and it likely doesn’t significantly improve the 2020 outlook, but it’s the type of signing that makes sense for a club in their position.
The Orioles have added top prospect Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder Mason Williams to their 60-man player pool, manager Brandon Hyde revealed to reporters at Summer Camp today (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Joe Trezza). That pair of additions brings the team’s total to 47 players.
Mountcastle, 23, was the No. 36 pick in the draft by the Orioles back in 2015 and has rated among the organization’s best prospects ever since. Questions persist about just where on the field Mountcastle will play — he was a shortstop in high school but has since played third base, left field and first base — but his bat is generally very well regarded. Mountcastle followed up 2018’s .297/.341/.464 slash (121 wRC+) in a pitcher-friendly Double-A setting with a .312/.344/.527 slash (117 wRC+) in Triple-A last year. He doesn’t walk much but also doesn’t strike out at an alarming rate and has never batted worse than .281 in a full professional season.
Wherever Mountcastle settles in defensively, he’s viewed as a potential long-term piece who could fit into the middle of the team’s lineup. Given last year’s solid showing in Triple-A and the lack of a minor league season in 2020, it’ll be a surprise if Mountcastle doesn’t log significant at-bats with the Orioles.
As for Williams, he’s a former top prospect himself, although at 29 years of age, those days are behind him. Williams has seen MLB time in each of the past five seasons but has never found extended playing time or had much success in his fleeting big league auditions. He hit .267/.324/.300 in 11 games with the O’s last year and is a lifetime .286/.325/.382 hitter in the big leagues. That’s a generally respectable line, but Williams has never tallied more than 132 plate appearances in a Major League season. He’s a career .288/.341/.405 hitter in more than 1500 Triple-A plate appearances.
The Orioles have announced the signings of third-round shortstop Anthony Servideo and fourth-round third baseman Coby Mayo, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com tweets. Mayo’s above-slot agreement of $1.75MM was first reported a little under a month ago.
Servideo, previously with Mississippi, also inked an above-slot deal. He signed for $950K, outpacing the $844,200 recommended value of the 74th overall pick, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports. MLB.com ranked Servideo as the 110th-best prospect available before the draft, crediting him for his ability to draw walks, his speed and his adeptness as a defender. While the 21-year-old Servideo only amassed 87 plate appearances during a shortened 2020 college season, he did bat an outstanding .390/.575/.695.
Servideo’s one of three members of this year’s Orioles draft class from the Southeastern Conference, joining first-round outfielder Heston Kjerstad (Arkansas) and supplemental first-round shortstop Jordan Westburg (Mississippi State). Those two have also already signed, as has second-round outfielder Hudson Haskin. The only recent O’s pick who’s not officially under contract is fifth-round pitcher Carter Baumler, as Joe Trezza of MLB.com notes, but it appears the two sides will finalize a contract sometime soon.
As teams continue to get health and travel reports, many have slots left to fill on their 60-man rosters, so we’ll use this post throughout the day to track the minor changes.
- The Giants added four names to their 60-man player pool: Will Wilson, Camilo Doval, Luis Toribio and Chad Tromp, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports. It’s a group of fairly high-end prospects for the Giants, highlighted by Wilson, whom they essentially spent $12.6MM to acquire last year by taking on Zack Cozart’s contract, writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Catcher Chadwick Tromp has the best chance to train with the major league camp, as the others are more likely to head to the alternative camp when it opens in Sacramento, per Schulman. The Giants have four empty slots remaining from their 60-player pool.
- The Orioles added Evan Phillips to their 60-man roster, per MASN’s Roch Kubatko. Baltimore gave themselves more leeway than most, however, and they still have 15 slots available on their 60-man roster. The Maryland native made 25 appearances out of the Orioles’ bullpen in 2019, pitching to a 6.43 ERA/3.96 FIP. Phillips joined the Baltimore organization from Atlanta as part of the Kevin Gausman/Darren O’Day trade from deadline day 2018.
- The Phillies added two catchers to their 60-man roster, per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Henri Lartigue and Logan O’Hoppe will bring the Phillies’ total number of catchers to five. Lartigue, 25, hit .136/.259/.248 in 78 games in Double-A last year. O’Hoppe, 20, went to the Phillies in the 23rd round of the 2018 draft. In Low-A in 2019, the New York native hit .216/.266/.407. The pair of catchers are presumably in camp to spread the defensive workload. J.T. Realmuto, Andrew Knapp, and Deivi Grullon are far better bets to see any game time once the season opens.
Kjerstad was expected to go near the top of the draft, but not with the second selection. The O’s obviously liked him quite a bit, but also saw an opportunity to save some bonus pool capacity to draft and sign other talented players in later rounds. The club was able to reapply over $2.5MM of the second overall slot value.
As things stand, the Orioles are known to have deals in place with five of their six selections. Jordan Westburg (30th overall) and Hudson Haskin (39th) secured at-slot bonuses. High schoolers Coby Mayo and Carter Baumler were lured with over-slot promises, though their deals aren’t yet official. That leaves Ole Miss infielder Anthony Servideo, the team’s third-round choice, left without a pact (so far as is publicly known).
Perhaps it’s easy to get caught up in the machinations and overlook Kjerstad’s own promise. While teams obviously see the appeal in spreading draft bonus pool availability over multiple players, they also aren’t generally inclined to spend premium draft choices on sub-premium talent.
All major draft pundits graded Kjerstad as one of the dozen or so top-available talents. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs had the highest ranking, listing him in the seventh slot.
Most agree on the profile here. Kjerstad is seen as a solid right fielder with big potential at the plate. He was drubbing high-end college pitching (.448/.513/.791) when the 2020 season was suspended. There are some concerns over his complicated swing and proclivity to strike out, but obviously the consensus is that Kjerstad will grow into a quality offensive performer at the game’s highest level.