One day after the arrival of Adley Rutschman, I guess Orioles general manager Mike Elias was feeling his oats, and during a press get-together he pulled out of his conservative lane of disseminating information to venture out on a limb a bit by stating the following:

“I think everyone in the company, ownership on down, is very pleased with the foundation, the processes that have been laid, the infrastructure that we have across our organization right now and it’s just about building and growing from here. We’ve got blue skies ahead of us. We’ve got a No. 1 farm system. We’ve got a young talented major league team. We have payroll flexibility where we are past the pandemic and there are going to be more and more people coming into the ballpark.”

That is an awful lot to unpack. First, as to Elias’ timing, it’s fair to say he has been itching to scream this out loud from the top of the Bromo Seltzer Tower. As confident as Elias is in his abilities as a baseball executive, it takes some real chutzpah coming off the 2019-2021 seasons to basically say, “We’re all good here.” That is essentially what the blue skies comment translates to.

Rutschman is the one tangible, shiny object Elias can point to as his. True, promising right-hander Kyle Bradish is an Elias guy, having been part of the return for Dylan Bundy after the 2019 season.

The other part of Elias’ timing is the fact that his club actually played much more competitive baseball through the first two months of the season. For the moment, let’s stay away from defining progress with wins and losses. I use the word competitive because 32 of the club’s first 53 games were one- or two-run games. That is tangible progress in terms of the Orioles’ ability to compete. The winning can wait. Once you compete and get better, you start to win.

I am not here to rain on Elias’ blue-skies assessment of the progress he and his staff have made in three-plus seasons. Elias knows all he can control is what he can control, so he plows ahead mightily with as tough a task as there is in baseball — competing on the field against monetary titans in the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays as well as one of the smartest teams in the sport in the Rays.

I attended a High-A Aberdeen game to see Rutschman on his rehab on a chilly night in late April. That night I watched Connor Norby, Rutschman, Coby Mayo and Colton Cowser hit in the top four spots of the IronBirds’ order. I pronounced at the time that I had never seen an Orioles affiliate field four better consecutive batters. That is definitely blue-sky stuff, no doubt. And that doesn’t include Gunnar Henderson, Kyle Stowers, Jordan Westburg and perhaps Heston Kjerstad.

But please help me understand where the blue skies are regarding the current and future rotations.

Hey, it’s great to have Grayson Rodriguez, perhaps the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball. But last I checked, Rodriguez is just one pitcher. You need five to seven major league starters in order to really compete. John Means (Tommy John surgery) will likely return at some point in 2023, but he isn’t penciled in without a question mark for me.

Jordan Lyles has been a nice investment on a one-year deal. Nobody is arguing with his filling a major innings-eating need. He can really help manager Brandon Hyde keep this fragile rotation together in 2022. But moving forward? Would they invest in Lyles on another one- or two-year deal? You won’t get this quality for less money.

Bradish was clearly the centerpiece of the Bundy deal and even though the other three pitchers have kind of retreated to the background, Bradish has the goods to be a No. 2 starter. Tyler Wells, a towering 6-foot-8 right-hander, was a Rule 5 pickup between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He has made great strides coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2019. Wells makes my list as an intriguing guy with a lot of upside.

After a few promising starts, Bruce Zimmermann has backed up and hardly qualifies as a starter on a relevant contender. Dean Kremer’s 2022 debut was delayed until early June due to an oblique issue. Write me in as wanting to see Kremer in the same role as Keegan Akin — a guy whose results might tick up with fewer innings out of the ‘pen.

Now include Rodriguez whenever he is healthy and ready. His recent lat strain will delay his major league debut until September at the earliest.

The Orioles’ No. 2 pitching prospect is still left-hander D.L. Hall. Hall is a high-end talent, but the more he pitches, the more suspect it becomes that he has the requisite durability to be an impactful starting pitcher. Rather, many are beginning to envision him in the relief role that former Orioles prospect Josh Hader has taken on with the Brewers.

Let me be clear, Mike Elias has the right to brag a little bit about what he has accomplished since he took over the Orioles. But if he sees blue skies ahead, I think the sun must be blinding his view of the pitcher’s mound.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Issue 275: June/July 2022

Stan Charles

See all posts by Stan Charles. Follow Stan Charles on Twitter at @stanthefan