Fantasy Breakdown: Baltimore Orioles for 2021

A preview of Baltimore's lineup, rotation, and bullpen for 2021.

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

At A Glance

 

The Baltimore Orioles managed to avoid occupying last place in the AL East for a fourth straight year in 2020, as that honor went to the Boston Red Sox. The O’s crept by the Sox by a single game, and with a 25-35 (.417 W%) record, Baltimore has been slowly but surely improving since their dismal 2018. However, they are still quite far off from contention. 

The Orioles are still in the midst of a painful rebuild, so while most of their roster won’t be worth picking up outside the deepest of leagues, they do have some intriguing names for both pitchers and hitters that could be sneaky good additions to your fantasy teams in 2021. 

 

Hitters

By Liam Casey

Projected Lineup

 

Infielders

Trey Mancini (First Base/Designated Hitter/Outfield)

2020: Did not play

2021 ADP: 191.63 (OF #51)

 

Mancini is poised to be back in action for 2021 after a disheartening cancer diagnosis ended any hope of him taking the field in 2020. With Mancini thankfully now healthy, the Orioles will look for him to pick up where he left off in 2019, when he had the best season of his career, slugging 35 home runs to go along with a .291/.364/.535 triple slash. While the offensive talent around him is less than stellar, Mancini can still carve out a productive season and will be most likely not be drafted until much later rounds. Taking a flier on him late in drafts could pay some massive dividends.

 

Outfielders

 

Austin Hays (Left Field)

2020: 20 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 2 SB, .279/.328/.393 | OF #51

2021 ADP: 226.58 (OF #61)

Hays hasn’t gotten a full season to make his mark in the majors just yet, compiling just 74 games across three seasons. At the end of 2019, Hays looked like a productive regular in the making, with a .309/.373./574 batting line in 21 games. In 2020 though, Hays took a bit of a step back, especially in the rate stats department. What Hays will get plenty of, though, is playing time, most of which will come at the leadoff spot. With Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander hitting behind him, Hays will have some opportunities to pad his counting stats if he can capitalize. The good news is that Hays will most likely go in very late rounds or even go undrafted, so you won’t have to invest much in him off the bat.

 

Anthony Santander (Right Field)

2020: 24 R, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 0 SB, .261/.315/.575 | OF #49

2021 ADP: 160.42 (OF# 43)

While the main knock on Santander is his poor on-base ability, the power output has shown some promise. In 2019, Santander hit 20 homers in only 93 games, and could easily top 25 or 30 to go along with an average in the mid-to-high .200s. The main value here, as it is with many of the Orioles, is that Santander is currently projected to be going fairly late in drafts. That is not to say that he is without flaws, as in leagues that score OBP or OPS might be a bit harder to stomach Santander’s low OBP. But if your roster is constructed well enough, Santander is a possible 30-homer bat you might be able to pick up off the waiver wire.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

I don’t think we can talk about the Orioles without mentioning Chris Davis (1B). Or, at least, I can’t. Hear me out. Once upon a time, Davis was among the elite power bats of the league. However, a litany of issues has caused Davis to become completely unrosterable in all formats. It’s been several years since Davis has even been able to top an AVG of .200, but the 34-year-old could be one tweak away from getting his groove back. It’s a long shot, so stick Davis on your watch list and wait it out.

Ryan Mountcastle is an interesting case, and could find his way onto some rosters by season’s end. Mountcastle has had some serious defensive issues, so playing time could be a factor. But he has shown he can hit at every level, and a .333/.386/.492 line across an admittedly small sample of 35 games is encouraging.

There is also the O’s top prospect to consider, the crown jewel of the farm system in Adley Rutschman (C). The Oregon State product is one of baseball’s top prospects, and could easily force his way to the majors sooner than later. However, being such a high-profile prospect will land Rutschman on many radars, so keep your ear to the ground on how the team accelerates his development.

The roster really thins out after that. Neither Chance Sisco nor Pedro Severino are really deserving of roster spots (unless you’re desperate) and the remainders of Cedric Mullins, Rio Ruiz, Richie Martin, DJ Stewart, and Yolmer Sánchez don’t project for much going into 2021.

 

Starting Pitchers

By Liam Casey

John Means (Locked In Starter)

2020: 2-4, 43.2 IP, 42 K, 4.53 ERA, 0.98 WHIP | SP #118

2021 ADP: 228.72 (P#83)

Repertoire: 52.3% 4-Seam Fastball, 24.7% Changeup, 12.6% Curveball, 10.3% Slider

Pitcher List favorite John Means has been climbing draft boards over the last couple offseasons, and not without good reason. Means had a very solid 2019 season in which he threw 155 innings to the tune of a 3.60 ERA. In 2020, the ERA spiked up to 4.53 and Means seemed to be having some issues with the long ball across his 10 starts. While he won’t blow you away in the strikeout department, he keeps hard contact in check with his excellent repertoire and will keep his WHIP down around 1.00. Means isn’t flashy, but he’ll log innings and most likely won’t cost you a high pick. I won’t go as far as to say John Means is going to be some sort of league winner, but he’s the type of starter you want for a deep, effective rotation.

 

Alex Cobb (Locked In Starter)

2020: 2-5, 52.1 IP, 38 K, 4.30 ERA, 1.34 WHIP | SP # 138

2021 ADP: Undrafted (P# 276)

Repertoire: 47.5% Sinker, 35.2% Splitter, 16.7% Curveball

It’s been a rough go of things for Cobb in his Orioles tenure. Since coming over from the division rival Rays in 2018, Cobb has been plagued with injuries and has only managed to throw 64.2 innings over the last 2 seasons combined. Cobb changed up his approach around 2017, when he abandoned his four-seamer and now relies heavily on the sinker and splitter. And for 2020, things were finally looking like they were getting back on track for Cobb a bit. And while the end product won’t have anyone lining up to get shares of Alex Cobb, he could still be an effective matchup-dependent streamer. If he can recapture anything from his vintage days in Tampa, Cobb could himself on a decent percentage of rosters. The risk here is obvious, but as a borderline watch list consideration, no one should be relying too much on a comeback.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

Keegan Akin made his major league debut in 2020, and the lefty serves up some of the hardest contact in the league. The Orioles are lookin to develop his offspeed offerings more, which they hope will help harness his propensity for both strikeouts (12.27 K/9) and walks (3.51 BB/9). Akin is still raw but could develop into a middle of the rotation arm.

Dean Kremer is also worth keeping an eye on, who, like Akin, can rack up strikeouts (10.61 K/9) but struggles to keep the walks in check (5.79 BB/9). If Kremer can keep his curveball the effective weapon it has the potential to be, he could be a decent starter down the line. Throw both Akin and Kremer on your watch list and see if they can figure things out.

Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles’ best prospect outside of Rutschman, is still too far away from the big leagues to be considered for 2021 and while he has ace potential, he will need more work in the minors first.

 

Relief Pitchers

By Liam Casey

Bullpen Roles

 

Hunter Harvey (Closer)

2020: 0 SV, 4 HLD, 8.2 IP, 6 K, 4.15 ERA,  1.15WHIP | RP #121

2021 ADP: 402.15 (P #153)

Harvey didn’t get much action in 2020, mostly due to an elbow issue that held him on the IL until the end of August. Despite some other solid options in the O’s pen, it appears as of now that Harvey will occupy the closer’s role in 2021. We’re still not sure just how reliable a reliever Harvey will be, not to mention the possibility of landing on the IL again. But if he is penciled in as the closer on Opening Day, he’ll be your first option to go to for saves. After a strong 2019 in the bullpen, Harvey will get a shot at showing that the iffy 2020 was an aberration.

 

Tanner Scott (Setup)

2020: 1 SV, 5 HLD, 20.2 IP, 23 K, 1.31 ERA,  1.W06 HIP | RP #145

2021 ADP: Undrafted (P #257)

As arguably the best pitcher in the 2020 Orioles bullpen, Scott deserves a mention here not only for his utility in holds leagues, but also the fact that Hunter Harvey could realistically lose his job as the closer at any time. If that becomes the case, I think it would behoove Brandon Hyde to anoint Scott the new closer in Harvey’s stead. Scott shouldn’t be rostered out of the gate in non-holds leagues, but he could be heavily rostered come the end of the year.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

The rest of Baltimore’s relief situation is very fluid. Since the departure of Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro, there’s been some haze about what roles will go to who going forward.

With Harvey and Scott the strongest options for SV/HLD, César Valdez name is probably the next best bet for holds. Valdez has never been an effective reliever until this year, and he did so in style, ending up with three saves and a shiny 1.26 ERA. However, 35-year-old relievers who are suddenly good have to be treated with caution. But he’s definitely worth sticking on the watch list.

Going further, we also have Shawn Armstrong, who picked up three holds over 15 innings and figures to be heavily involved in the middle relief mix. There’s also Dillon Tate, who may be relegated to long relief duties since he was most recently attempting to be a starter. Guys like Paul Fry and Isaac Mattson will be in the mix for holds here and there, but are most likely not worth monitoring unless the team has a massive bullpen shakeup like a trade or injury.

2019 Positional Rankings from Razzball’s 12-team Player Rater (ESPN).

Photo by Cliff Welch, John Cordes & Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter and Instagram)

Liam Casey

Liam is a lifelong Yankee fan currently residing in Long Island, NY with his fiancee and their 2 dogs.

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