Monday Mail: Wide Receiver Depth, Quarterbacks, the Maryland Situation and More

Monday Mail has returned. I apologize for the delay, and I hope you’ll cut me some slack. Thank you again for this week’s submissions and I hope that you’ll continue to submit questions each week.

Alright, it’s time for your mail.

That’s a good question. When Justin Fuente arrived at Virginia Tech, he and Brad Conrnelsen had the star talent at wide receiver but didn’t have the depth they were looking for. Cornelsen wanted anywhere from 6-8 receivers that could contribute.

This season, the Hokies are much closer to that 6-8 number. Here is what Tech’s first and second teams looked like on offense in the open practice last week.

Damon Hazelton, Hezekiah Grimsley and Eric Kumah will all be contributing this season. Hazelton should be Virginia Tech’s No. 1 option and Grimsley and Kumah will produce as well. Phil Patterson did very little in two games last season but given his talent, Patterson should be ready for his third year in the program. Savoy was highly productive in his first season but faltered down the stretch. All five of these players should be ready to contribute in some way.

Tre Turner is a bit of a wildcard. The true freshman missed most of his senior season with a shoulder injury and the slightly-built Turner would probably benefit from a year in the weight room. However, if Turner is cracking the two-deep in his first preseason camp, maybe he’s ready.

CJ Carroll is good enough to crack the rotation, but his constant injury issues could return again in 2018. Carroll gives the Hokies depth at slot receiver and can return punts and kicks, but how many games will he be available for?

Another dark horse is freshman Kaleb Smith. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound prospect impressed in the spring and with the Hokies lacking star power on the outside, everyone is going to get an opportunity out there. Smith might be a walk-on but he was originally committed to Wake Forest and held scholarship offers from East Carolina and Virginia. He’s no slouch.

In short, Virginia Tech should have at least six contributors at receiver this season. Not everyone I named will play well and Turner and Smith could easily redshirt. But the Hokies have options, something they lacked two seasons ago.

Judging from his senior highlight film, Quincy Patterson has a lot more arm talent than Josh Jackson. Not only does Patterson have the stronger arm but with time, he’ll have the accuracy and touch too.

Patterson is the prototypical quarterback. At 6-foot-4 and 236 pounds, Patterson has the unique combination of size, arm talent and athleticism. Patterson has all the tools to be a successful quarterback at the college level, he just needs time to learn and hone his skills.

Jackson is the opposite. Jackson lacks elite physical tools and size but is smart on the field and makes good decisions. Jackson has the demeanor of a senior and has an advanced knowledge of the offensive system. Jackson’s upbringing and intangibles compensate for some of the tools that he lacks, like a strong arm or quick feet.

Now we’re cooking with gas — some Orioles questions.

I’ve pondered the same question about Chris Davis. He’s on pace for one of the worst seasons in modern history, batting .160 and slugging just .303. Among qualified players, Davis’ -2.3 WAR is the worst in the major leagues. He’s the worst player in baseball this season.

As bad as Davis is, I somewhat understand keeping him in the lineup. Davis hit six bombs in July and drove in 11 RBIs but has cooled since. Given the Orioles’ youth movement, Davis needs to sit.

Trey Mancini’s future isn’t in left field, as you noted. Mancini is a defensive liability out there and is best-suited for first base. Moving him there now would be beneficial.

As long as Mark Trumbo is on the team, which shouldn’t be long, Trumbo should be in the lineup and in the field. Trumbo’s offensive output dwarfs that of Davis (17 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .790 OPS) and for some reason, Trumbo bats much better when playing in the field (1.091 OPS as first baseman and .921 OPS as a right fielder). Despite his poor defensive abilities, pushing Trumbo to left could help disguise his deficiencies.

It was fun watching Davis mash baseballs for a few years, but his time as come. Davis is nothing more than a platoon bat at this point and is no longer the solid first baseman that he used to be. I know he’s getting paid oodles of cash but at some point, you have to admit he’s sunken cost and move on.

I love me some Cedric Mullins. As a 13th round pick in 2015, it’s not surprising that he’s flown under the radar until this season. Mullins raked in Bowie to start the 2018 season, earning a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. Mullins continued to play well, driving in 18 runs over 59 games and finishing with a .757 OPS.

Since the Orioles called up Mullins, he’s done nothing but succeed. He’s 4-9 with three walks and his speed has given the O’s an instant upgrade in center field. As good as Adam Jones is, his shrinking range has cost Baltimore defensively.

Mullins may never be a star, but he’ll always be a productive player. He’ll be a solid defensive player and a potential leadoff hitter for his entire career. The Orioles may have found their center fielder of the future.

For those who are unaware of the problems that Maryland is having, here’s a solid recap of the entire disaster.

The ugly truth of it all of this — there is probably borderline abusive behavior going on at every single college athletics program in the country.

Not every program is actually abusive. Not every coach pushes kids too far. In fact, almost every coach in America knows where the line is and doesn’t cross it. Coaches usually know how to push kids without pushing too far. Sometimes, coaches lose control like Buddy Stephens at East Mississippi Community College or Jason Brown at Independence Community College.

In the case of Cam Goode, the word is that Goode couldn’t handle the strength and conditioning program at Virginia Tech. Most kids don’t have a problem, but some kids just don’t buy in. The whole point of summer conditioning for freshmen is to break them down so that they can be built back up properly. It’s a grueling process, but one that is necessary.

Maybe Goode was overworked. Maybe Ben Hilgart went over the edge and Goode had enough. We’ll likely never know, unless other players come forward with similar stories. Until then, it’s not fair to blame Goode or the Hokies. The two parted ways, and that’s that.

Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette Regains Credibility With Trade Deadline Moves

When Baltimore Orioles general manager Dan Duquette traded Manny Machado last month, he proclaimed that the organization was in full rebuild mode.

Duquette decreed that the Orioles were changing their entire organizational philosophy. With the blessing of notoriously difficult owner Peter Angelos and his sons John and Louis, Duquette announced that the Orioles would trade veteran talent before the July 31 trade deadline and begin reallocating the team’s resources to build for the future.

Given Duquette’s recent track record of financial and personnel mismanagement, Orioles fans had every right to be skeptical. Everyone knows a rebuild is necessary, but is Duquette the man for the job?

The early returns are positive. After moving Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 18, Baltimore traded closer Zach Britton to the division-rival Yankees. The Orioles then shipped Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers and Kevin Gausman to the Atlanta Braves. Neither Schoop or Gausman were up for free agency after this season, but the Orioles moved them anyway. That alone shows that Duquette is serious.

As painful as these last few trades have been, particularly with the Machado, Britton and Schoop deals, each has been a necessary step towards the Orioles catching up with the rest of the baseball world.

In case you don’t follow the Orioles, or baseball in general, here are the trades Baltimore made prior to the July 31 trade deadline.

July 18 — Orioles trade infielder Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Yusniel Diaz (No. 4 Dodgers prospect), infielders Rylan Bannon (No. 28 Dodgers prospect) and Breyvic Valera and pitchers Dean Kremer (No. 27 Dodgers prospect) and Zach Pop

July 24 — Orioles trade pitcher Zach Britton to the New York Yankees for pitchers Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers and Dillon Tate (No. 9 Yankees prospect)

July 30 — Orioles trade pitcher Brad Brach to the Atlanta Braves for $250,000 in international signing bonus slot money

July 31 — Orioles trade pitchers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves for pitchers Evan Phillips and Bruce Zimmerman, infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion (No. 14 Braves prospect), catcher Brett Cumberland (No. 30 Braves prospect) and $2.5 million in international signing bonus slot money

July 31 — Orioles trade second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers for infielders Jonathan Villar and Jean Carmona (No. 14 Brewers prospect) and pitcher Luis Ortiz (No. 7 Brewers prospect)

(Note: All prospect rankings are courtesy of MLB Pipeline.)

In terms of quantity, the Orioles brought in quite a haul for their stars and veterans. Duquette traded Machado, Britton, Brach, Gausman and O’Day for a total of 15 players, despite only two of them being top-100 prospects (Diaz and Tate).

Oriole fans were hoping for more value, especially in the Gausman trade, but Duquette got as much as he could realistically ask for. When all the value is assessed, the Orioles got more than enough.

Diaz and Tate are both big leaguers in at least an average capacity and have the upside to be impact players. Carroll has already been called up to the major league club and Rogers likely isn’t far off. Villar is now the team’s starting second baseman and is under club control through the 2021 season. Not all of the prospects will pan out but given the quantity of players acquired, the Orioles will get at least few big leaguers by default.

The $3 million in international signing bonus money is an undervalued asset by fans. The Orioles have been a non-factor on the international market for years, contributing to the team’s anemic farm system. Part of Duquette’s change in course is to invest heavily in the international market and as The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina reports, the Orioles now have more than $8 million allocated for international signings.

As an Orioles fan, it sucks to watch the team trade away most of it’s stars. Since 2012, Baltimore has been the most consistent team in the AL East and nearly made a World Series trip in 2014. But the window has closed and it’s time to focus on the future. If the Orioles manage this rebuild correctly, perhaps the Birds will get back to the playoffs soon.

Despite his failures in recent years, maybe Duquette is the right guy to lead the way.

Despite Reasonable Return, the Baltimore Orioles Lost the Manny Machado Trade

The Baltimore Orioles traded Manny Machado to the Lost Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. (Graphic via @masnOrioles on Twitter)

It didn’t have to end this way.

The Baltimore Orioles, who have four winning records since the 1998 season, didn’t have to trade the most talented player in the franchise’s history. But that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday.

The O’s traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, receiving five prospects in return. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect according to MLB.com, is the headliner and looks to be at minimum an everyday starter in the future. The Orioles also acquired infielders Breyvic Valera and Rylan Bannon and pitchers Dean Kremer and Zach Pop.

Given that Machado is a free agent at the end of the season, it seems like quite a haul. Still, the Orioles lost this trade.

The chickens have come home to roost. The Orioles’ mismanagement and poor decision making has turned the team into a laughing stock. And it didn’t have to be this way.

The Orioles could have locked up Machado years ago. When the Angels realized Mike Trout was on his way to becoming the best player in baseball, they didn’t wait until they were forced to trade him for prospects. The Angels signed him to a six-year, $144.5 million deal when Trout was just 22 years old.

Instead of treating Machado like the budding superstar he was, the Orioles played hardball. General manager Dan Duquette and the front office lowballed Machado, offering him a deal worth “well below $100 million” according to Fancred MLB insider Jon Heyman. The O’s dragged their feet.

As Baltimore fumbled the Machado situation, they locked up Chris Davis with a seven-year, $161 million contract in 2016. Since the deal, Davis has turned into one of the worst hitters in the league, striking out 530 times in 365 games. Davis hasn’t hit higher than .221 since the deal and this season, has just nine homers and 28 RBIs in 80 games this season.

Meanwhile, the Orioles let the former face of the franchise Nick Markakis walk in 2015 for a cool $44 million over four seasons. Markakis started his first All-Star game this week and is hitting .323 this season. Nelson Cruz left for Seattle for $57 million over four years and since joining the Mariners, Cruz has hit 148 home runs and been named an All-Star in three of the last four seasons.

By backing up the Brinks truck for Davis and letting Markakis and Cruz walk, the Orioles ballooned their payroll while making the team worse. A tight payroll combined with a 28-69 record at the All-Star break is no formula for re-signing your 26-year-old superstar.

The Orioles are now faced with a full rebuild. Duquette addressed the media after trading Machado on Wednesday, saying that the organization was ushering in a new era of front office practices.

Thanks Dan, I appreciate the changes. You’re about two or three years too late to decide to run the front office correctly, but good job. Hopefully Duquette won’t be the one running this rebuild.

It didn’t have to be this way, but this is the new reality for Orioles fans. We’ll likely have to see Zach Britton and Adam Jones playing for other teams in the near future, with the latter being nearly unbearable. We’ll also have to watch Machado play elsewhere and wonder just what could have been.

Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.