There probably aren’t many decisions on position players to make for Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. The biggest decision might be whether to go with 13 or 14 pitchers on the 26-man roster. A 14th pitcher would mean three bench players.
Outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz isn’t expected to begin the season with the Orioles, but it’s like he’ll join the club later in the season.
If the past is an indicator, there will be plenty of players in an Orioles uniform in 2021. In 2019, the last 162-game season, the Orioles used 58 players. In last year’s 60-game season, they used 45.
Diaz, and starters Mike Baumann and Zac Lowther are expected to play for the team. Let’s look at some other possibilities.
CATCHERS: Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco are the incumbents, and they’ll start the season. Adley Rutschman is going to begin at Double-A Bowie, and it’s questionable whether he’ll be in Baltimore in 2021.
Three non-roster catchers with major league experience could get a call.
Austin Wynns played 70 games for the Orioles in 2018 and 2019 but was taken off the 40-man roster in December. Wynns is out of options. He didn’t play a game for the team in 2020, though he was often on the taxi squad.
Nick Ciuffo has 19 games of major league experience with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 and 2019. He’s hit only .186, but is a left-handed hitter.
Taylor Davis played 20 games for the Chicago Cubs from 2017-2019 and was in spring training and later the alternate site at Bowie. Davis has not thrown out any of the 13 runners who’ve tried to steal against him in the majors.
INFIELDERS: Assuming Chris Davis, who’s out with a lower back strain, Freddy Galvis, Trey Mancini, Rio Ruiz, Yolmer Sánchez and Pat Valaika are the team’s infielders, the Orioles have a number of interesting options.
Rylan Bannon was added to the 40-man roster for the first time. He can play second and third but his lack of experience at shortstop could hurt him.
Jahmai Jones was obtained from the Los Angeles Angels in the trade for starter Alex Cobb last month. His strength is his experience at second base and the outfield. His weakness is that he hasn’t play shortstop or third.
Richie Martin has yet to see action because of hamate bone surgery but Hyde said Martin was scheduled to begin his hitting progression soon. Martin could slip into shortstop if the Orioles traded Galvis later in the season. He was supposed to play shortstop every day at Triple-A Norfolk last season before he broke his right wrist, ending his season. Martin, who was a Rule 5 pick and spent the 2019 season with the Orioles, should see playing time later in the year.
Mason McCoy is in camp for the second straight season a minor league invite. McCoy can play second and short. He’s yet to play third as a professional. McCoy is a contract hitter with a .282 average in three seasons of pro ball. His .346 on-base percentage is strong, but he doesn’t hit for power. He has just nine home runs.
Seth Mejias-Brean signed with the Orioles as a minor league free agent last month. Mejias-Brean played 14 games with the San Diego Padres in 2019 and has played first and third as well as shortstop.
Tyler Nevin was obtained from Colorado in the trade for Mychal Givens. He’s expected to be Norfolk’s starting first baseman and also can play third.
Ramón Urias remained on the 40-man roster throughout the winter. He can play shortstop and second, and started at third on Tuesday.
Stevie Wilkerson re-signed with the Orioles after missing 2020 because of a fractured left ring finger. Wilkerson can infield and outfield, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return to Baltimore.
OUTFIELDERS: If the Orioles begin with outfielders Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and DJ Stewart, there won’t room for others. If there’s an injury, these two could get a look.
Ryan McKenna was at the alternate site and made a few road trips last season with the taxi squad but wasn’t activated. That could change in 2020. McKenna, who had a rough season at Bowie in 2019, can play center and has excellent speed.
Chris Shaw was claimed on waivers from San Francisco in November and dropped from the 40-man roster when Galvis was signed. Shaw played 38 games for the Giants in 2018 and 2019 and is a left-handed hitter. His main positions are first base and left field.