Often times in postseason play, it’s a team’s role players, not the superstars, that make the difference in winning or losing a championship.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the star-power to win the NBA Finals, but when injuries struck down the stretch, they lacked the overall depth and talent they needed, and fell short of their ultimate goal. The same goes for baseball, and the Orioles are no exception.
O’s manager Buck Showalter will have to rely heavily on all twenty-five men on his roster if he hopes to make a late-season charge into October. This becomes even more challenging with the current “roster crunch” underway in Baltimore. The Orioles are fortunate to have a deep talent pool, but how the team is assembled in the coming weeks will be very interesting.
The Orioles, like most good teams, rely heavily on their role players. This is especially the case in 2015, as the Birds had to fill huge voids left behind by former-Oriole greats Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. The Orioles lineup lost a top-notch leadoff hitter, a gold-glove award winning outfielder, and one of, if not the most powerful hitter in the league.
This put a ton of pressure on role players such as Travis Snider, Delmon Young, Ryan Flaherty, Jimmy Paredes, David Lough and Caleb Joseph to step up there play this season. Not only did these players have to step into roles left behind by Nelly and Markakis, they had to do so while staving off other players within the franchise.
I believe the role players listed above have been pushed all season by other members of the organization. This level of competition speaks to the great 40-man roster that Dan Duquette and Buck were able to put together this offseason. Nolan Reimold, Chris Parmelee and Steve Clevenger are just a few of the names that have been playing extremely well at Triple-A Norfolk.
These are the guys that are making Buck and Duq’s job more difficult by the day, but having a problem like this is truly a luxury. Reimold and Parmelee have now had a week or two at the major league level, but let’s take a look at how the prospects have been faring down in Norfolk:
- C Steve Clevenger: .336, 44 H, 2 HR, 6 2B, 20 RBI
- 1B/OF Chris Parmalee: .312, 73 H, 6 HR, 13 2B, 32 RBI
- OF Nolan Reimold: .286, 50 H, 2 HR, 12 2B, 13 RBI
- OF Dariel Alvarez: .282, 78 H, 11 HR, 12 2B, 38 RBI
- OF Henry Urrutia: .271, 67 H, 4 HR, 9 2B, 22 RBI
- 1B Christian Walker: .260, 66 H, 2 HR, 18 2B, 22 RBI
These are just a few of the top-prospects in the farm system for the Orioles. These guys are having a ton of success in the minor leagues, and the case can be made for all of them that they should be getting their shot in Baltimore. I think that it’s this presence and pressure being put on the Orioles’ role players that is driving their recent success on the field.
While a few of the role players got off to shaky starts, their success has not been coincidental to the Orioles recent charge within the division. The O’s are 13-4 their last 17 games, and here are a few reasons why:
- Travis Snider is quietly having one of, if not the best single season of his career: On pace for 100 hits, 21 doubles, 42 runs-batted-in and 42 runs.
- Jimmy Paredes is batting .305 on the year, and leading all of MLB batting .463 with RISP.
- 10 of Ryan Flaherty’s 14 RBI have come in June, and has raised his average to .248.
- David Lough has 2 HR and 7 RBI this month in limited opportunities, while still showing his plus-defense.
- Orioles are 29-4 when Caleb Joseph has an RBI in his career, and he is hitting .371 with RISP.
- Paredes and Joseph leading the way for Orioles .305 with RISP (#1 in MLB).
Injuries certainly have affected the 2015 season, but the club is finally starting to get healthy, and we’re not too far away from having all of our starters back on the field. Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy have recently returned, and are back leading this team both offensively and defensively. With 2B Jonathan Schoop now on a rehab-assignment in Double-A Bowie, the O’s should be at full strength in no-time. This poses many of the questions with regard to the “roster crunch” dilemma.
I, for one, don’t like to think of this as a problem. Having too much talent is a blessing, not a curse. Buck and Duq are masterminds when it comes to handling a major league roster, and I’m sure they’ve got a trick or two up their sleeve to make this thing work. Schoop is returning, so somebody has to go, but I’ll leave the speculating to who that will be up to you (*cough*cough* Steve Pearce *cough*cough*). T
The most interesting aspect of this thing is, while all of starters are getting healthy and the prospects are tearing it up at the Triple-A level, the role players are starting to step it up and get the job done.
Are you going to option Ryan Flaherty while he’s having one of the most productive months of his career? Are you going to demote David Lough, who really has held his own in Adam Jones‘ recent absence?
Travis Snider certainly isn’t going anywhere while he’s performing up to expectations. Are you going to part ways with Chris Parmelee who hit 3 HR in his first 6 AB’s with the big league club? I’d also like to think Nolan Reimold isn’t going anywhere either, as he’s finally healthy and getting his shot.
I’m glad these decisions aren’t up to me, because I certainly wouldn’t know what to do. And it’s not to say that this level of competition within the organization is only with regard to position players. I believe the same thing is going on for the Orioles’ starting rotation, as well as the bullpen. The entire pitching staff has been interchangeable and spectacular all year. Buck has to be confident in the 6-7 potential starting pitchers he has in his arsenal, as well as the 10-12 relievers at his disposal.
Who stays? Who goes? We’ll see, but whoever takes the field will be ready to go, and should be confident knowing that they have outplayed their competition from within the organization.