Reviewing the Orioles' storylines from spring training - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Reviewing the Orioles’ storylines from spring training

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Back on February 11, when spring training was about to begin for the Orioles in Sarasota, Florida, we took a look at five storylines to be watched. If there is a second spring training, it probably will begin about four months after the first.

While we wait, let’s revisit the storylines and see how they’ll change the second time.

  • Who will be in their starting rotation?

As pitchers and catchers reported, it looked as if John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski were locks to secure starting rotation spots. It still does.

Wade LeBlanc, who was signed to a minor league contract just before spring training, performed well in two Grapefruit League starts and appeared set as another starter.

Just before spring training, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said the Orioles were looking to sign another veteran starter, and they did, Tommy Milone. When games stopped on March 12, he was ahead in the competition.

Two outsiders, Rule 5 draft picks Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker, were thought to have a chance to crack the starting rotation and a better chance to make the team as relievers.

But Bailey and Rucker were returned to the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, the teams from which they were drafted, on March 6.

Kohl Stewart, who was signed in late December, got a late start because of arm  soreness but could be a more important factor with the possibility of larger rosters.

  • Will the bullpen be better in 2020?

Perhaps the most promising development during the monthlong spring training was the improvement in the Orioles’ bullpen, and the depth the team accumulated.

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Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Paul Fry, Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey were the favorites to grab bullpen spots, and nothing happened in the month to change that thinking.

The expanded roster could help Cody Carroll, who made a strong recovery from back surgery in 2019, and non-roster right-hander Paul Hanhold, who weren’t favorites for jobs in February.

Travis Lakins, Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser could benefit from a larger roster. So could Dillon Tate and Branden Kline, who was outrighted to Norfolk just before spring training.

Hector Velázquez, who was acquired on waivers from Boston on March 8, is a new name to consider.

  • An important year for prospects

Scott, David Hess, Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart and Chance Sisco were all either high draft picks or touted prospects before Elias arrived.

They had been named as five players to watch this spring.

Hess and Mullins were sent to Triple-A Norfolk shortly after spring training paused, although they certainly could return with an expanded roster.

Stewart hadn’t played, but was nearing a return from last October’s ankle surgery. Scott and Sisco had solid chances to make the team. Had the season started on time, Stewart would have begun it on the injured list, but he should be ready for game action next mont, assuming spring training starts.

  • Who gets the backup infield and outfield positions?

At the beginning of spring training, the assumption was that Chris Davis would start at first, Hanser Alberto at second, José Iglesias at short and Rio Ruiz at third. For outfielders, Anthony Santander in left, Austin Hays in center and Trey Mancini in right.

Mancini won’t be with the club in 2020 because of his recovery from colon cancer surgery.

More opportunities might be available because of a bigger roster.

During spring training, the Orioles claimed infielders Ramon Urias and Andrew Velázquez on waivers and removed Richard Urena and Pat Valaika from the 40-man roster.

Urias was sent to Triple-A Norfolk along with Hess, Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle on March 19.

Valaika and Velázquez made strong impressions early in spring training. Stevie Wilkerson, who also was taken off the 40-man roster just before reporting to Sarasota, was also in contention for a spot.

Dwight Smith Jr. appeared to have a strong chance before spring training started. Non-roster infielder Dilson Herrera and non-roster outfielder Mason Williams are also in the mix.

  • The future may be bright, but it isn’t here, yet

The early part of spring training featured prospects who weren’t going to make the team — catcher Adley Rutschman, left-handed pitchers Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann and outfielder Yusniel Diaz.

Only Diaz and Zimmermann are still on the spring training roster. Zimmermann was going to start the night that MLB ended spring training.

Diaz could get some time with the Orioles later in the season, but the uncertainty of the minor league setup this year could change the Orioles’ plans. Zimmermann could have been a midseason callu, and might get some opportunities earlier than expected.

Lowther pitched briefly, and Wells didn’t pitch at all because of an oblique injury. Rutschman was 1-for-9.

Dean Kremer who didn’t pitch in his first camp with the Orioles in 2019 because of an oblique injury, was impressive during his early stint this year. Keegan Akin was inconsistent and had been sent down after his start on March 11.

Ryan Mountcastle got some time in left field as the Orioles continue to search for a position that fits him.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 21, 2020 at 8:06 am

    It all seems like so long ago. Talkin’ baseball, that is. And I fear it may be quite some time until we can really get back to it, if at all.

    Sigh ….

  2. willmiranda

    May 21, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Thanks, Rich, for keeping the home fires burning.One consolation is that the O’s have some very young players who need to mature
    physically, something that only comes with the passage of time, which marches on, no matter what we mortals do.

  3. CalsPals

    May 21, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Who or what team would be a good subject for baseball’s version of “The Last Dance”?…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 21, 2020 at 12:21 pm

      How about the Frederick Keys?

  4. NormOs

    May 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Starters – John Means (maybe, only 1 year so who knows) Alex Cobb (If he shows anything, he will be traded) The rest are just names.
    Relievers – Hunter Harvey (after him, the same crap that made up the worst BP in MLB).
    Prospects – Hess and Mullins? You’re kidding, right?

    The Future – Genius1 has got to keep the Angelos Family expectant for as long as he can or until another sucker outfit is looking for a snake oil salesman. Meanwhile, 108 losses for this bunch may be a pipe dream.

    Analytics…….Analytics…….Analytics……..(What have O’s fans done to deserve this?)

    • ClayDal

      May 21, 2020 at 12:58 pm

      Going to be hard to lose 108 games when they only play 82. Cobb won’t be traded. With teams losing money, no one will take on that contract. The Orioles do have some pitchers in the minors who could be promising in a couple of years. Easy for me to say since I am a mere lad of 60. As I recall, you are a couple years older. Be patient, better times are ahead

      • Bancells Moustache

        May 21, 2020 at 4:02 pm

        As the possible number of games dwindle, so increases the odds of the Birds being the only team in MLB history to finish with single digit wins.

        Have a great day!

    • CalsPals

      May 21, 2020 at 2:10 pm

      Gotta be better, right, can’t get worse…go O’s…

  5. cedar

    May 21, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    With half a season (or less) to play, and no minor leagues this year, I think I would rather just see the future Orioles get on the field. Maybe that would be too daunting or damaging to their psyche but as the delay continues I’m find myself less interested in 2020 and willing to skip the whole thing. Getting an opportunity to watch the prospects play each day would be more interesting.

    • CalsPals

      May 22, 2020 at 4:48 pm

      Agree, but Elias would lose a year of dreaded player control…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      May 23, 2020 at 6:54 am

      Why can’t you do your job & get out, scout, shake the trees & take your negativity towards anything certain people say with you…go O’s & # 1 with you…lmao

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        May 24, 2020 at 1:07 pm

        You can stick your stupid sarcasm and your negativity. You just sit back and criticize and then say – go o’s. Why don’t you take the next 3 years off while Elias builds us true Oriole fans a winner. And after he does you can jump on the bandwagon. Or you could just stay away permanently.

    • CalsPals

      May 24, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      You’re too easy…settle down Mike…lmao…go O’s…

  6. OriolesNumber1Fan

    May 24, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    No, it’s called “passion” or “passionate” when it comes down to my Orioles. Something you don’t have! You just sit back in your easy chair and just criticize, complain or lol what Elias has done so far for the Orioles. Pretty easy job but also pretty lame!!!

    • CalsPals

      May 24, 2020 at 7:21 pm

      Take some deep breathes Mike, the squad should be there soon…go O’s…

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