Competition has dominated the conversation surrounding Baltimore’s camp this spring, and rightfully so. Young players rising to the occasion and battling for rosters spots is exciting, even if the forecast for the big league club is not.
With two weeks to go, a plethora of positions are up for grabs. The left side of the infield has yet to be determined, and there’s at least one outfield spot up for the taking. There are multiple holes in the rotation and bullpen, and we’re not even sure who they’ll all be throwing to yet. There have been surprises like Anthony Santander, strong play from the Rule 5 guys, and a step forward from several young outfielders.
It may be tough, but the Orioles will eventually settle on 25 Birds to head North for opening day. Once they get there, whats next? The Orioles hiring executive vice president Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde was the story of the offseason. Spring training will be remembered for all of the position battles. What does the beginning of the season look like?
The cynical storyline would revolve around how quickly the Orioles are eliminated from playoff contention, but we’ll find that out in due time. The most intriguing storyline of the start of the season will depend on how the spring ends.
Once the Orioles make their roster selections, the players will be expected to earn their keep. The organization and fans alike will dissect the play of the fringe players and wonder if they were the right choice. It’s not fair to judge a player based on the month of April, but a few of them may have made the team based off their play in March. So who will be under the microscope before the weather breaks?
As of now, it appears both Rule 5 infielders will begin the year in Baltimore. Richie Martin, the number one pick in the Rule 5 draft, may not be a lock to start at short, but he’s close to it. The former Oakland prospect has helped his cause with an impressive 9-26 in 10 spring training games.
Martin comes to Baltimore with the reputation of being a plus defender. As long as the former first-round pick plays quality defense, he can get away with some pedestrian plate appearances. That being said, if he looks lost with the bat, the Orioles may start to wonder if his .300 at Double-A last season was not an accurate representation of his abilities.
There may be more pressure on potential utility man Drew Jackson. Jackson has also hit this spring, sporting a .393 batting average in 15 games. Utility men are rarely known for their offensive prowess, so Jackson just needs to show he can hang. However, he has the opportunity to push for routine playing time if he can outshine Martin at the plate.
Pedro Araujo will likely be the third Rule 5 selection on the Opening Day roster. Will he be optioned immediately after fulfilling his Rule 5 requirements only 17 games into the season? More than likely. But then again, someone will have to take his place.
Chris Davis will continue to be scrutinized at the dish. Fans ran out of patience a long time ago, and the organization could follow suit if he does not show improvement early on. Davis’s playing time will be something to keep an eye on. He may start the season as the team’s primary designated hitter, but how long can you start a guy at DH that doesn’t hit?
If Davis serves as the designated hitter, Trey Mancini can play first base. With Mancini at first, both corner outfield spots should be open. Will Mancini be asked to play out of position again this year? That depends...
Mark Trumbo will make his spring debut this afternoon at 1:05 against the Blue Jays. Trumbo suffered a season-ending knee injury last August and eventually had surgery to repair a chondral defect in his right knee. Trumbo will start at DH and does not have any set plans to play the field yet this spring. Trumbo could break camp with the team and serve as the DH, but if he doesn’t, what happens when Trumbo gets the call and where does that leave Davis and Mancini?
With any rebuild, prospects garner a great deal of attention. Will Yusniel Diaz carry his impressive spring numbers with him to Norfolk? If so, how long until he takes the field at Camden Yards? Will DJ Stewart force his way back to the show? What position will Ryan Mountcastle play?
There’s not a lot of optimism in Baltimore right now, but there’s plenty of excitement around the team. With several things to keep an eye on, Opening Day will be here before we know it.