Five observations about Orioles spring training - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Spring Training

Five observations about Orioles spring training

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

 

SARASOTA, Fla.—The Orioles still have a number of cuts to make as spring training ends on Monday. General manager Mike Elias said when discussing cuts last Sunday that it was likely the team would claim players from the waiver wire as other teams make cuts.

Based on five weeks of spring training, here are five observations:

  • Mike Elias is firmly in charge of the team. 

After viewing the Orioles on and off the field during spring training, there is no doubt that Elias is making every crucial decision and has full authority to do so.

Elias has watched batting practice and bullpen sessions up close, talks with manager Brandon Hyde regularly and has established relationships with the coaches and players.

He’s gotten to know his team over the past five weeks and has moved quickly at times, and deliberately at others.

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Elias’ self-imposed mandate is to increase the Orioles’ talent pool, and if he sees a player who can make the team incrementally better, he’ll do it.

He claimed left-handed pitcher Josh Osich on waivers from San Francisco, then lost infielder Hanser Alberto on waivers. A week later, the Orioles claimed Alberto and lost left-handed pitcher Donnie Hart. Osich was lost when outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. was claimed on March 8.

For the moment, the Orioles have both Alberto and Smith, but both could be in jeopardy if non-roster players  catcher Jesus Sucre and outfielder Eric Young Jr. have to be added to the 40-man roster in the next few days. Infielder Alcides Escobar was released on Wednesday. His date to opt out of his contract was today.

Elias’ dictate to bring the Orioles’ technological capabilities in line with industry standard was evident at the beginning of camp when cameras tracked each pitcher’s bullpen session.

  • Elias has a plan, and he’s sticking to it.

Despite outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Austin Hays playing very well, both were sent to minor league camp.

Hays, in particular, was especially impressive, and he clearly outplayed incumbent Cedric Mullins in center field.

Elias wasn’t swayed. Hays needs time in Triple-A and needs to play center field there to make himself a stronger option for the Orioles. Despite a .351 average and leading the team in home runs and RBIs, Elias optioned him.

The large majority of players in the major league camp were players Elias inherited when he got the job last November. There aren’t many trading chips, and Elias won’t be able to draft new players, his area of expertise, until June.

For now, the Orioles are limited in what they can do, but Elias thinks that with improved player development, the talent on hand may be better than most thought.

When he discussed the last round of cuts, Elias said that he expected the majority of those sent away to return as Orioles during the season.

  • Brandon Hyde seems comfortable in his job 

Not only has Hyde never managed a major league team, but he has no experience in the American League, and he’s been honest about that, saying he’ll learn as he goes along.

Hyde has been positive in his comments about players, saying that those who were sent from major league camp to minor league camp had taken it well, and had all played well—even when they hadn’t.

After Mike Wright’s most recent performance on Sunday when he allowed four runs on six hits in five innings, Hyde did say that Wright was becoming a little predictable.

Hyde’s optimism is refreshing, but if the Orioles have a slow start, it will be interesting to see how well it plays, and if he becomes more pointed in his criticism.

  • Starting pitching will be a concern 

If the Orioles start the season with a rotation of Alex Cobb, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, David Hess and Mike Wright, Elias and Hyde will try to make the best of what they found when they got here.

A year from now, the rotation may look very different. In June, the rotation could look different, too.

Cobb, who’s the Opening Day starter, pitched four hitless innings on Saturday against Toronto in Dunedin, but weakened in the fifth.

Cashner had three disappointing starts before allowing just a run on three hits without walking a batter against Detroit in Lakeland on Monday.

Bundy, who will start tonight, has yet to demonstrate commanding stuff in any of his four starts.

Wright started the spring with 10 scoreless innings, but gave up six runs on 14 hits in 7 2/3 innings in his last two appearances against the Yankees.

Hess allowed nine runs in 2 2/3 innings against Minnesota in his last start.

Josh Rogers and Jimmy Yacabonis will probably get starts for the Orioles this season, along with a number of others, but for now, there are no potential starters acquired by Elias in the rotation’s queue.

  • The position player depth is far better than it was at the end of last season 

Elias’ two Rule 5 picks, infielders Richie Martin and Drew Jackson, are clearly a step up. Both are heavy favorites to make the club, and Rio Ruiz has a decent shot at unseating incumbent Renato Nunez at third base.

Diaz, Hays and Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 pick two years ago, had impressive camps and while none will start the season with the team, all are potential contributors to the Orioles this season.

Catcher Jesus Sucre, who reported late because of visa issues, has a good shot to make the team, especially since Austin Wynns has missed two weeks because of an oblique injury.

While the 25-man roster is hardly set, the guess here is that the Orioles, who used a franchise-high 56 players last year, may use nearly that many this year.

The team might not show much improvement this season, but there are many positive signs. The dysfunction that marred the final seasons of the Dan Duquette-Buck Showalter era is gone, and this young team is much looser.

The 2019 season should be a fascinating one, if not especially rewarding. Elias and Hyde’s first spring training, which is rapidly drawing to a close, has been fascinating, and to me, quite rewarding.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Fareastern89

    March 20, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Rich — Thanks for the summary. When I read your first point, I remembered how concerned many people were about whether Elias would have to share authority with Brady Anderson. Apparently not. In fact, I don’t remember reading much of anything about Brady all spring. Is he in Sarasota and working with the team?

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 20, 2019 at 6:19 pm

      You’re welcome Fareastern. Because you’re such an astute fan, you understood what I was getting at. Brady is in Sarsoota, working with the team on conditioning and nutrition.

      • Hallbe62

        March 20, 2019 at 7:34 pm

        Count me as one who was concerned about Brady Anderson’s role with the club. It appears I may have over stated his potential to gum up the works.

        If he sticks to strength/conditioning & nutrition alone, that would be a small feat for an Executive Vice President.

        • Rich Dubroff

          March 21, 2019 at 2:38 pm

          Mike Elias decides the roles for other front office personnel, and that’s his decision on Brady Anderson.

      • Baltimore Castaway

        March 21, 2019 at 8:30 am

        Which needs to be limit of his role w the team. Please tell me that he does not have a locker in the Clubhouse…

        • Rich Dubroff

          March 21, 2019 at 2:40 pm

          He did not have a locker in the clubhouse last year and he doesn’t have one this year, Castaway.

          • Hallbe62

            March 21, 2019 at 6:34 pm

            : – ) good news. Thanks for the excellent reporting Rich. I look forward to us putting our best foot forward this summer and competing where we can, for as long as we can. I’m glad Mr. Elias is firmly in command, for it’s only then, can he be held accountable for his decisions and results.

  2. BirdsCaps

    March 20, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    As I have previously stated, for me its strange to see a GM with this much power, however this might be the new norm since almost all of the teams are fully buying into moneyball. With that said, lets hope he can turn the ship around in a reasonable amount of time. Also, I still have high hopes for Cobb. Despite his rough 2018, I think he might be one of the few bright spots in ’19 and may very well be turned into a valuable trade chip in the future.

    • Colemthrash

      March 20, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      It seems like Hyde has a significant input on personnel decisions. You’re right however, he does seem to have a lot of power. Personally I prefer this to Angelos’ meddling however.

      • BirdsCaps

        March 20, 2019 at 5:51 pm

        Anything is better than Angelos interfering (e.g. Davis Contract).

      • VICTORTEE

        March 21, 2019 at 9:23 am

        Do you really think Hyde did not want Hays on the team? I think he is/will be Elias’s puppet. Why don’t the O’s have a bench coach? Bench coaches are normally ex major league managers or long term major league coaches. Elias does not want somebody like
        that in the dugout. I think he will be telling Hyde who should be in the lineup, who the starting pitchers should be, and how many innings they should pitch.

        • Rich Dubroff

          March 21, 2019 at 2:42 pm

          Many of those things may be true, Victor, but Tim Cossins is effectively the bench coach even though he doesn’t carry the title.

  3. Bhoffman1

    March 20, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Look Chris Davis is not a major league player anymore. He will not get any better once the season starts. He just is lost period and Elias and Hyde know it too. Something short of releasing him and paying him 100 million has to be done. Elias if you are so smart do something quick because Davis will ruin any positive things you want to do.

    • Camden Brooks

      March 20, 2019 at 8:53 pm

      What do you suggest that would be short of cutting him and eating the remainder of his contract? Davis’ money is guaranteed, and I cannot imagine him agreeing to some sort of buyout. I would agree with you that CD is probably done, but I only see two choices: keep him for remainder of his contract, or cut him and eat the $.

      • Colemthrash

        March 20, 2019 at 8:55 pm

        I can’t imagine the MLBPA would be pleased if they tried to send him to the minors or negotiate some kind of buyout either

    • Bhoffman1

      March 20, 2019 at 9:17 pm

      Some sort of buyout. You have a meeting with him and his agent if they don’t agree just sit him on the bench eventually he will crack and except a buyout. He still has some pride left and sitting everyday will eat at him.

  4. geevee3

    March 20, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    you are recommending breach of contract, which is illegal and punishable.

  5. geevee3

    March 20, 2019 at 10:57 pm

    oh, and unethical and immoral

    • Bhoffman1

      March 21, 2019 at 11:44 am

      Lol. No just sit him which is perfectly legal. His pride after being on the bench will ask for a buyout

  6. Baltimore Castaway

    March 21, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Another top-of-the-line update from one of the very best baseball writers amongst us…

    Rich is pointing out why we should be feeling better while still keeping things real w our expectation level…well done Sir.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 21, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      Kind words, Castaway. Many thanks.

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