We’re just two short days away from Opening Day and the Baltimore Orioles 25-man active roster has seemed to take shape. We have a pretty good idea who we will, and who we won’t be seeing run down the “Orange Carpet” at 3 PM on Thursday afternoon. This article will feature some of those latter players beginning their seasons at one of the Orioles minor league affiliates. Players that, in my opinion, could make a serious impact in one way or another. Here are some guys I am excited to see suit up later this season:
Cedric Mullins, OF (Bowie Baysox)
Cedric Mullins, 23, in my opinion, is one of the more intriguing players in the Orioles’ minor league system. As a non-roster invite to big league camp in Sarasota, Mullins made it to the final round of cuts, and seemed to make a serious impression on the big league coaching staff with both his defense and speed. Despite only hitting .200 this spring, Mullins showcased some of his unique skills, with 5 of his 8 hits going for extra bases, while swiping 3 bags in his limited time on-base. That whole speed thing is not exactly something the O’s have been associated with over the past few seasons. It will be interesting to see how Mullins, 56 career SB’s in just 3 minor league seasons, could potentially fit into the crowded Orioles outfield mix.
While we may not see him right off the bat, Mullins rise to the big leagues is very dependent on things out of his control. For now, Craig Gentry seems to have the Trey-Mancini-designated-defensive-replacement spot under wraps. But if Gentry’s bat stays quiet (per his career), maybe Orioles manager Buck Showalter will have to try some other options. Especially if Mullins can replicate his torrid start to 2017, in which he slashed .367/.403/.683 in April and .409/.429/.614 in August. His speed and defense are certainly not in question, but his consistency at the plate and health need to be solidified in 2018.
Austin Hays, OF Bowie Baysox
Hays, 22, is the Orioles’ #1 prospect heading into 2018 (according to MLB.com’s prospect rankings) and had a bit of a disappointing spring training. Hays battled a sore shoulder and never really got into the swing of things in Sarasota hitting just .243 with an OPS under .600. This coming after an off-season in which a lot of chatter included Hays’ name on potential Orioles Opening Day rosters.
Spin zone for Hays is that he’ll get the chance to have consistent at-bats, rather than, at-most, platooning for the Orioles right field job. If he can make the most of his opportunity and produce as he did in 2017, we may see Hays back up for more than the cup of coffee he got at the tail end of last season.
Following his re-assignment to AA Bowie, Hays tweeted “Stay Positive. Keep Working.” It wouldn’t surprise me to see Hays get off to an extremely hot start in AA and put pressure on the Orioles front office to keep him stashed away.
Stay positive. Keep working.
— Austin Hays (@TheAustinHaysss) March 24, 2018
Hunter Harvey, RHP Bowie Baysox
Riddled by injury the past few seasons, it’s easy to forget Hunter Harvey is just 23 years old. Harvey, the former Orioles’ #1 overall prospect and 2013 1st round pick, hopes his career can begin to take the shape of a similar former #1 overall prospect/1st round pick; Orioles’ Opening Day starter Dylan Bundy.
Harvey, like Mullins, played nearly the entire spring with the Orioles’ Grapefruit League squad before being re-assigned late in camp to AA Bowie. Harvey displayed his plus-stuff against some quality, big league opponents. In my opinion, if his pitch arsenal is back to what it was prior to his array of injuries, the Orioles should not hesitate to call him up. While their hands may be tied for the first 44 days of the season while carrying three Rule 5 players on their 25-man roster (a post for another day), having a dominant, young arm with options available is a luxury. And with the Orioles window of contention rapidly closing, wasting Harvey’s healthy innings at the minor league level is foolish. If he’s one of the best 12 pitchers in the organization, let’s see what the kid’s got.
Acquiring a consistent, left handed relief arm seemed to be at the top of many’s off-season wish lists for the Orioles organization. While Dan Duquette did not chose to add one in via free agency, these two southpaw’s emerged as strong candidates throughout this spring. Edgin allowed just 1 run, on 2 hits in 7 innings pitched this spring, while Rodriguez pitched to a 0.87 ERA, allowing 1 run in 10.1 innings pitched. Both were left off the Opening Day roster due to that same roster inflexibility. If Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr or Mike Wright struggle in April, I would not be surprised to see a “mystery DL” trip from somebody on the pitching staff, and giving one or maybe both of these lefties a chance.
Needless to say, Duquette, Brady Anderson and Showalter are going to have to work some more of their “Orioles Magic” this season if they hope to compete. Roster manipulation has been one of the Orioles strong suits the past few seasons, and it truly allows them to compete while most wrote them off. They seem to have handcuffed themselves this year with a combination of their roster decisions and moves throughout the off-season. Only five potential call-ups were listed above, and there are numerous others competing for their chance at the show. It will be fascinating to see who stays and who goes in the first few months of the season. Who knows; if there isn’t success on the field, we just might see the dismantling of the Orioles as we currently know them. As unfortunate as that may be, perhaps someone who didn’t make the Opening Day roster will be a key player in the next wave of talent to reach Camden Yards.