We knew coming into the season that the deepest part of the Baltimore Orioles’ upper levels of the organization was the outfield. The hope was that this season, fans would see exactly what the Orioles outfield could look like with most of their top options healthy and ready to go.
But injuries have prevented that thus far.
In April, DJ Stewart, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander all spent time on the injured list. Santander didn’t come back until May 21, only for Hays to hit the injured list again on the May 26.
Hays is slated to return today, rejoining the Orioles for a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. With their full slate of outfielders finally ready to go, I’m praying that we’ll finally get to see what Baltimore’s outfield could look like on a regular basis.
For all intents and purposes, the Orioles have six players fighting for five spots right now. Stewart, Hays and Santander are competing in the outfield with Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle, but Mountcastle is also competing with Trey Mancini at first base and designated hitter.
Here’s what the ideal Orioles’ lineup looks like at those five spots:
That lineup leaves Stewart on the bench, but that’s fine. Manager Brandon Hyde can use this depth to rotate these guys in and out of the lineup, keeping each of them fresh.
For instance, Stewart can play either corner outfield position and give Hays or Santander a night off. Mullins has more than earned a night off or two, and Hays can slide into center field to cover him. If Hyde wants to give any of those guys a night off but keep them in the lineup, Mountcastle can move into left field and Hays, Mullins or Santander can serve as the designated hitter.
There are plenty of options. That is, if they stay healthy.
If the O’s can keep these guys around for a good chunk of the season, there’s a chance to develop a highly competitive dynamic where they are constantly motivating one another. There are at-bats to go around, but there are also players who can keep you out of the lineup.
The Orioles are about to embark on an incredibly long stretch of uninterrupted baseball. That might be fun for the fans, but it is taxing on the players. Hyde has enough to worry about with the bullpen, but he shouldn’t have to worry about much in the outfield.
Hopefully Hyde realizes the options he has and utilizes them effectively. He should be able to rotate those players in and out to not only keep them fresh, but also get them enough at-bats and enough time in the field to prove their worth for the future.
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