Written by Chris Slade
An update on how the team is performing statistically along with insight into the current roster battle situations:
Opening Day Starter
- Ubaldo Jimenez (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K’s)
- Chris Tillman (Spring Stats: 2.08 ERA, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K’s)
I wouldn’t call him the slam-dunk favorite yet but it will probably be Jimenez since he was the big offseason signing. He’s expected to perform as a premier starter for this rotation and is being paid as such, so it makes sense to give him the opening day nod over Tillman. Ubaldo looked very sharp in his Spring debut on 3/7 despite not having his peak velocity yet. Speaking of velocity, should we read anything into the fact that Tillman’s already sitting 92-93 mph in his first two Spring starts?
No. 3 Starter
- Wei-Yin Chen (Spring Stats: 3.60 ERA, 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K’s)
- Miguel Gonzalez (Spring Stats: 3.86 ERA, 2.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K’s)
This isn’t really a competition in the grand scheme of things. Both Gonzo and Chen are assured rotation spots and it doesn’t matter all that much which one is slotted third or fourth. That being said, I’m curious which one of these two will get the nod in Game 3 of the opening series versus the Red Sox. If I had to guess, I’d say Chen.
No. 5 Starter
Favorite: Bud Norris (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K’s)
As expected from day one, nothing seems to indicate otherwise that Bud Norris is in any danger of not winning the 5th’s starters job.
- Zach Britton (Spring Stats: 1.50 ERA, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K’s)
- Kevin Gausman (Spring Stats: 1.80 ERA, 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K’s)
- Brian Matusz (Spring Stats: 4.50 ERA, 4 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K’s)
Matusz seems like a lock to move back to the bullpen with Patton out until Mid-May. I will say that the quality of his changeup looks improved in the small sample I’ve seen Matusz pitch. That’s the righty-neutralizing pitch he needs that could determine whether he can start again down the road...Britton will also likely claim a bullpen spot. His stock is up in my book as he’s shown relatively sharp command of his sinker this Spring and apparently is touching 94-95 mph again...Gausman is the wild card. Reports came back very positive after he dominated the Red Sox projected regulars over three innings on 3/8. More than likely, he’ll start out at AAA as the first starter waiting in the wings when a need arises. But, he could force the Orioles hand if they’re sold the talented youngster is ready to take a big step forward.
Closer: Tommy Hunter (Spring Stats: 4.50 ERA, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K’s)
Nothing indicates Hunter is in danger of not succeeding Jim Johnson as the Orioles closer.
Set-Up: Darren O’Day (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K)
Same deal with O’Day. However, if that new changeup he’s working on progresses nicely, O’Day could emerge as a closer candidate (but that’s pure speculation on my part).
- Ryan Webb (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K’s)
With above average mid 90's sinker, Webb looks like he’ll be the groundball specialist and/or 7th inning go-to reliever for the O’s
- Brian Matusz (see above)
Final Three Bullpen Spots Competition:
- Zach Britton (see above)
- Josh Stinson (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K’s)
- Kelvin De La Cruz (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K)
- Alfredo Aceves (Spring Stats: 6.00 ERA, 3 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 HR, 0 BB, 2 K’s)
- Evan Meek (Spring Stats: 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K’s)
Assuming he isn’t traded or somehow makes the rotation, I’d say Britton is a near lock considering his out-of-options status. He’s been commanding the ball well and touching the mid-90's again with his sinker. He’s a potential weapon out of the bullpen...Stinson and De La Cruz are in the same boat with a lack of minor league options but aren’t necessarily locks to make the team over non-roster invitees, Aceves and Meek.
De La Cruz, for one, lacks major league experience, whereas Aceves and Meek are veterans who have had stints of major league success in their careers and could easily pitch their way on to the 40-man roster with standout Spring performances...Meek, in particular is off to a great start, throwing four perfect innings out of the pen, and reportedly feeling the best he’s felt since his all-star season with the Pirates in 2010.
De La Cruz gives the team an extra lefty-on-lefty weapon, but with Matusz and Britton, (plus Troy Patton when he returns in May) in the lefty relief picture, he may wind up on the outside looking in.
Stinson pitched well in a September trial, touching the mid 90's with his fastball and seemed to make a favorable impression on Buck. He’s pitched well so far this Spring and looks like a decent bet (but not a lock yet) to make the team.
Aceves has only made two appearances thus far with mixed results. Many seem to think the veteran, due to his versatility and major league experience in a variety of roles, has a great chance at claiming a bullpen spot, but it’s not a lock yet.
If I had to guess how it plays out right now…
I’ll say Aceves, Stinson, and Britton make the team. De La Cruz is put on waivers or traded. Meek accepts a reassignment to Norfolk with the promise that he’ll be one of the first arms recalled if he proves he really “is back” by showing some consistent dominance out of the Norfolk bullpen.
(Note: It’s possible the O’s could break camp with 13 pitchers, according to Roch Kubatko, which could open a 4th spot up)
Favorite: Steve Clevenger (Spring Stats: 4-for-12, .333 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, .385 OBP, .333 SLG)
Others: Johnny Monell (Spring Stats: 4-for-11, .364 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 BB, 4 K, .417 OBP, .636 SLG)
Baltimore native Steve Clevenger still seems like the obvious choice to break camp as the team’s backup catcher. At the end of the day, it seems Buck prefers whichever of these two is stronger defensively and all reports indicate that Clevenger has the upper hand there. Monell, however, as shown some ability as a left handed power bat in the early going. If he continues to swing a hot bat, it’s possible he could pull off the upset in the backup catcher race if the coaching staff thinks he can play satisfactory defense. Both of these two have minor league options.
Favorite: Ryan Flaherty (Spring Stats: 7-for-20, .350 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, .435 OBP, .600 SLG)
- Jonathan Schoop (Spring Stats: 8-for-15, .533 AVG, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, .563 OBP, .867 SLG)
- Jemile Weeks (Spring Stats: 2-for-14, .143 AVG, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 2 K, .381 OBP, .243 SLG)
Flaherty began the Spring has the clear favorite and while that’s still the case, it’s not a given. Schoop, the Orioles top hitting prospect, has put on a laser show this Spring and looks like a dark horse to win the job. I still think he will initially begin the season at AAA, but if his early Spring performance is an indicator, he could be up as soon as May, if Flaherty doesn’t take the job and run with it.
What about Jemile Weeks? Weeks has shown impressive speed and the ability to use it for good on the basepaths. He lacks punch at the plate, showing a disciplined approach, but not really much else to me as a hitter. I think he could split time at second base with Flaherty, but I don’t envision him winning the job outright. He has options, so he’s not a lock to make the team either.
- Nick Markakis (Spring Stats: 10-for-16, .625 AVG, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, .625 OBP, 1.000 SLG)
- David Lough (Spring Stats: 6-for-17, .353 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, .421 OBP, .588 SLG)
At the beginning of the Spring, I would’ve called Markakis the odds-on favorite but I’m not so sure now. Lough has seen several starts in the leadoff spot this Spring and has performed very well showing a better than expected ability to work the count and steal bases. Markakis also has been crushing the ball this Spring, and with his offseason weight gains, may be more of a power hitter and run producer this season, making Lough the better fit to see the lion’s share of starts in the leadoff spot.
(Jemile Weeks, IF he makes the team, has game changing speed, and may see some leadoff starts as well.)
Final Two Bench Spots:
- Delmon Young – OF/DH (Spring Stats: 4-for-14, .286 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 3 K, .286 OBP, .387 SLG)
- Francisco Peguero – OF (Spring Stats: 4-for-15, .267 AVG, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, .313 OBP, .400 SLG)
- Nolan Reimold – OF/DH (Spring Stats: 2-for-13, .154 AVG, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, .313 OBP, .154 SLG)
- Steve Pearce – OF/1B (Spring Stats: 6-for-21, .286 AVG, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, .348 OBP, .381 SLG)
- Henry Urrutia – OF/DH (Spring Stats: 2-for-9, .222 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, .300 OBP, .333 SLG)
- Alex Gonzalez – INF (Spring Stats: 6-for-14, .429 AVG, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, .429 OBP, .714 SLG)
- Michael Almanzar – 3B/1B (Spring Stats: 3-for-16, .188 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, .235. OBP, .250 SLG)
That’s one crowded picture, right? The glories of the Dan Duquette stockpiling routine.
I can’t call him a clear favorite but I like Delmon Young’s chances of earning one those final two spots the best. He’s in good shape, has been making consistent hard contact, and has upside as a right handed hitting DH that can wear out lefties. After him, it’s anybody’s guess. Francisco Peguero is young, talented, and out of options. He’s performed well in a small sample and is easily the best outfield defender and baserunner of this group which may give him the ultimate edge in winning the final roster spot.
Reimold has not made a strong early impression. He’s recovered from his neck issues but doesn’t appear to be in great “baseball shape” yet. As of now, I think he may get cut. Same deal with Steve Pearce, a favorite of mine, who’s a solid professional hitter off the bench and can adequately backup first base and the corner outfield spots. I have a feeling he might get traded if the O’s don’t think they can sneak him through waivers.
Urrutia, who put on 25 pounds this offseason, is the only one in this group that has minor league options. He’s been slowed by a sore shoulder lately and I think he’ll end up at AAA to start the season.
Gonzalez is the wily 15-year vet who has looked better than expected and may still be able to contribute in a backup role at the big league level. But, I only think he makes the team if Machado has to start the season on the DL. Finally, we have Almanzar, the Rule 5 pick whom I fully expect will be offered back to the Red Sox because he isn’t ready defensively or offensively yet to contribute on a major league bench.
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