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SARASOTA—Here’s the second installment of our monthly mailbag. Questions may be edited for length, style and clarity.
Question: With the wealth of young talent the Orioles have at the infield positions, do you see Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías as trade pieces? I think their trade value would be at a premium now. I’m a big Mateo supporter but with Jackson Holliday looking like he’s ready already it’s not going to be long until he’s in Baltimore. From: Dave Gruber via email
Answer: Dave, I think it’s possible that Mateo and Urías are trade bait later in the season. Even though Holliday has looked impressive in camp, and may be with the Orioles in the next year or two, the team needs to be concerned with 2023 first.
Question: Based upon what he’s said, I believe that Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos has defined success for the Orioles as simply making the playoffs — not an AL East title or a World Series championship. His actions on the lease and comments on the payroll lead me to believe the Orioles’ ability to sign free agents or the young talent to large multi-year contracts will be limited. What do you think? From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: Glenn, every team’s aim is to win a World Series, and that’s also the Orioles’ aim. I think if the Orioles qualified for the postseason this year, that would be a success.
As for large-scale spending on free agents or extensions for young players, I will wait to see what they do after this season. Hopefully, they’ll be able to extend some of the top young players, but I’ll be in the wait-and-see mode for now.
Question: Where do you see Jordan Westburg playing this season, and do you think he’ll ultimately be a core piece of the young roster, or will he end up as trade bait? What do you think the chances are of a Gunner Henderson/Jackson Holliday/Jordan Westburg infield in 2025-ish? From: Randall Oleski via email
Answer: Randall, I think Jordan Westburg will begin the season at Norfolk and later in the year, it’s possible that he sees significant action with the Orioles. It’s certainly possible that he’d be involved in a major deal because as you know, there are a number of excellent infield prospects. I wouldn’t rule out an infield of Westburg at second, Holliday at short and Henderson at third in the next two years.
Question: With young players showing skills in the outfield and infield, how do you see the O’s resolving roster spots? Are there future trades? From: Julius Silvestri via email
Answer: Julius, it’s a welcome change to think that the Orioles have a surplus of talent. I think it’s possible that they can be used in trades, perhaps for starting pitching.
Question: Who are the starting infields for Norfolk and Bowie this year? From: Barry Culman via email
Answer: Barry, here’s my guess. For Norfolk, how about Lewin Díaz at first, Connor Norby at second, Joey Ortiz at short and Jordan Westburg at third. For Bowie, Andrew Daschbach at first, César Prieto at second, Collin Burns at shortstop and Coby Mayo at third.
Question: With the increased size of bases, how come there haven’t been more stolen bases this spring? From: Neal Mather via email
Answer: Neal, I think teams are deliberately not trying to steal many bases because they’re waiting until the regular season, or at least late in spring training before they get more aggressive.
Question: Is Spenser Watkins being considered for the bullpen? He appears to be one of the few starting candidates, along with Bruce Zimmermann, who seems least likely to make the Opening Day roster in the bullpen From: @CEP_Observer
Answer: Alan, I think Watkins is a candidate to start the season in the bullpen as a long reliever who could also start if need be.
Question: I saw the Padres had a 16-year-old catcher, Ethan Salas, getting work in a minor league game. Any chance between now and the end of spring training Samuel Basallo plays in a game? A great developmental opportunity! From: Bill Connor via email
Answer: Bill is asking about Basallo, an 18-year-old Dominican catcher who’s the Orioles’ 12th-rated prospect in MLB Pipeline. Basallo had a good year in the Florida Complex League and is probably headed for Single-A Delmarva.
The Orioles still have five catchers in camp — Adley Rutschman, James McCann, Mark Kolozsvary, Anthony Bemboom and Maverick Handley. All but Handley have played in the major leagues, and Handley is a good prospect, I think.
While the Orioles have brought Connor Pavolony, Ramón Rodriguez and Creed Willems to games, I think they have enough catchers who could conceivably play for the Orioles this season.
I would like to see Basallo play, but the guess here is that he’ll need to wait another year for a spring training look.
Question: With what you’ve seen in Florida so far, do you think Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle will be more consistent than last year? From: Larry Schultz via email
Answer: Larry, both Hays and Mountcastle have looked stronger at the plate than they did last year, and I think they will both be better in 2023 than they were in 2022. Hays, in particular, has impressed me with the way he’s driving the ball.
Question: Rich, why do you think Bryan Baker has secured a spot in the bullpen? I didn’t think he pitched very well last year, except for the final month or so. He also has not been very reliable in spring training this year. From: Steve Inge via email
Answer: Steve, Baker was excellent in the second half of the season with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.10 ERA after September 1st. That’s impressive because by the second half of the season, many teams had either seen him or scouted him. For a pitcher in his rookie season to get better as he goes along, that’s impressive.
By virtue of his outstanding second half, he’s earned a spot in the bullpen and, yes, he hasn’t been great this spring, but pitchers often experiment with new pitches, new varieties of pitchers and new grips in spring training because the games don’t count.
Question: It is estimated the Orioles’ Opening Day payroll to be around $ 65 million. Does that include the deferred money being paid to Chris Davis ($9.16 million) and Alex Cobb ($1.8 million) per year. Also, are the Orioles paying any other players a deferred salary? From: Donald Driscoll via email
Answer: Don, Cobb’s deferred payment is actually $4.5 million this year, according to Spotrac. In addition to Davis and Cobb, the Orioles are paying Darren O’Day $1 million and Bobby Bonilla $500,000.
The $65 million figure does not include deferred compensation.
Question: Can you briefly explain how the World Baseball Classic works in terms of forming the teams?
Maybe I don’t get out much, but I didn’t even realize other countries had professional baseball teams (Great Britain, for example).
If you are a U.S. citizen and an MLB player, do you have to prove some kind of lineage to represent your home country in the WBC? If you were born in the U.S., but your parents were citizens of another country, would that qualify you to play on that team? From: Marty Adams via email
Answer: Marty, the WBC rules are if a player’s parents were born in a country or territory or you’re eligible for a passport from that country, you may play for that team.
For example, Manny Machado was born in the United States, but his parents are from the Dominican Republic. Freddie Freeman’s late mother was Canadian, so he was eligible to play for Canada.
Israel’s rules are looser. If a player is Jewish, had a Jewish parent or grandparent or is married to a Jew, then they’re eligible.
Question: How does MLB management determine who to hire as minor league batting and pitching coaches (other than hiring them from other teams)? Seems to me that the ability to teach young prospects is more important than someone’s major league stats; however, that ability is relatively hard to discern. And exactly what do fundamentals and development coaches do to make them necessary? Baseball got along without them for many decades. From: Stephen Cohen via email
Answer: Steve, the work of minor league and major league pitching and hitting coaches has changed radically over the last several years. Many are hired from colleges, specialized hitting and pitching academies and even high school. Past playing experience is no longer considered a prerequisite.
Organizations often think younger coaches from colleges and academies are often better teachers.
Development and fundamental coaches are coaches without specific assignments who help out in a variety of ways. Because teaching is considered more important, minor league teams now have four coaches instead of just two as was often the case in the past. Yes, baseball got along with just two coaches, pitching and hitting, for many years, but they want more instruction, and so there’s a need for more coaches
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