The core players on the 2020 Orioles are trying to show they can play a key role in the future of the rebuilding club.
Some of these players are almost guaranteed an opportunity to show what they can do during the final stretch of the season and then into 2021.
Others could be auditioning for an offseason trade because their roster spot is more tenuous.
Here are five players to watch down the stretch:
1. Ryan Mountcastle
The outfielder, one of the club’s top prospects, has helped rejuvenate the fan base with his performance since being called up late last month. Manager Brandon Hyde promised to give Mountcastle plenty of opportunities to flash, and he responded with both his bat and glove.
Entering the weekend series against the Yankees (Sept. 4-6), Mountcastle is slashing .341/.400/.537. He also has two home runs and six RBIs in 41 at-bats. He should be in the lineup for the rest of the year and is definitely one of the bright spots of 2020.
“It’s been awesome,” Mountcastle, 23, said after a two-homer day against the Toronto Blue Jays Aug. 30. “Just to be finally able to live out the dream has really been a cool experience so far, and to have a pretty decent day today was definitely a breath of fresh air.
2. Keegan Akin
The 25-year-old left-hander is trying to earn a permanent spot in the starting rotation. He allowed two runs (both unearned) and three hits with six strikeouts in 4.1 innings against the Blue Jays in his first career start Aug. 31. Akin has solid command and made the most of his brief time working out of the bullpen. However, he’s happy to be starting again and hopes maintain a role in the rotation next season and beyond.
“When I got sent down, [Hyde] just said they weren’t going to throw me on back-to-back days. They weren’t going to do that to me with never coming out of the bullpen before,” Akin said. “I was totally understanding of it, and to get the ball back up and be told that I was starting was very exciting. Just glad to be back up here.”
3. John Means
It’s been a tough year for Means, who has dealt with the recent death of his father and arm fatigue. Means hasn’t been able to get comfortable in this abbreviated season and it’s shown. He’s gone 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA in six starts. Despite the challenges, Means has the talent to help anchor the rotation moving forward. The hope is Means, 27, can put together a couple of effective starts to end 2020.
“I look for John to have a really good September,” Hyde said. “Now that he’s healthy and feels good, I look forward to him pitching well this last month.”
4. Hunter Harvey
The Orioles have been careful with Harvey, who most recently been dealing with a forearm strain. Harvey, 25, has been limited to 1.2 innings this season and has allowed two runs and two hits with two strikeouts and one walk during that stretch. Harvey has been hampered by injuries throughout his young career, and Hyde wants to ensure he can stay healthy moving forward because of his potential impact with the club. However, Hyde would love to see Harvey finish this season strong.
“He’s had some bad luck injuries also in his career,” Hyde said. “But you look at the guy, watch him pitch, you definitely want him to be available because the stuff is so good. Injuries are a part of this game; some guys have more injuries earlier on in their career and bounce back. I want to believe that he’s going to be able to be a reliable back-end bullpen guy. Still holding out hope for that because the arm is so special.”
5. Alex Cobb
The veteran right-hander was a key trade chip, but he’ll remain with the club for the rest of the 2020 season. Cobb could be an attractive pitcher if he continues to throw well. He is enjoying a bounce-back season after a couple of injury-marred seasons. Cobb has played a key role in the rotation and is 1-3 with a 4.33 ERA in seven starts (35.1. innings). He’s struck out 24 batters with 12 walks.
Cobb, 32, was fully aware of the trade talk, but he never let it become a distraction. Perhaps the Orioles hold onto him this offseason as a veteran presence within an otherwise young rotation.
“There would be so much going into a normal trade deadline year with everything surrounding me,” he said before the deadline. “I think this year there’s no way to even try to create some sort of hypothesis of what’s going to happen. I really haven’t paid too much attention to any of it. I really haven’t had too many questions from you guys about it and it really hasn’t entered my mind too much.”
Update: Cobb was placed on the injured list Sept. 4. The club did not offer specifics as to why.
Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox and Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles