If you believe the ESPN rankings, Jason Hammel is projected to be the 434th-best player in MLB in 2012. He could start for the Orioles on Opening Day.
Spring training games are kind of on the boring side. The visiting team only brings like three regular players, and for between three and five innings the field is full of players who will never appear on a 25-man roster in their lifetimes, let alone this season. With two weeks still to go until its conclusion, and nearly every positional battle decided before camp even got underway, there's only so many things to talk about before everyone starts going a little crazy.
Into this void of boredom comes ESPN, with a bold project: a ranking of the top 500 players based on what they expect to happen in the 2012 season. To get the top 500 players, they started with a list of the top 600 who are expected to play at the major league level in 2012. The players were then ranked by 34 ESPN people on a scale of 0-10 and the rankings were compiled. According to this page, the polling took place over the last two weeks of February.
Today, they unveiled the first batch of the rankings: numbers 401-500. They will be steadily releasing more of the rankings each weekday from now until April 3, when 1-10 will be shown. As for today's listing, the Orioles have three players in this range: Tommy Hunter is 493rd, nestled in just ahead of Vernon Wells; Kevin Gregg is 439th, right before Bruce Chen; and Jason Hammel is 434th, edging Josh Reddick in the rankings.
With the Orioles, the question is less going to be where do various other players rank as much as it will be how many players don't rank at all. A list of the top 500 players is so expansive that if talent were distributed equally (which, of course, it isn't) this still includes either 16 or 17 players from every MLB club. Yet even with that there are probably a lot of Orioles who are not on here. As bad as the Orioles are, most of the regular position players should appear on the remainder of the list. 400 players is a lot of players.
Another interesting thing to see will be who is the highest ranked Oriole and how high that player will be on the rankings. For me, there's no doubt the highest-ranked O should be Matt Wieters, somewhere in the range of 40-50, though if you are bullish on him he could be even higher. By fWAR, Wieters was in fact tied for 42nd in 2011.
Who do you think will be the highest-ranked Oriole? Who do you think *should* be the highest-ranked Oriole? How many Orioles do you think will not make the rankings at all? The schedule calls for 351-400 to be released tomorrow, so perhaps we will see another couple of Orioles putting in an appearance then.