Battles for opening day become clearer

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With opening day a little more than a week away, battles for the 28-man roster are starting to become fairly clear. Let’s take a look at each of those battles and give our thoughts on who we think will end up on the opening day roster.

There are currently 42 players still on the roster though catcher Adley Rutschman, infielder Shed Long Jr., and relievers Isaac Mattson and Rico Garcia will not make the team due to injuries. That means there are ten more cuts to make to get down to 28.

Let’s take a look at Pitchers first.

Locks

  1. John Means – rotation
  2. Jordan Lyles – rotation
  3. Tyler Wells – rotation
  4. Bruce Zimmermann – rotation
  5. Jorge López – bullpen
  6. Cionel Pérez – bullpen (No options left and has thrown the ball real well this spring)
  7. Dillon Tate – bullpen
  8. Cole Sulser – bullpen

Semi-locks

9. Dean Kremer – Rotation or piggy back
10. Zach Lowther – Rotation of piggy back

The Contestants

Leading contenders:
11. Félix Bautista (RP) – Hasn;t allowed a hit all spring and throw in the upper 90s after deominating the minors last year. Turns 27 in June so his time is now.

12. Tanner Scott (RP) – Could very well be a lock but he has an option, pitched poorly in the second half last year and has pitched poorly this spring. The additional of Perez could allow the Orioles to send him to Norfolk until he can find his control. For now though, we think he makes the roster.

13. Keegan Akin (RP-piggy back) – A typical slow starter in the spring, Akin could be sent to Norfolk to find his mojo, but his ability to provide length and his left-handed arm gives him a leg up.

14. Bryan Baker (RP) – Has options but has pitched well this spring and dominated AAA last year.

15. Joey Krehbiel (RP) – Has options but has looked this spring and has put him into the competition due to the extended 28-man roster.

The Rest

Mike Baumann – His arm strength has returned but the team may want him to go back and pitch in the rotation at Norfolk. His ability to give length could help him make the team over Krehbiel or Baker.

Chris Ellis – A Non-roster guy, it’s doubtful the Orioles are going to DFA someone to add him when he’s basically a long guy, innings eater. He’ll head down to Norfolk.

Paul Fry – We could be wrong here, but Fry struggled so poorly and in the second half last year that he may have to go back to AAA and earn his way back. However, he was given a major league contract so the Orioles may very well be planning on him being part of the pitching staff, but that will come at the expense

Travis Lakins Sr. – Has thrown well this spring, but will head to AAA to be relief depth.

Spenser Watkins – NR depth at AAA.

Catchers

No real battles here. Adley Rutschman will start the year rehabbing a tricep injury and when he;s ready he’ll play at Norfolk until he’s deemed “ready”. Most likely that will happen once the Orioles get a 7th year of control.

16. Robinson Chirinos – Will start until Rutschman is promoted

17. Jacob Nottingham – Nottingham has gotten the most playing time by far and will backup up Chirinos until Rutschman is ready. A player will need to be DFA’d off full 40-man.

The Rest
Anthony Bemboom – Will head to AAA and be catching depth
Beau Taylor – With a lot of catching depth in the upper minors, at 32, he could just be released.

First Base

18. Ryan Mountcastle – Will be the everyday 1B with Mancini getting some playing time occasionally.

Second base and Shortstop
This has become an interesting battle and it really involves Rougned Odor and Jorge Mateo playing SS. Ramón Urías is going to start and play everyday with the only question whether that’s SS or 2B. Odor has been absolutely awful this spring with the bat and has not been very good in the field either. But the Orioles want his left-handed bat on the team and very well may give him a month or two before cutting him.

19. Ramón Urías – Playing everyday at SS or 2B. Defensively he fits better at 2B but won’t kill a team at SS
20. Jorge Mateo – He’s making the team either as the SS or utility. His ability to play the outfield, including CF makes him a no brainer for the team.
21. Rougned Odor – Were going to say he makes it even if he doesn’t play everyday but it would not totally surprise us if he was cut late like Yolmer Sanchez was last spring.

Third base
The Orioles gave a lot of folks time at 3B this spring but Kelvin Gutiérrez looks like he’s been able to keep his job. The best defender of the group, he’s hit well this spring.

22. Kelvin Gutiérrez

Designated Hitter
23. Trey Mancini

Utility
24. Chris Owings – A non roster player, Owings looks like he’s shown enough ability to play all three infield positions that he looks like a good bet to win a utility job. A player will need to be DFA’d off full 40-man.

Outfield
25. Austin Hays – LF
26. Cedric Mullins – RF
27. Anthony Santander – CF

28th man
With Jorge Mateo and Chris Owings’ ability to play the outfield, the Orioles may not need to carry a true 4th outfielder like Ryan McKenna. With a heavy right-handed lineup, the Orioles may want to keep the left-handed bat in DJ Stewart, but he’s been slowed by his bruised hand.

Contenders

DJ Stewart – Stewart makes the most sense because he can be used to give Mancini a day off against a tough right-hander and can in theory play LF and RF.
Ryan McKenna – McKenna has not hit well this year and may need everyday PAs to try and get better offensively at AAA. Mateo and Hay’s ability to play CF makes him redundant. }
Tyler Nevin – Played well overall this spring but the team may send him down to play often at 3B in AAA. Richie Martin – Nice spring, but can’t see how he makes it with Owings here.

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Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.