• Mar

    HHP: Thoughts at the Mid Point

    by Frobby

    First of all, I know that technically, this isn't the mid-point, but a little past it. However, I think you can draw a pretty clear line here. We're done with pitchers aspiring to throw 2, 3 or even 4 IP. Now the goal is to pitch 5+, starting with Arrieta tomorrow. Also, a lot of AA types have been sent over to minor league camps by the various clubs. Warm-ups are over, and the final 17 days of spring training will get much more serious and the results for individuals more meaningful because the competition they're facing is better and closer to in-season form.

    So, let's review where we are spot-by-spot.

    1B: Chris Davis is looking good, .348/.400/.522, plus he has played good defense. Among the potential back-ups, Steve Pearce has been awesome (.391/.444/.913), Conor Jackson has been excellent (.367/.406/.733), and Ishikawa has been a bust and is pretty much out of the running for a spot IMO.

    2B: BRob has been a very pleasant surprise, .370/.393/.576. All the possible alternatives have hit well: Casilla .308/.357/.385, Flaherty .241/.313/.621, Navarro .286/.444/.429. BRob's arm has looked ragged at times.

    SS: Hardy only has one hit in ST, but also has struck out only once. Overall, not worried about his poor offensive showing to date, and his defense looks close to midseason form. Flaherty has played SS several times and has looked very credible there.

    3B: Manny is holding his own though slumping the last few days, .217/.367/.304. 6 BB vs. 4 K's makes me happy. Valencia hasn't looked good (.192/.300/.231) and had better step it up if he wants to have any chance to stick.

    C: Wieters is having the best offensive spring of any player in camp (.476/.542/.857), and his defense has looked up to his usual standard. Teagarden has done little offensively but the pitchers seem to like him. Exposito has hit surprisingly well (.400/.500/.650) but his defense has been a bit subpar at times.

    OF: Reimold missed some time and has not really gotten his BA going, but still has a .737 OPS based on a couple of homers. His neck seems fine and now we'll just worry about the shoulder. McLouth looks the same as what we saw last fall (.273/.385/.455). Lew Ford has been terrific (.478/.520/.783). We could see either Pearce or Jackson as a backup. Dickerson has looked very solid (.261/.370/.391) and so has Pridie (.296/.321/.593). Trayvon Robinson has been given a lot of opportunities but is slipping (.258/.258/.419). Hoes has done a nice job, though with his usual lack of power (.350/.350/.400). Jones is at the WBC getting some great experience. That leaves Nick Markakis as the big question mark so far this spring. Overall, with that one very big "if," the OF play has been great.

    DH: Our presumptive LH DH, Betemit, has looked bad this spring (.130/.160/.261 with a team-leading 11 K's). The RH DH options have looked great for the most part, except Valencia and Canzler.

    Starters: Hammel, Chen, Gonzalez and Tillman have been kept under wraps most of the spring, they all have less than 5 IP in big league ST games. No red flags, although Tillman missed a few days. This week we had impressive starts from just about everyone vying for the 5th starter's job -- Matusz, Arrieta, Britton, McFarland, plus Jurjjens in an intrasquad game in which he struck out 7 batters in 4 IP. Johnson is still in the mix, too. To top it off, Gausman and Bundy have both held their own in big league camp, and though they both need some polish, they've clearly shown why they are highly regarded, and we could see either or both in the second half of the season. And, Wada is making good progress from all reports.

    Bullpen: Most of the top guys (JJ, Ayala, O'Day) have only seen 2 IP so far, but they all look solid. Strop is in the WBC and looks amazing this year so far. Patton started a little slowly but has been very good of late. Chances look pretty good that the other two pen jobs will go to someone who I listed as a starter above, or Tommy Hunter, who has looked OK but not great in the early going.

    Overall reaction: I'm very, very pleased with how the O's look this spring. Competition looks fierce for the bench spots, and it seems like our two biggest offensive worries going into spring training (2B and RH DH) may turn out to be non-problems, and our biggest defensive worry (Davis at 1B) also looks like a non-problem. The biggest worry right now on offense is whether Nick's bulging disc is a two week nuisance, or a lurking chronic problem. Frankly, I am not that worried yet, but the danger can't be ignored. The same could be said for Reimold's shoulder, I suppose, but again I'm not too concerned right now. The pitching seems on schedule and Buck has many, many options.

    With all that said, let me go back to the beginning of my post. So far, we've been facing a lot of minor leaguers, and major league pitchers going for very short outings and "working on things." I think the players' performance the next 17 days is a much better barometer than anything they have done so far. So, let Round 2 begin!

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