Written By: Daniel Clark of PenAndPaperSports.com
Spring Training is now just a few days away and after what can only be described as a frustrating winter for the Orioles, the training and games in Sarasota give the O’s fans an opportunity to forget what has happened and instead see how the team is shaping up ahead of the 2014 MLB season.
There will be a lot of interest in the Orioles as a whole, however in particular there will be a lot of attention on new players, players returning from injury and also players which may be given extended opportunities in the Majors as a result of key departures from the Orioles 2013 roster.
Listed below are ten key Orioles to look out for this Spring Training.
1. Manny Machado
After a season-ending injury last September, most people gave Manny Machado little chance of being ready to resume playing by Opening Day. However despite the fears, the young third-baseman has recovered ahead of schedule and is now a genuine chance to face the Red Sox on March 31st. Having now played 207 games in the Majors, Machado’s triple line of .279/.314/.746 is continually improving and if the O’s are to challenge in the AL East, Machado needs to be playing every game possible.
2. Tommy Hunter
With Jim Johnson vacating Baltimore and with the failure to sign a starter, despite coming close with Grant Balfour, Tommy ‘Boom Boom’ Hunter is expected to be given the role of closer for the 2014 season. Replacing Johnson will be a tough ask, given he recorded 101 saves over the last two seasons combined, however most feel Tommy Hunter will be ready for the challenge. Throughout his six year MLB career Hunter has recorded four saves, however his ERA in the 9th innings is 3.47, significantly higher than the 2.31 ERA he has in the 8th innings – where he has done so well for the Orioles recently.
3. Ryan Flaherty
With Brian Roberts now a Yankee, Ryan Flaherty is widely expected to be given the first opportunity to seal the starting second-baseman role for the 2014 season. It’s been quite a remarkable turn-around for Flaherty who hit just .125 in March/April last season and .182 in May. His performance improved however and a good finish to the season saw him finish with a triple line of .224/.293/.683 – not fantastic however a big improvement. In addition to proving himself to the Orioles faithful, Flaherty also continued to prove his worth with the glove, frequently making difficult plays appear routine.
4. Henry Urrutia
After receiving his opportunity late in the 2013 season on the back of a sensational season in the Minor Leagues, Henry Urrutia didn’t do his reputation any harm, hitting a respectable .276/.276/.586 in 24 games. On the back of his impressive season, Urrutia then continued on to the Arizona Fall League where he also showed that his power had developed, hitting three home runs in 18 games and recording a staggering triple-line of .377/.434/.985. Urrutia is set to make the Orioles 25-man Roster for Opening Day and is likely to feature as a Designated Hitter.
5. Delmon Young
A rare winter signing by the Orioles who is expected to make the Opening Day Roster. Delmon Young, who has eight years of experience in the Majors, has had his fair share of ups and downs however a move to Baltimore may be the spark he’s needed to revive his MLB career. An impressive hitter of left-handed pitching, Young owns a career record of .282/.316/.739 and has 100 home runs to his name, statistics that highlight he could be a handy weapon in the Orioles line up – likely as a Designated Hitter.
6. Zach Britton
As the Orioles have failed to sign a starter to replace Scott Feldman in the rotation, it appears that the fifth starters role is now up for grabs and Zach Britton is the early favorite. The 26-year-old has a career record of 18-17 and works to an ERA of 4.77, however in the last two seasons he has failed to improve on a promising debut season in 2011 when he won 11 games. For Britton, the talent is there however he needs to address two key flaws which have haunted him during his career – the 1st innings (6.80 ERA) and the 6th innings (8.77 ERA). If he can settle his nerves early on the mound and maintain his composure, Britton could be an integral part of a modest Orioles rotation.
7. David Lough
The replacement for one of the O’s favorite sons, Nate McLouth. The 28-year-old who previously played with the Royals appears likely to start at left field come Opening Day, however he will need to fight off Nolan Reimold who is returning from injury. David Lough has had a steady start to his MLB career and in two seasons (116 games) he has a record of .278/.308/.704 with five home runs. Likely to be hitting seventh or eighth, Lough will need to improve his power hitting – something which Reimold appears to have working for him over Lough.
8. Jemile Weeks
Another winter signing who may struggle to make the Orioles 25-man Roster, Jemile Weeks needs to have a very impressive Spring. Whilst Flaherty is likely to start the sesaon at second base, Weeks will be competing with the likes of Alexi Casilla for the back-up infielders role. In three seasons (223 games) with the Athletics, Weeks hit .258/.319/.677 with four home runs, however he managed just eight games in 2013.
9. Josh Stinson
Stinson finished 2013 in impressive fashion, allowing just one earned run in 11.1 innings or work from August through to the end of the season. Still just 25-years-old, Josh Stinson will be competing for a position in the Orioles bullpen and there certainly appears to be a few positions up for grabs with the departure of Johnson and the suspension of Patton.
10. Nolan Reimold
As mentioned previously, Nolan Reimold is likely to be competing with David Lough for the starting role at Left Field. Coming off a number of seasons ruined by injury, O’s fans are desperate to see the Reimold of early 2012 where he hit .313/.333/.960 with five home runs and 10 RBI in just 16 games. Unfortunately, injury struck and he finished his season far too early and failed to return successfully in 2013. 2014 is probably a make-or-break season in Reimold’s career.
Image Credit: Keith Allison