While Dan Duquette was busy re-designing and bolstering the new-look Orioles roster, we here at the @WinColumnMD were busy planning our first trip down to Spring Training. Little did we know that this will certainly become an annual trip down to sunny Sarasota, Florida. What turned out to be a whirlwind of a weekend left some pretty big impressions on both of us, so we thought we’d share some of our experiences and thoughts on the 2016 O’s here.
1. We’re so lucky to have Ryan Flaherty. Not many teams can boast a bench player that can play 6 positions, bat lefty, and hit home runs. He turned a really impressive double play with a runner bearing down on him Sunday vs. the Red Sox, showing he can more than get the job done defensively. This spring, he as been spreading the ball to all fields and has shown a really good batting eye. If he wasn’t our super utility man, Flaherty would be starting somewhere for someone.
2. Joey Rickard should be our starting left fielder. Not intending to overreact about Hyun Soo Kim‘s tough start, but Rickard has impressed defensively and has had several quality at bats. Buck values defense, and carrying guys like Trumbo, Kim, and Alvarez calls for a late-game, defensive sub. Rickard should be the man for that role. We originally slid him into a David Lough-type role with the club, but Rickard is continuing to swing a hot bat. The same hot bat that tore up multiple levels of the minors last year. If Kim continues to look absolutely lost both at the plate and in the field, we see J-Rick getting not only making the roster, but a significant role in the crowded O’s outfield.
3. Caleb Joseph is good enough to be an every day starter. He’s passable offensively and it’s very evident the pitchers are very comfortable throwing to him. He blocked a tough slider with a runner on third that brought our catcher friend to tears. Just like Flaherty, if he wasn’t our backup he would be starting for someone. If this season gets off to a rocky start, look for Matt Wieters to be an expendable piece for Duquette if the club is looking to 2017.
4. Dylan Bundy has some confidence back. Maybe he was just ignoring us out in the bullpen, but Bundy was locked in on Sunday and it showed when he took the mound. Originally guessing a 2015 Jason Garcia-type role for him, but he’s poised to be a nice addition to an already elite bullpen.
5. Mark Trumbo is really, really big and hits the ball really, really hard. It’s a little too soon to start comparing him to Nelson Cruz at this dish, but the ball jumps off his bat. And did we mention, he’s really, really big? (Almost as big as 3B prospect Jomar Reyes) Also, lucky for him, Kevin Keiermaier won’t be playing CF every night to run everything down. The 2015 platinum award winning CF’s defense was on full display, on the road, Saturday night. He can absolutely fly.
6. Mike Wright can be a successful starting pitcher in the major leagues. He has a full arsenal of 4 pitches, but just has to figure out where they’re going. Of course, that’s easier said than done. We’re also going to continue our call for Tyler Wilson to get a chance. He may not dominate, but this guy just knows how to pitch. And who doesn’t love a high socked pitcher? The starting staff is deeper than people thing, and they could withstand some injuries when they inevitably come about.
7. The Red Sox lineup could be scary. Betts, Bogaerts, Pedroia, Ortiz, Ramirez, Sandoval (rotund as he may be), Murphy/Young, Castillo, and Hanigan. Throw in Brock Holt and these guys should put up a lot of runs. We’ll see if their 2-5 starters with the exception of David Price and if their defense can keep pace with their high scoring, explosive offense.
8. Wayne Kirby is a treasure. He was constantly interacting with fans from the Orioles dugout Saturday night. He even got into a playful argument with a fan who questioned his outfield positioning against an opposing hitter, offering up his coaching helmet to the fan.
9. We already mentioned the O’s bullpen, but it needs to be mentioned again. The Orioles have the depth to be considered one of the top bullpens in all of Major League Baseball, and there should be no hesitating comparing them to the likes of Kansas City and the New York Yankees. Zach Britton was in mid-season form, and Darren O’Day, Mychael Givens, Brad Brach, Dylan Bundy all looked more than ready for Opening Day over the weekend. It will be extremely interesting how Buck and Duq handle the roster, because there’s another 5-6 guys that have the stuff to make an impact out of the pen as well.
10. Dariel Alvarez, a Win Column favorite, has an absolute cannon. Any chance #12 gets to show off his arm he takes, firing multiple throws 200+ feet around the diamond all weekend long. When we called out to him after one of his impressive throws, he shrugged it off, and it was clear he knows he has an impact arm, and he’s not afraid to use it. Dariel may be a year away from making his impact on the Orioles outfield, but it’s exciting to know what kind of talent they have down in on the farm
Now that we can check Spring Training off our bucket list, we can truly say that it is a must for any baseball fan and we will most definitely be going back. Don’t stay in North Fort Myers, though. Spend the extra money, stay near the various teams you want to see, and make the most of it. And if we can make one more suggestion, go see Jet Blue Park, spring home of the Red Sox. “Fenway South” is an unbelievable complex and the view from the Monster will take your breath away.