With a little over half the spring training games in the books, some clear leaders have emerged for the open positions on the roster.

5th starter
Coming into the spring the Orioles needed three starters, but the signing of Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman brought that down to one spot. Well, at least in theory Tillman has a spot, but the fact we haven’t seen him in an “A” game yet is starting to get concerning. Regardless, if there is one spot open, the top candidates have started to differentiate themselves. Here’s how we see the candidates as of today.

  1. Mike Wright – Wright is out of options and the Orioles gave him the first start of the spring training. On top of it he leads the Orioles pitchers in innings pitched in “A” games with seven. Wright has pitched well holding batters to a .174 average and walking just two. He’s developed a cutter that gave his fastball a different wrinkle and he looks more relaxed on the mound. At worse Wright is going to the bullpen so the fact that he knows he’s going to be on the team in some role has calmed him a bit.
  2. Miguel Castro – Castro had a delayed start due to his sore knees, but he’s a guy that is serious candidate to be the 5th starter. Like Wright, at worse he;s going to be in the bullpen so he’s on the team, but if he pitches well he could certainly end up the 5th starter.
  3. Nestor Cortes Jr. – As the only left-hander in the running, if all things were similar, the Orioles would like him to the 5th starter. Unfortunately, even though he’s also pitched a team high seven innings, batter have hit .357 off him and his 6.43 ERA is not helping his case. As a rule 5 draft pick, the Orioles would like to keep him so he could end up in the bullpen as a long reliever if he doesn’t win the 5th starter’s spot. Regardless, he’ll need to pitch better or he’ll be heading back to the Yankees.

Let’s be honest, regardless of what anyone says, those are the real candidates, Gabriel Ynoa has been ineffective and has battled multiple injuries, top prospect Hunter Harvey will stick around the camp so he can gain experience, but he’s going to the minors, and Jayson Aquino threw well last spring but once the lights came on he didn’t pitch as well in Norfolk or in his time in Baltimore last year.

Three relief spots
Brad Brach is going to be the closer, Mychal Givens, Darren O’day and Richard Bleier will be in the setup and middle relief roles. That leaves three spots open in the bullpen. Now one of Wright or Castro will be in the pen unless Tillman somehow doesn’t make the rotation, and the Orioles would like to keep Cortes if they can. So those three spots may just be one spot, but let’s look at the candidates in order.

  1. Pedro Araujo – This rule five pick looked like the longest bet when he was selected in the rule five draft, but he’s quickly become a favorite to stick. He’s had one bad appearance, but the 24-year old right-hander has been used early in games by Buck which means they want to see him against the better talent. His fastball, slider, change repertoire has impressed.
  2. Tanner Scott – The Orioles have talked about him continuing to start in the minors, but he keeps putting up zeroes and more importantly, he’s throwing strikes this spring. Coming into the spring we would have said Scott was a long shot, but the Orioles would like two lefties in the pen and if you see Scott suddenly pitching on back to back or quite often this spring, you can start to imagine him starting the year in Baltimore.
  3. Joely Rodriguez – This left-hander with the mid-90s fastball was a giant disappointment last year with the Phillies, but he’s been money this spring. He’s holding batters to a .211 average and hasn’t given up a run.
  4. Alec Asher – In theory he’s ion the 5th starter’s competition, but he’s pitched pretty well this spring and could find himself in the bullpen. Now most likely the Orioles would like him to be starting pitcher depth at Norfolk, but he could sneak into the pen.
  5. Josh Edgin – This left-handed pitcher has major league experience and has pitched well in his chances. Still a longshot, but a lot may depend on whether the Orioles try to keep Cortes.

Jose Mesa Jr. was thought to have a decent chance to stick as a Rule 5 pick, but his velocity has been down and he hasn’t pitched well. He’ll be returned to the Yankees soon. It’s worth noting that minor league James Teague has been used a lot late in games. Although he hasn’t pitched against very high competition, he’s thrown strikes and pitched well and has probably put himself on the prospect radar after this spring with his fastball-slider combination.

Outfield spots
Trey Mancini and Adam Jones are the starting left fielder and center fielder, and Anthony Santander is certainly on the team and may be actually playing his way into a regular role. Colby Rasmus is on a minor league deal, but it’s all but assured he’s going to be the right fielder against right-handed pitching. That leaves one spot for an outfielder with the ability to play center field, and a right-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with Rasmus.

  1. Craig Gentry – This is where defense helps out and Gentry has more experience in center field than Alex Presley and is a Buck favorite. He also has better speed on the bases than Presley.
  2. Alex Presley – Presley is having a nice spring and gives the Orioles a nice left-handed bat off the bench. He doesn’t have a ton of experience in center field which hurts his chances, but he probably has the best bat of the back up center fielders.
  3. Joey Rickard – Richard is getting plenty of opportunities, but he hasn’t hit and he’s coming off a sub par year. He has more center field experience than Presley, but his bat has hurt his chances.

Utility

  1. Danny Valencia – With Tim Beckam having the ability to play shortstop and second base, the Orioles don’t need a traditional utility infielder so Valencia has a great opportunity to make this team. He can platoon in right field with Rasmus and play third base and first base if needed. He’ll have to play his way off the team.
  2. Luis Sardinas – Was probably the main competition for Tejada before Valencia was signed, but he’s now in the same boat as Tejada. He’s outhit Tejada this spring.
  3. Ruben Tejada – Until Valencia was signed, Tejada had the best chance to get the utility job, but it’ll take an injury for him to make the team at this point.

Backup Catcher

Caleb Joseph is going to be the starter, but may be in more of a time share than a full time starter. Buck has traditionally liked defense from his backup catcher but this year he’ll need to decide over a major league ready left-handed bat or a defense first backup.

  1. Chance Sisco – His bat is as advertised and although his defense has been ok at times, it still remains below average. He’s only caught one runner trying to steal and has been crossed up a few times and has framing is still behind the other candidates. Saying that, he might have the best bat of all the catchers including Joseph.
  2. Austin Wynns – The defense first catcher has never played above Double-A, but he’s considered major league ready behind the plate. He’s not going to be a plus bat, but he should hold his own. If Buck wants defense first, he’s going to be the choice though Andrew Susec is also a good defender and has major league experience.
  3. Andrew Susec – Got behind the others due to a staph infection but he’s been pretty solid behind the plate and has hit when given his early chances.

 

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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.