Competition among infielders in the Orioles’ spring training is likely to be intense. Kelvin Gutiérrez, Jorge Mateo, Ramón Urías and Rougned Odor, who signed as a free agent, will enter spring training with strong shots to make the team, but other players must be considered, too.
Background: Bannon was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade in July 2018. After hitting .317 in 20 games for Triple-A Norfolk in 2019, the 25-year-oldplayed only at the alternate site at Bowie in 2020.
Even though he’s primarily a third baseman, Bannon has played second as well. Bannon was added to the 40-man roster in November 2020.
Bannon’s 2021: Bannon played in 84 games for Norfolk in 2021 because of a strained oblique muscle and hit only .176 with 15 home runs and 36 RBIs.
Bannon had a .297 on-base percentage last season and has a .355 lifetime on-base percentage in the minors.
Outlook: Bannon was a major disappointment in 2021. The Orioles had hoped he’d play his way to the majors, but he didn’t. He needs a big spring training and a good start if he returns to Norfolk to begin 2022.
Background: Jones was acquired on February 2nd from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for starting pitcher Alex Cobb. The 24-year-old was drafted as a centerfielder and was converted to second base in 2018.
Jones’ 2021: Jones hit .243 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs in 70 games for Norfolk. He showed some speed, stealing 11 bases in 14 attempts, but he needs work at second, where he committed eight errors in 53 games.
Jones hit only .149, with three RBIs, in 26 games with the Orioles. He struck out 26 times and had just four walks. He committed three errors.
Outlook: Jones has a shot to make the team but is limited because he hasn’t played any other infield position. His ability to play the outfield is a plus. Jones has one option remaining.
Background: Martin was the first overall selection by the Orioles in the December 2018 Rule 5 draft. He was kept on the major league roster as the team’s regular shortstop throughout 2019 and hit .208 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 120 games. He stole 10 bases in 11 attempts.
Martin missed the 60-game season in 2020 after breaking his right wrist.
Martin’s 2021: After a delayed start to spring training because of hamate bone surgery, Martin, who was to play shortstop regularly at Norfolk, broke his left wrist in May while playing center field.
After his recovery, the 27-year-old played 37 games for the Orioles, hitting .235 with a home run and eight RBIs. Martin was removed from the 40-man roster in November and outrighted to Norfolk.
Outlook: The Orioles guessed that Martin wouldn’t be claimed on waivers, and he’ll have another chance to make the team as a non-roster player. Martin must have a good spring training to stay afloat.
Background: Nevin was acquired along with infielder Terrin Vavra from the Colorado Rockies in August 2020 for reliever Mychal Givens. Nevin has played the corner infield and outfield spots in the minor leagues.
Nevin’s 2021: Nevin hit .227 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 111 games for Norfolk. He started 40 games at first base, 37 at third, 20 in left field, nine in right and seven at designated hitter. In two stints with the Orioles, the 24-year-old was 4-for-14 (.286) in six games with a home run and three RBIs.
Outlook: Nevin’s versatility is a plus, and his ability to play third base is helpful. If there are a few injuries to outfielders, he has a chance to make the team.
Background: Vavra was acquired along with Nevin from Colorado in the Givens deal in August 2020. Primarily a second baseman, Vavra, 24, also has played shortstop and center field in the minor leagues.
Vavra’s 2021: A back injury limited Vavra to just 40 games at Double-A Bowie, where he hit .248 with five home runs and 20 RBIs. He also played in eight rehab games. Vavra walked 29 times and had a .388 on-base percentage. He has a .304 batting average and .405 OBP in the minor leagues.
He was placed on the 40-man roster in November.
Outlook: The on-base percentage and versatility are impressive, but Vavra must stay healthy to avoid being bypassed by other prospects.
Summary: Most of the Orioles’ best infield prospects, including Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg, are not on the 40-man roster nor eligible for it. I didn’t include Greg Cullen, Cadyn Grenier and Mason McCoy because they’re eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
Spring training tickets: The Orioles are placing tickets for exhibition games on sale on Saturday at 10 a.m. There are 16 home games scheduled for Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, beginning with a game against the New York Yankees on February 26th.
The Grapefruit League season ends on March 27th when the Orioles face the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Twelve afternoon games begin at 1:05. There are four 6:05 p.m. games: March 11 (Minnesota), March 16 (Tampa Bay), March 24 (Philadelphia) and March 26 (Boston).
Note: According to Baseball America, the Orioles are one of eight teams with the most to spend in the international signing period that begins on Saturday. They’ll have $6,262,600 to work with.
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions later this week. Please leave yours in the comment box or email them to: [email protected].