Spring Training Notes

With a week’s worth of Grapefruit League action in the books, I wanted to provide a quick update on some of the action. One thing to remember this early on is to not read too much into stat lines. Such a small sample size would mean very little in games that count, much less spring training games. Of course it’s nicer to see a player doing well than struggling, but let’s all remember Jake Fox’s 2010 and Dylan Bundy’s 2017. Examples of good and bad spring training performances that had very little predictive value on what was to come when the games counted.

Austin Hays

Hays received a cortisone injection in the shoulder/lat area on Wednesday. It apparently is just some inflammation that bothers him when he throws, but not swinging the bat. This doesn’t seem like a major setback at this time as Hays should be back in the lineup soon after Monday’s off day (per Roch Kubatko). However, with the addition of Colby Rasmus, who looks healthy and revitalized, it’s looking more likely that Hays will get some AAA seasoning rather than an opening day job.

Chris Lee

The Orioles #10 prospect according to Baseball America (don’t ask me, he was #44 on my list), Lee was already a long shot to win the Lefty relief spot that’s up for grabs and an even longer shot to win the 5th starter spot. Those chances were reduced to zero when he left Tuesday’s game with an oblique injury, he’s expected to miss at least four weeks (per Kubatko).

Kevin Gausman

Gausman had a scare when he collided with an on deck batter while backing up home plate. He got a little bloodied, but fortunately passed the concussion protocol and isn’t expected to miss any time (per Rich Dubroff).

Hunter Harvey

Harvey made his Grapefruit League debut and impressed throwing an easy 95mph, garnering praise from Buck Showalter. There seems to be consistent chatter about how tough it’s going to be to send him down to the minors. I get it, the guy looks like a big league pitcher, but I think logic will prevail and he’ll be allowed to hone his changeup and build up his innings in the minors.

Mike Wright

Wright is out of options and in the thick of the competition for the 5th starter role or a spot in the bullpen. He has major league stuff, he just needs to show consistency and the ability to get some lefties out. The talk of camp is Wright’s new cutter. New pitches are always fun, but I think more promising is his improved changeup (he said he’s using a different grip). I’m personally not enthralled with Wright’s cutter, it doesn’t look like a swing and miss pitch and it seems to decrease his feel for his slider (which was his best swing and miss pitch). The O’s brass seem to be talking him up though and I expect he’ll be given every chance to make the team.

Joely Rodriguez

I’ll forgive you if you haven’t heard of Rodriguez before, he’s a power lefty bullpen arm and a non-roster invite to spring training on a minor league deal. He has some MLB experience, although with unexciting results. Poor command has been his issue. He’s part of the wide open competition for lefty specialist reliever, so he has a real chance to make the team. He’s been good so far, throwing 94-95 with some deception and a good sweeping slider.

Nestor Cortes

The first of three  Orioles Rule 5 draft picks, Cortes is in the thick of the 5th starter competition. He has the advantage of being the only legitimate in-house left handed rotation option. He doesn’t throw hard, but mixes pitches and speeds well. He’s deceptive and uses multiple arm-slots regularly, even dropping down sidearm to throw some pitches. He hasn’t been dominant, but he’s been steady and earned praise from the skipper.

Pedro Araujo

Araujo was the Orioles 2nd Rule 5 pick and unlike the other two, he’s a relief only guy. Known for his plus curveball, Araujo got good results in his first spring outing despite not having his best pitch. He did flash a couple of good changeups (a new or at least little used pitch). He followed that up with another solid appearance and he apparently reminds Buck of Pedro Strop (although Araujo doesn’t throw nearly as hard).

Jose Mesa Jr

Mesa Jr is the Orioles 3rd Rule 5 pick and a guy I really liked after watching video of 5-6 of his 2017 starts. He’s had a rough start to spring training, getting roughed up a bit in both of his outings. Like I said before, I usually don’t read much into stuff like that, but I heard that his velocity is way down. That’s concerning, apparently (according to Hangout poster Triple Crown who saw one of Mesa’s outings) his fastball wasn’t even touching 90mph after sitting 93-95 for entire 4+ inning appearances last season. I think Mesa has real potential, but will need to show the stuff that got him picked to have a shot at making the team.

Stefan Crichton

Perhaps you remember last spring training when Crichton caught Buck’s eye and it led to him getting a couple of MLB chances thoughout the course of last season. This spring his velocity is down at 90-91mph from 94-95, and his slider is harder with less movement, I’d imagine he’ll be one of the earlier cuts.

Catcher Battle

So Caleb Joseph is penciled in as the O’s starting catcher after Welington Castillo’s departure. The role of Joseph’s backup or platoon partner is up for grabs. Both Austin Wynns (think Joseph with less power but better contact skills) and Chance Sisco have impressed thus far. Wynns is demonstrating his excellent catch and throw skills and also hitting a bit. Sisco is ripping the ball all over the place and looking like a solid receiver although he isn’t good at throwing out runners. I think Sisco has the advantage here due the fact he hits from the left side and has far more upside with the bat. Don’t count Wynns out though, he’s the type of player Showalter loves and could get the nod if the O’s aren’t comfortable with Sisco’s defense.

 

Other Notes

Manny Machado, Trey Mancini, and prospect Ryan Mountcastle have been hitting very well so far. Ruben Tejada and Luis Sardinas have both been seeing plenty of playing time as they battle for the utility spot. Former O’s Danny Valencia and Pedro Alvarez have been signed to minor league deals, adding a pair of bat-first, platoon players to camp competition/AAA depth.

 

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Luke Siler
Luke graduated from Drexel University and is a former Division I athlete. He now resides in NOVA and watches an obscene amount of minor league baseball. In addition to baseball, he enjoys good coffee, good beer, weightlifting, and spending quality time with his wife and daughter.