Next year is here! This will be the year! Unless you're a Cubs fan, and you realize the Ottoman Empire was still a thing when your team last won the World Series, and you open another can of Old Style to dull the pain ... but I digress. We're not Cubs fans, we're Orioles fans. We drink Natty Boh, and hope springs eternal. And while the Soviet Union may have still been a thing when the O's last won the World Series, as 2012 showed us, sometimes hope and faith are rewarded.
Two players in particular have quietly, almost imperceptibly, turned in performances that helped make the case for their places on the 25-man roster. Yes, these are Spring Training stats and they are mostly meaningless. After all, Adam Jones hit just .226 last spring, and he did OK once the regular season started. Lew Ford batted .407 in 17 Spring Training games, and he did not play a single game in MLB once the regular season started.
But let's look at two players who might, just might, be showing they have a place on this team for this season. All stats were through Tuesday's game.
Steve Clevenger (Catcher)
I had every intention of using Jonathan Schoop as the fielder/batter portion of this combo, until I read that Steve Clevenger had been told he'd made the 25-man roster. Having not really noticed his performance this spring, and poking around Orioles.com Spring Training stats, I decided to sort by On-Base Percentage. Michael Ohlman and Brian Ward and their 3 ABs a piece topped the list with .667. Small Sample Size indeed.
But there was Steve Clevenger with his .529 over 31 ABs in 12 games, and I realized he's had the most ABs of any catcher on the roster. And he's leading the semi-regulars and regulars in OBP, AVG and he's fourth in SLG. He's taken just 3 walks, so he's getting on base with hits. He has 2 doubles and 2 home runs (counting Wednesday's), but 15 hits in 31 ABs as of Tuesday is pretty good for your back-up catcher.
Clevenger has been told by Buck Showalter that he's won the back-up catcher's job. With emphasis on resting starters a bit more in 2014, Clevenger may yet prove to be a vital part of the roster and its odds of success.
Josh Stinson (Pitcher)
Yes, he's only had 7.0 IP this spring. Yes, half a dozen O's pitchers have yet to surrender an earned run this spring. But his.160 BAA and sub-1.00 WHIP of 0.86 stand out as well.
Manager Buck Showalter has said Stinson's going to be on someone's MLB team when the season starts. "He knows he’s presenting himself for our club if not for somebody else. He’s going to be in the big leagues with somebody more than likely when this camp is over," Showalter said.
A closer look at his spring numbers support Showalter's faith in him. He's given up one unearned run with just 2 walks and has struck out 7 batters in those 7.0 innings of work. (UPDATE: You can add another unearned run and another SIX strikeouts in 2.0 IP after Wednesday's game. Geesh - 6Ks in 2 innings! But you also have to add 3 walks. Boo.)
His 10:4 GO/FO rate is encouraging for a team that plays in a stadium that favors offense. Add in 2 Gold Glovers on the left side of the infield with J.J. Hardy and a healthy Manny Machado sometime in late April or early May, and Stinson's stuff will play at Camden Yards.
It's still March, some of Maryland probably still has snow on the ground, and starting Monday afternoon, none of these numbers will mean a thing. Let's hope Steve Clevenger and Josh Stinson continue their spring success when called upon once the games count.