July Update: There’s just so, so little to get excited about from a fantasy perspective when it comes to the Orioles in 2020. Trey Mancini, far and away the team’s best player, will sit out the shortened campaign after undergoing surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon back in March. Thankfully, outfielder appears to be doing well in recovery, but that doesn’t leave a lot of offensive firepower in Baltimore’s lineup. Still, Mancini’s absence will open up the opportunity for someone like Anthony Santander to primarily hit out of the three spot in the Orioles’ batting order. While there are certainly red flags with the switch-hitter’s approach at the dish, Santander did launch 16 home runs and post a .234 ISO across 287 plate appearances in the second half of 2019. Maybe he’ll thrive with the volume that a high-leverage lineup position supplies.
It would be easy to say that the Orioles were baseball’s least relevant team when it came to fantasy in 2019, yet I don’t think that’s a fair way to paint the organization. For instance, I know that whenever I was about to construct a DFS lineup last summer, my biggest concern was whether or not Baltimore was playing on the slate and how many runs I thought its awful pitching staff would surrender. Now, that may seem like an unjust slight, but it’s 100% true. Last season, the Orioles ranked dead-last in MLB in so, so many things. It’s a list that includes ERA (5.67), FIP (5.56), xFIP (5.23) and, of course, HR/9 (1.90).
Still, despite the world’s awareness of this glaring issue, not much was done to shore up the rotation this winter. Even with the trio of Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther and Dean Kremer likely due to make their major league debuts at some point this year, it’s difficult to have any optimism about Baltimore’s run prevention measures heading into 2020. What does that mean for the squad’s own fantasy prospects? Let’s dig into it.
DraftKings Sportsbook odds
– Division Winner: +25000
– League Winner: +35000
– World Series: +75000
Jonathan Villar, SS; Dylan Bundy, SP
Jose Iglesias, SS; Wade LeBlanc, SP; Kohl Stewart, SP
2020 Fantasy MVP
EDITOR’S NOTE: TREY MANCINI (ILLNESS) IS NOT EXPECTED TO PLAY THIS SEASON.
Trey Mancini, OF This is obviously a tough call. Mancini was just released from hospital after having a malignant tumor removed from his colon earlier this week and the slugger currently does not have a timetable for his return. Still, we don’t have a set-in-stone date for Opening Day, so I’m willing to give Mancini the benefit of the doubt. It’s not like there’s many other promising aspects of this lineup, either. In fact, the 28-year-old stands as the lone Baltimore player being drafted, on average, within the first 250 picks in NFBC formats. However, it needs to be pointed out that Mancini’s value is much more than the Orioles’ total talent scarcity. The outfielder finished 2019 with career-highs in home runs (35), runs scored (106) and RBI (97); not to mention his marks in ISO (.244), wOBA (.373) and wRC+ (132). Mancini isn’t good simply due to juxtaposition, he’s proven he belongs within a certain class of hitter for the majors as a whole. At least that’s what winding up inside the 82nd percentile in expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and expected wOBA would imply. Keep an eye on his health as we move through the next couple of months, but Mancini can flat out rake.
2020 Fantasy LVP
John Means, SP
Look, there are very few players on this team that are going to have any value at all, so maybe it’s unwise to specifically attack Means, who did manage a 3.60 ERA across 155 innings in 2019. However, the fact that the left-hander did this – and can somehow tell his grandchildren that he was a major league All-Star – necessitates warning the public that nothing Means did last season will be replicated. Literally nothing. Heck, we already saw regression hit Means like an 18-wheeler following his hilarious trip to the Midsummer Classic. The southpaw entered the All-Star Break with a 2.50 ERA, but would only muster a 4.85 mark across his final 72 1/3 innings of the year. The big reason for this? An inability to keep the ball inside the park. While an unstable 8.1% HR/FB ratio kept Means mostly clean through the first half of his rookie campaign, the extreme fly ball pitcher would concede an ugly 1.74 long balls per nine in the second half. Add all these concerns together and it’s not very difficult to see how Means finished with a 5.48 xFIP – the highest figure in MLB of the 75 pitchers who threw at least 150 frames.
2020 Breakout Player
Austin Hays, OF
While it’s important to not freak out too much as it pertains to incredibly small sample sizes, Hays definitely turned some heads in his brief stint with the Orioles last season. In 75 plate appearances, the former third-round pick slashed .309/.373/.574 with a .262 ISO and a 146 wRC+. Does any of that seem sustainable? Probably not. Does any projection system think Hays will even come close to re-capturing that success in 2020? Not in the least. Still, the 24-year-old showcased his potential in September and that glimmer of upside is hard to ignore; especially if Hays finds himself batting atop Baltimore’s lineup, which appears more and more likely by the day. First and foremost, a majority of the rookie’s at-bats this spring have come out of the one-spot. Secondly, Hays found himself hitting second for the Orioles during his final seven starts last season. With little internal competition for that leadoff role or playing time in general, Hays could be a very valuable way to end a draft.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the Orioles are going to be an extremely awful baseball team in 2020. Without getting into the weeds too heavily, let’s just say there’s more than enough to justify the fact that Baltimore is currently tied for the longest World Series odds in all of MLB. Still, though the team is earlier on in its rebuilding process than its divisional rival in Toronto, there remains a few interesting names that you should keep on your radar as we get deeper into the season. Along with the aforementioned trio of pitching prospects, Ryan Mountcastle could have an immediate fantasy impact. The 23-year-old tore up Triple-A in 2019 and he and his plus-power appear on the brink of a major league debut this summer.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.