Good and Bad First Impressions this Spring

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Credit: Craig Landefeld

It’s still fairly early in spring training, but it’s fair to say the initial impressions have now been made by the players in camp. We know for veterans this is all about getting your work in and staying healthy, but for the bubble players, making that good first impression can be important. It may be increase their chances of making the opening day roster or it could be to plant seeds for Buck and his coaching staff for the future.

Here are the players who have made good first impressions and those who have not helped themselves early on.

Good Impressions:
Jayson Aquino (LHP) – Buck has said multiple times that Aquino has been the highlight of the camp so far and the team leading seven innings he’s thrown in A games attests to the fact that the Orioles are giving him a long look. So far he’s allowed just one earned run on three hits and walk while striking out seven. The 24-year old left-hander will most likely still not make the club as they will probably want him to pitch every five days in Norfolk and be rotational depth instead of the long relief role in Baltimore. With a plus changeup and an improved curveball to go along with a slider and 90-MPH fastball, Aquino has the repertoire to stay as a starter, but will need to show consistency start to start at Norfolk this year.

Zach Stewart (RHP) – A long shot coming into camp, Stewart has done everything he can to make a good first impression by tossing 5.1 shutout innings so far over his three outings. Batters are hitting just .054 off him so far. The former big leaguer hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2012 and is still a longshot to make the team, but it doesn’t hurt to keep putting up zeroes despite less than stellar stuff.

Jesus Liranzo (RHP) – This 22-year old reliever has walked four in his four innings of work, but he’s struck out four and allowed just one hit over four shutout innings. When you add in his mid-90s heat that was touching 97, a solid slider and split-change, and it’s easy to see why with a little more seasoning he may get an opportunity to be part of the Orioles bullpen this year.

Vidal Nuno (LHP) – Nuno pretty much is a lock for the team though his role could still change. He’s pitched four scoreless innings over his two appearances. He will most likely be the Orioles long reliever this year in the Vance Worley role though he could get a swing start here and there.

Chris Johnson (3B) –  The Orioles have given him a lot of work so far this spring with Manny Machado playing short while JJ Hardy has been out with back problems, Johnson has responded by slashing .348/.423/.522/.945 in his team leading 24 Plate appearances. The former big leaguer who has struggled over the last two years in a part-time role with multiple teams still has little chance of making the opening day roster without an injury.

Bad Impressions:
Anthony Santander (DH/OF) – Although he has shown some potential in BP and in some of his PAs this spring, the 22-year old that has never played above A-ball has not surprisingly struggled so far this spring slashing just .188/.263/.188/.451 with eight K’s in 18 PAs. Although his shoulder has reportedly come around faster than thought after offseason surgery, he has yet to play the field. Without the Orioles trying to stash him on the DL you have to imagine he will be sent back to Cleveland.

Dariel Alvarez (RF) – When your organization asks you to consider converting to pitcher in the offseason, and then nine outfielders have gotten more PAs then you through the first 11 games, you may want to consider your future with a club. Add in starting 0-for-11 and his first impressions this spring was not good at all. Alvarez could be DFA’d if the Orioles need a 40-man roster spot unless he picks it up.

Craig Gentry (OF) – The 33-year old non-roster outfielder hasn’t hit much in the major league since 2013 so he needed a good spring to convince the Orioles to give him a chance to be the 5th outfielder. Although he has played good defense (his calling card), he’s hit just .176/.222/.176/.399 in 18 PAs. The Orioles have been giving him chances this spring but he’s certainly not making much of an impression with his bat.

Logan Schafer (OF) – Similar to Gentry, this defensive minded outfielder has been given plenty of opportunities, but has struggled with the stick slashing just .056/.150/.111/.261 in 20 PAs. He had a harder time of making the team because he’s bats left-handed but no matter what hand he bats he’ll have to do better than his first impression.

Oliver Drake (RHP) – Came into camp as the odds on favorite to win a spot but he’s struggled so far allowing two home runs and six earned runs on eight hits over just four innings (13.50). He pitched better his last outing and without options, he will get a long look this spring, but I’m sure he would have liked to have gotten off to a better start.

Joe Gunkle (RHP) – Despite being on the 40-man roster, Gunkle has gotten only two innings in A-games and allowed three runs in that opportunity. The lack of opportunity in the big league games has to be a concern for him, especially when others in his situation have been given more opportunity.

Cody Sedlock (RHP) – It’s a little unfair to put him on here, but his only outing in a big league spring training game could not have gone much worse. Allowed four runs on two long home runs in his one inning of work and not only blew a two run lead, but lost the game. For a 1st round pick, you would have liked to see him make a nice first impression but that certainly wasn’t the way.

 

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Tony Pente
Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.