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2019 MLB Team Preview: Baltimore Orioles

A look at the Baltimore Orioles with a fantasy baseball slant.

MLB: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles
Jonathan Villar’s power / speed combination will be in high demand this draft season.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Basic Stats:

Final Record: 47-115
RS/G: 3.84 (27th)
RA/G: 5.51 (30th)
SB: 81 (12th)
ERA: 5.19 (30th)
Saves: 28 (30th)
Strikeouts: 1203 (28th)

RS/G - Runs Scored Per Game
RA/G - Runs Allowed Per Game

With only 47 wins the Baltimore Orioles were hands-down the worst Major League Baseball team last season. In fact, 2018 was so bad for the Orioles that even though early FanGraphs projections have the Orioles again with the worst record in baseball, they’re projecting a 17-win improvement. A simple regression algorithm would be my guess as to why the large win increase next season. As we’ll explore below, the current roster does not inspire much hope in either the real baseball universe or our fantasy baseball version.

The Superstar: Jonathan Villar

I know, calling Jonathan Villar a superstar was rough for me as well. That said, from a pure fantasy standpoint, we’ve seen Villar delivery superstar type production. It was not that long ago (2016) that Villar burst onto the scene with 19 home runs and 62 stolen bases. The success was short-lived as Villar’s batting average fell .044 points the following season, with his home runs and stolen bases being slashed to 11 & 23, respectively. Villar had a bounce back season in 2018, including a big second half with the Orioles (eight home runs and 21 stolen bases). RosterResource currently has Villar hitting third for the 2019 Baltimore Orioles. With 60 stolen base upside still intact, Villar warrants the honor of being the 2019 Baltimore Orioles Superstar.

The Sleeper: Austin Hays

Many fantasy experts, myself included, expected Hays to play a larger role for the Orioles in 2018. Unfortunately, Hays suffered an ankle injury that plagued him for the remainder of the season. On the field, Hays hit .242/.271/.432 over 288 Double-A plate appearances. Comparing last year’s performance to the rest of Hays’ minor league track records shows me that the ankle injury played a role in his overall performance on the field. Hays is currently recovering from surgery on his left ankle. The procedure was focused around a stress fracture and cartilage issues in said ankle. If healthy and with the big league club early in the season, Hays should hit double-digit home runs while contributing a useful amount of stolen bases. Batting average will likely fall into the league average range for Hays.

The Guy to Avoid: Mychal Givens

The current favorite to close out games for the Orioles in 2019, I’m staying away from Givens so far in early drafts. Over the second half of 2018, Givens added eight saves to go along with a 2.94 ERA / 0.77 WHIP. The driver behind the half season of success was an improved control rate (1.9 BB/9). Considering Givens’ prior lack of control, coupled with a below average first pitch strike rate (58% in 2nd half compared to 54% 1st half), shows me a pitcher over his skis in that particular metric. Givens‘ average fastball velocity is a respectable 95.1 MPH. That said, in today’s game, 95 MPH is not all that special. Givens also does not miss bats at “elite closer” levels. Lastly, a slight fly-ball lean in the American League East simply screams disaster to me. I’ll pass.

The Prospect to Watch: D.J. Stewart

Stewart debuted with the Orioles September 12, 2018. Over 47 plate appearances Stewart was able to hold his own: .250/.340/.550 - three home runs - two stolen bases. Stewart projects as an average power hitter with a good eye at the plate. There isn’t really a standout skill here, but the sum of the parts—coupled with a path to playing time—will produce respectable deep league fantasy numbers. Stewart’s upside for 2019 includes 15 home runs, 10 stolen bases and a .265 batting average. Stewart could also find himself hitting towards the top of the batting order in 2019.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Our 2019 MLB Preview series will run from late-November throughout the off-season. We will cover each team in reverse order of the 2018 Major League Baseball Standings. Because of the number of teams and time required to produce these posts, we’re needing to early; before all roster moves have been made. Because we strive to provide informative and useful fantasy baseball content, we will be updating these preview posts throughout the off-season as rosters continue to take their final shape.

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