With major league roster changes on hold during the lockout, it’s a good time to take a look at a possible 26-man Opening Day roster for the Orioles. Trades and free-agent signings are possible, and the Orioles will take at least one player in a Rule 5 draft after transactions are again permitted.
Pitchers: Sure things: John Means, Jordan Lyles, Paul Fry, Jorge López, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser, Tyler Wells
Means and Jordan Lyles, whose contract will become official after he passes a physical at the conclusion of the lockout, are the only two starters who seem assured of a spot in the rotation.
Fry signed an $850,000 contract shortly before the November 30th deadline. López signed a $1.5 million contract, and Scott was offered a contract at the tender deadline. Sulser had an impressive season in 2021. As a Rule 5 draft pick, Wells surprised with his poise and stuff.
Contenders: Keegan Akin, Bryan Baker, Mike Baumann, Félix Bautista, Marcos Diplán, Joey Krehbiel, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Isaac Mattson, Cionel Pérez, Dillon Tate, Alexander Wells, Bruce Zimmermann.
Akin, Baumann, Kremer, Lowther, Wells and Zimmermann will likely vie for the other three starting spots. Zimmermann was the most impressive early in the season but a lengthy stay on the injured list cost him much of the season. Of the others, he’s probably the best bet to be in the rotation. It’s likely that an additional candidate or two will be added after the lockout ends.
If five bullpen spots are spoken for, that likely leaves four unaccounted for. Tate was 0-6 with a 4.39 ERA, but the Orioles like his stuff. If the Orioles are OK with three left-handers in the bullpen — Fry and Scott are the others — Pérez also could make it. Baker had interesting stats at Triple-A Buffalo in 2021 but has only one inning of major league experience.
Bautista was placed on the 40-man roster and probably won’t start the season with the Orioles. Krehbiel and Mattson have limited big league experience, and Diplán will be in spring training as a non-roster invite. All probably will see time with the Orioles.
It’s likely the Orioles will add to the bullpen competition with a Rule 5 draft choice and perhaps some of the starting contenders could be swingmen.
Catchers: Sure things: None
Contenders: Anthony Bemboom, Jacob Nottingham, Adley Rutschman,
There are no catchers on the 40-man roster. Rutschman is a sure thing to spend most of the season with the Orioles, but if the service time issue isn’t addressed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he could begin the season at Triple-A.
Bemboom, a left-handed hitter, and Nottingham, a right-handed hitter, have combined for 107 major league games. Both signed minor league contracts, and it’s possible they’re the pair that begins the season.
This is another area that could be addressed in both the Rule 5 draft and additional signings post-lockout.
Infielders: Sure things: Kelvin Gutiérrez, Trey Mancini, Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle, Roughned Odor, Ramón Urias
Mancini and Mountcastle seem likely to once again split the first base/designated hitter duties. Gutiérrez, Odor and Urías are likely to start at third, second and short, respectively.
Mateo could challenge Odor at second, or he could be a utility-type with game-changing speed.
The Orioles have some infield prospects, including Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg, but they’re not likely to come to the majors until late in the 2022 season.
Contenders: Jahmai Jones, Richie Martin, Tyler Nevin
Jones looked inexperienced at second in a brief trial. Martin has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons. Nevin could be a lon-shot contender at third.
It’s possible that another infielder is claimed on waivers or signed to a minor league contract. They need more competition for Gutiérrez at third. The Orioles had claimed Lucius Fox from Kansas City, but he was quickly lost to Washington on waivers.
Outfielders: Sure things: Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander
Contenders: Ryan McKenna, DJ Stewart
Hays, Mullins and Santander are the starting outfield. McKenna and Stewart could battle for the fourth spot.
If the Orioles carry 14 pitchers, as they did for most of last season, and two catchers, that leaves 10 additional position players with perhaps one undecided.
The Orioles could sign a veteran outfielder to a minor league contract.