As we prepare to turn the calendar to March, it means Spring Training baseball is upon us. Hard to believe isn’t it? Though we’re still stuck in February for a few more days, which means that Grapefruit and Cactus League games don’t start until next week.
This is where the position battles take place and the fight to see who will crack the Baltimore Orioles Opening Day roster for the team.
Ah, the plethora of average baseball players: the Baltimore Orioles outfield. For me, Steve Pearce is the player who will probably see the least amount of time in left field just because he can fill Baltimore’s other vacant corner outfield spot, as well as play first base and be the designated hitter some nights.
I think this will be split mostly between De Aza and Lough with Young or Pearce stepping in against left handed pitchers. With the added bonus of Travis Snider, it allows Buck Showalter to make more changes based upon that game’s match ups.
Candidates: David Lough, Steve Pearce, Travis Snider and Delmon Young.
Similar to left field, expect to see more platoons. The only time I envision David Lough playing right field is if Pearce, Snider and Young all mysteriously went missing one night and he was the last option… and even then, Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty would probably still get dibs. I only list him because he is a plus defender with great awareness and speed in the field, something Delmon Young does not possess. I see Travis Snider getting the most starts out here with the rest being mixed in.
This position battle would not have gotten much attention if it not for the signing of J.P. Arencibia. It now opens the door for an x-factor in O’s camp to swoop in and take the job. However, I don’t see that happening at all.
The clear cut choice is Caleb Joseph just because he is the best defensive backstop in this group and has shown some flashes of being a decent contributor at the plate. The knock on Clevenger is that his defense is horrid compared to Joseph’s and he has as much chance throwing a guy out at second base as Matt Wieters does of stealing it. His story of being from Pigtown and playing for his hometown team is a good one, but it only goes so far in a competitive sport.
Left Handed Middle Reliever
This is probably the most predictable position battle, but I still felt like I should mention it to some extent. Matusz and Wright are out of minor league options and McFarland isn’t. Figure the rest out for yourself. I will, however, watch Wright pitch any chance I get because I have never seen him throw a baseball before and would like to confirm that he actually does in fact do that.
Fourth And Fifth Rotation Spots
The most talked about topic this offseason that had to do with people that actually play baseball involved the starting rotation and how it will be handled. Let me just start by saying a six man rotation will not happen. Get the idea out of your head and as far away from you as possible.
With that said, based only off last season, I give these spots to Gausman and Gonzalez. I don’t care what Jimenez does in Spring, he is still a long reliever to me. He is not earning his contract and should not be rewarded with a pity rotation spot just because he makes more money than any other starter on the roster. The team as a whole should not suffer just because of one guy’s contract. Yes, he has changed up his delivery and it showed some promise last September, but until Jimenez can prove he is worth a rotation spot, he is sitting in the bullpen.
Gausman is the easy choice, he has the best stuff of any pitcher in the rotation and can be a front line starter in the near future. As for Gonzalez, if he can continue to ride this train of luck with a low ERA and high FIP, then stay on board.
Spring Training is the best time for these types of battles to be fought, you get the mix of veterans not caring and young players trying so hard to be the 25th guy on the team. It’s what makes Spring Training the best preseason of any sport. Many of these decisions will only stick for a week or two and then the Norfolk to Baltimore trips become more frequent.