The Orioles announced 14 minor-league signings Tuesday, including several players that are returning to the organization in 2018.
Here is the full list: catchers Armando Araiza and Yojhan Quevedo; pitchers Ralston Cash, Josh Edgin, Jeff Ferrell, Jhan Mariñez, Ryan O’Rourke, and Joely Rodriguez; infielders Angelo Mora, Ryan Ripken, Garabez Rosa, Erick Salcedo, Luis Sardiñas, and Rubén Tejada.
Obviously, these aren’t key signings, so hold your sarcasm (or at least let it drip out a little at a time). But some of these under-the-radar signees could end up in the majors for a spell next season.
The most recognizable name here is one of the farthest from the big leagues: Ryan Ripken, the Gilman School graduate and son of Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
There are some others on the list that are more intriguing – at least when it comes to the 2018 club. Here’s a little deeper look into this recent batch of minor league Orioles:
Ruben Tejada: Right now, the 28-year-old is probably the leader in the clubhouse to be the Orioles’ utility infielder next season. A veteran of eight major league seasons, he played 41 games for the Orioles last year – starting 29 at shortstop and three at third base. A career .251 hitter, he batted .230 with a .293 on-base percentage in the majors in 2017 and .280 in the minors.
The most important skill a utility infielder must exhibit is the ability to play shortstop, and Tejada can do that effectively; he made two errors in 36 games there for the Orioles last year. That’s probably what gives him the edge in the utility-infield battle, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Orioles sign another fringe major leaguer to compete for the job this spring.
Luis Sardiñas: Orioles fans probably don’t know much about the 24-year-old Venezuelan except the club claimed him from the San Diego Padres on waivers in May and he spent the rest of the year at Triple-A Norfolk.
There are some in the organization that believe Sardiñas is a better fit at utility infielder than Tejada or farmhand Steve Wilkerson because Sardiñas is a switch-hitter, has some speed and can play all around the diamond effectively. He’s a career .229 hitter in parts of four big league seasons, but he hit .319 in 83 Triple-A games in 2017.
I wasn’t sure the Orioles would be able to retain both Tejada and Sardiñas for next year, since they’re obviously battling for the same job. But major league opportunities are difficult to get and Sardiñas/Tejada are in good position for one on Opening Day. Makes sense for both of them to re-up – and both could be Orioles at some point in 2018.
Garabez Rosa: Here’s the name that jumped out to me on the above list. He’s the answer to my favorite current trivia question. Besides closer Zach Britton, which player has been in the Orioles’ organization the longest? Everyone guesses Adam Jones first. But Rosa, pictured above, signed as a 17-year-old international amateur out of the Dominican Republic in November 2006.
He turned 28 in October and is back for his 12th season in the organization. He’s spent five of those in Bowie, where he won the batting title last year. His defense has held him back – he doesn’t play any position particularly well, but is versatile and steady. Still, it would be awesome to see him get a call-up at some point. You’d think, ultimately, he’d try another organization, but from what I’ve been told he gets paid pretty well for a minor leaguer and he has a lot of supporters in the organization. So, he’ll try to keep the dream alive another year.
Ryan Ripken: The 24-year-old, lefty first baseman is pretty far down on the organizational depth chart. He played in 51 games for Short-A Aberdeen last year, homering three times and slashing .287/.323/.378 in his first season in the Orioles organization (the club drafted him in the 20th round in 2012, he didn’t sign and was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 15th round of the 2014 draft. He was released by that organization before last season).
Ripken is a long, long way from making the Orioles, but his baseball acumen and work ethic are supposed to be off the charts – surprise – and there’s no harm in seeing if he is a late bloomer. Plus, I was told by several people that the younger Ripken was a tremendous ambassador in Aberdeen last year, quickly becoming a fan favorite in his dad’s hometown and in the stadium named after his family.
Armando Araiza and Yojhan Quevedo: The Orioles’ catching situation is intriguing. Caleb Joseph has a spot locked up and likely will share some time with rookie Chance Sisco. Although if Sisco’s defense isn’t major league ready, the Orioles could turn to a veteran backup or even another rookie, defensive specialist Austin Wynns.
Neither Araiza, 24, nor Quevedo, 24, have had much experience in the upper levels of the minors. Araiza spent much of last season with High-A Frederick (though he spent five games with Triple-A Norfolk and four with Double-A Bowie) and Quevedo played in A ball last year for the Seattle Mariners organization. But they should provide some lower-to-mid-level catching depth while the Orioles sort out their upper-level backstop puzzle.
Josh Edgin: Of the pitchers the Orioles signed with major league experience, Edgin might be the most intriguing. The 30-year-old lefty spent parts of five seasons with the New York Mets, including 46 games last year in which he compiled a 3.65 ERA. He missed 2015 after undergoing elbow surgery, but has been an effective reliever in the past. He’ll have a chance to compete for the lefty specialist role in Baltimore.
Jhan Mariñez: The 29-year-old right-hander has a 3.43 ERA in parts of four seasons in the majors. He’s pitched in 95 major league games – all in relief – for six different teams, including three last season. Like all of these pitchers, he’s viewed as a depth addition, but he could find himself in a relief role at some point in 2018.
Joely Rodriguez, Ryan O’Rourke, Jeff Ferrell: All three have some experience pitching in relief in the majors, and will be arms to consider in the spring as potential bullpen depth. Rodriguez and O’Rourke are lefties, so there’s added bonus there. None stand out, but that’s why they sign minor league deals in the offseason.