After four signings and two trades, the Orioles seem to be in a good place with their major league roster at this point heading into Spring Training. Other than another pitcher or two, most of the spots on the 25 man roster have been filled, and only one spot remains on the 40 man roster.
Here is a piece by piece breakdown of how the 25 man roster will look like heading into Spring Training (as of 1/7/11):
I have to believe that, barring a veteran signing, Chris Tillman will make the back end of our rotation coming out of ST. The only way Zach Britton may steal that spot is if he can prove to Buck that he is 100% ready to handle the majors, but otherwise, I expect him to start out down in Norfolk for at least 15-20 starts heading into the season. Other possible options for a fifth starter include Troy Patton, Rick VandenHurk, Jim Johnson, and Jason Berken.
The Orioles have four guys signed on for their bullpen next season (Accardo, Gonzalez, Uehara, Gregg) who have at least 10 saves in a single season during their careers. That stat alone is why I believe this team may surprise baseball this year with one of the most stable bullpens out there. Not looking too much in depth at how each guy will be used, it is believed that a mix of Johnson, Gonzalez, Uehara, and Gregg will be used every night at the back of the bullpen (mixed in the 8th and 9th innings), with Berken and Accardo as middle inning relievers, and VandenHurk taking on the long relief spot vacated by Mark Hendrickson. The one hole in the bullpen right now is the LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY). Mike Gonzalez, the only LHP in the bullpen as of now, will make roughly $6 million next season, and that would be quite the sum of money for just a lefty specialist. With Troy Patton (LHP) waiting in the wings at AAA last season, a few spots in this pen may be up in the air based on performance and injuries throughout Spring Training.
Wieters is obviously the Orioles everyday catcher in 2011, and I believe the O’s will hold onto Jake Fox as the backup to begin the season. Fox can also take over at 1B if necessary, along with the outfield corners when needed. Craig Tatum is the only other option for the Orioles at this point, and the battle between him and Fox for the backup job should be interesting to watch in Sarasota. If anyone remembers, Tatum is the guy who shocked us all last season by beating out Chad Moeller for the backup job.
The starting infield is set (barring injury, especially concerning Brian Roberts). Lee will be at 1B, Roberts at 2B, Hardy at SS, and Reynolds at 3B. Izturis was signed on for one year as a utility middle infielder, so he is assured a spot. The last spot up in the air is the second utility spot. Brendan Harris came over from the Twins in the Hardy trade, while Robert Andino came to the club before the 2009 season in the Hayden Penn trade with the Marlins. While Andino pulled off a .295 average (18/61) as a September callup under Buck in 2010, and also widening his range with six solid games at 3B, I am still inclined to give the spot to Harris. Either way, the spot is totally up in the air right now, and will be one of the many intense battles to keep your eyes on during ST.
Right field – Nick Markakis. Center field – Adam Jones. Those two we know for sure. And assuming Reimold doesn’t come out with a steady glove and hit .350 in Florida, the left field spot is purely Pie’s to lose (especially with Corey Patterson gone, signing in Toronto). I have Reimold listed as the utility outfielder on the 2011 roster for two main reasons. First, I believe Buck and the rest of the organization see more promise in him as a talent at this point than prospect Matt Angle, and I also think Reimold, even if he can’t achieve his 2009 numbers, can bounce back to at least an average of .250-.260. Another plus with him is that he can fill in at 1B, a position that, at this point, none of the Orioles possible utility players can fill (last season, a mix of Garrett Atkins, Ty Wigginton, and a selection of minor leaguers manned that bag, none of which are left in our system).
Luke was impressive in 2010. A line of .284/.368/.535 with 27 HRs and 72 RBIs put him in the midst of the slugging leaderboards in the American League. Known as an all-smiles, great personality and clubhouse type of guy, Luke adds a nice bat to the middle of the Birds lineup. There was speculation that Luke could possibly platoon as the Orioles 1B if they couldn’t grab a free agent to play there, but with the signing of Derrek Lee for that full time job, Luke is locked in as the Orioles’ designated hitter for the 2011 season. Let’s just hope he doesn’t pull another hamstring and have one of those Kirk Gibson moments again.
Let’s not forget guys like the Rule 5 Draft selection RHP Adrian Rosario and non roster invitee RHP Mitch Atkins, who could always make a surprising splash in Florida.
Any of these spots could change with new additions, and also with breakout performances and injuries on the way to Opening Day 2011 in Tampa Bay. It would be a much more positive scenario if the team ends up with the problem of having too many guys healthy and ready to play as opposed to too few.
And to review the new coaching staff for 2011 while we’re at it:
Hitting Coach – Jim Presley (replacing Terry Crowley, now a hitting evaluator for the Orioles farm system)
Pitching Coach – Mark Connor (replacing Rick Kranitz, now the Brewers PC)
Bench Coach – Willie Randolph (replacing Jeff Dats, now the Mariners BC)
First Base Coach – Wayne Kirby (replacing John Shelby)
Third Base Coach – John Russell (replacing Gary Allenson, who goes back to managing the Norfolk Tides)
Bullpen Coach - Rick Adair (replacing Alan Dunn, now the Orioles’ Pitching Coordinator)
Bullpen Catcher – Ronnie Deck