Orioles new approach makes 2019 Spring Training the most exciting in years

Yes, you read that headline correctly.

The Baltimore Orioles are coming off a historically poor season that accumulated 115 losses. It’s very possible that the Orioles will lose 100 games again in 2019. Even though no one expects the Orioles to come anywhere near the playoffs this year, the brand new, technology-driven approach introduced to several young players by General Manager Mike Elias, Assistant GM Sig Mejdal, and Manager Brandon Hyde makes this year’s Spring Training the most exciting Orioles camp in years.

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Orioles trade Machado to Dodgers, receive five prospects in return

On Wednesday night the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers officially announced the long-awaited trade that will send All-Star shortstop Manny Machado to  L.A. in exchange for five minor league players.

The five players the Orioles received are Yusniel DiazRylan BannonDean KremerZach Pop and Breyvic Valera. Diaz highlights the group as one of the Dodgers top five prospects but Bannon and Kremer can also be found in the MLB.com top-30 rankings for the Dodgers.

The 21-year-old Diaz entered the Dodgers system in 2014 after becoming a standout in Cuba’s top league and has since worked his way to Double-A Tulsa where he was hitting .314 with 30 RBI’s in 59 games. Diaz still has room to grow on defense but can play both center and right field. Scouts are still waiting for his power to develop but he currently makes up for that with above-average speed.

Bannon is in the middle of his first full season after being drafted in 2017. At Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, the 22-year-old is hitting .296 with 20 home runs in 89 games. Bannon has split time between third and second base this year but impresses at both thanks to a strong arm and good range. His bat has been consistent so far but it will have to get better before he continues to rise through the minor league ranks.

Kremer rounds out the trio of top-30 MLB.com prospects and also marks one of two pitchers in the deal. The Orioles put a heavy emphasis on acquiring pitching prospects in exchange for Machado since they have been unloading a handful of them away over the past few years. Kremer has spent most of his 2018 season in Rancho Cucamonga as well.

The 22-year-old right-hander has started 17 games so far in 2018 and holds a modest 5-3 record with a 3.03 ERA. Of his four pitches, Kremer uses his fastball the most. The heater clocks in between 91-94 mph but he likes to mix things up with a big-breaking curveball. He is also in the process of developing his slider and change up as he stays in the starting role.

Pop is the other pitcher included in the deal. He has split his 2018 campaign between Rancho Cucamonga and Great Lakes (the Dodgers other single-A affiliate). Pop has not started any games but holds a 1.04 ERA with 47 strikeouts in a little over 43 innings of relief.

The fifth player, Valera, is the only one in the group to reach the major league level so far. Valera made his MLB debut in 2017 at the age of 25 and has since played in 25 games for the Dodgers. Despite only batting .154 at the major league level, Valera has been successful with Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 26-year-old utility player is hitting .284 with 25 RBI’s in 56 starts at Triple-A this year. Valera is predominantly used as an infielder but has also spent some brief time in the outfield in both the minors and majors.

For days the baseball world seemed to revolve around Machado and where he would be ending up. There were reports this past weekend that he could find himself in Philadelphia when the season resumes. But, the Dodgers re-entered the mix on Tuesday as Machado was preparing to suit up in an Orioles jersey one last time for the All-Star game. The 26-year-old will now finish his 2018 season on the west coast in what the Dodgers hope to be their sixth straight trip to the postseason.

Los Angeles became the early favorite to land Machado earlier this season when they lost their starting shortstop, Corey Seager, to a season-ending injury. While Machado’s contract does expire after this season, he remains a valuable asset to any team trying to make a playoff run.

In seven seasons with Baltimore, Machado hit .283 with 162 home runs and 471 RBI. His hot start to 2018 put him the MVP conversation early on and since then he has remained consistent at the plate. He is on pace to have a career year in multiple stat categories but will now have to keep that up while facing some National League pitching. Machado is a .281 career hitter with 17 home runs and 67 RBI’s in over 100 interleague games.

Image Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images