By Tyler on March 11, 2014
The Baltimore Orioles are well into Spring Training, and the fight for back end rotation spots, open starting positions and bench spots is beginning to heat up. There is no doubting that Buck Showalter has some difficult decisions to make before opening the season on Apr. 2 against the Boston Red Sox.
Keeping in mind the roster fight, I have helped Showalter out by providing a list of the 25 guys who will be on the opening day roster.
The Orioles just signed Jimenez to a four-year, million contract, and there is no doubting that they expect him to be their No. 1 starter. Whether or not Jimenez can live up to this potential is questionable considering he has ERAs of 2.88, 4.68, 5.40 and 3.30. The 30-year-old has the power stuff to be an ace, but Showalter will have to push the right buttons for him to be consistent.
Miguel Gonzalez has developed from a minor league journeyman into a great middle of the rotation option in just two years, and the Orioles will look for him to be a viable second or third starter in 2014. The 29-year-old likely won't provide anything special, but he should provide close to 200 innings, a 3.70 ERA and 13-15 wins in 2014.
Chris Tillman had a breakout season in 2014, as he compiled a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA, 7.81 K/9 rate and 2.0 WAR over 206 1/3 innings. At 26 years of age, Tillman could still only be getting better, and he has the mix of four viable pitches and good location that should be conducive to success as a middle rotation pitcher moving forward.
Bud Norris was predictably average during the 2013 season, as he compiled a 10-13 record with a 4.18 ERA in 176.2 innings pitched. These aren't bad numbers for a No. 4 or 5 starter, but the fact that Norris had a 4.80 ERA and allowed 61 hits in 50.2 innings after joining the Orioles is. Norris will start out in the back of the rotation, but there is no guarantee he succeeds in the AL East.
Over the past two years, Wei-Yin Chen has become a perfect option as the No. 5 starter for the Orioles. In 55 starts the Taiwanese pitcher has thrown 329.2 innings, compiled a 19-18 record with a 4.04 ERA and 4.3 WAR. The 28-year-old won't overpower many batters, but he will mix and match his pitches and provide a well-above average arm in the fifth starter spot.
After two seasons as one of the best setup men in all of MLB, Darren O'Day looks likely to be the Orioles' closer in 2014. The main issue in getting over this step up to closing games will be the mental part for O'Day, who has never filled this role at the MLB level, but has a submarine style that will succeed if pitches are located well.
Tommy Hunter will be the second true option to fill the closer role that was vacated by Jim Johnson this fall, and he has a good chance to earn the role as well. Hunter is more of a traditional closer, as he has a fastball that sits in the upper-90s, a hard biting cutter and even an above average curveball. If the 27-year-old isn't closing games he certainly will be suiting up in the eighth inning.
Ryan Webb is a third candidate with an outside shot to be the Orioles' closer, but in all likelihood he will be pitching in the sixth and seventh innings. Webb mainly relies on a fastball, slider combination when attacking hitters, and used this to compile a 2.91 ERA over 80.1 innings pitched and 60 appearances last season.
Brian Matusz has an outside shot of becoming a spot-starter for the Orioles, but after succeeding in the bullpen last year it makes little sense not to utilize him there again in 2014. Matusz will provide the top left-handed arm out of the bullpen for Baltimore, although he can be effective against both left and right-handed batters.
TJ McFarland will be the second left-handed arm out of the bullpen for the Orioles, although he will likely be a long relief option. In 2013 McFarland filled this role effectively, appearing in 38 games and throwing 74.2 innings with a 4.22 ERA. The 24-year-old is a bit of a soft-tosser, but he knows how to get batters out with consistency.
Kevin Gausman looks likely to provide a power right-handed arm in the middle portion of games for the Orioles. The 23-year-old has an arsenal that should translate well into a full bullpen role, as he has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a biting split-fingered fastball and a softer slider. Showalter would be wise to implement the youngster into the bullpen full time.
Josh Stinson will be the last man in the Orioles' bullpen, and in all likelihood he will only be tasked with mopping up games. The 26-year-old has no real future starting in the major leagues, but he did put up a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings pitched with Baltimore last season. Showalter won't care much how successful Stinson is but rather that he eats up innings when asked to do so.
Matt Wieters is one of the most consistent catchers in MLB, and he will again play close to 140 games behind the plate in 2014. The 27-year-old will provide great defense and handle the starters well. He should put up a slash line close to .250/.325/.430 with 25 home runs and 70 RBI.
Steve Clevenger should win the backup catcher spot, although he won't actually be very busy on the field considering Wieters' durability. Clevenger won't provide an impact bat off the bench, but Showalter will be happy if he simply takes care of the pitching staff and plays good defense.
Chris Davis had a season for the ages in 2013, as he played 155 games in the field, put up a slash line of .286/.370/.634 and hit an eye-popping 53 home runs and 138 RBI. Few can expect the 28-year-old to be that dominant again in 2014, but he will play nearly every day and should hit between 30-40 home runs.
Ryan Flaherty is the favorite to win the Orioles' second base job, which is the only true open starting spot amongst position players. Flaherty will provide above average defense and also comes with the added bonus of being able to play at third base, shortstop and even first base in a squeeze.
J.J. Hardy has been exceptionally consistent for the Orioles over the last three years, as he has hit at least 20 home runs with 68 RBI and a 3.0 WAR in each season. The 31-year-old also plays great defense, will play at least 150 games and generally will help to stabilize the middle of the Orioles' lineup.
Manny Machado was one of the most valuable players in all of baseball last year as he compiled 51 doubles, 14 home runs, 71 RBI, 189 hits and 88 runs scored. When you combine this with defense at third base that is arguably the best in all of baseball, you have a guy who accounted for 6.2 WAR in 2013 alone. Expect the 21-year-old to only improve at the plate and be an MVP competitor in 2014.
Alexi Casilla is fighting to earn a roster spot as a minor league invite at Spring Training, and he should fight his way onto the Orioles' roster. The 29-year-old isn't nearly good enough as a hitter to warrant a starting spot on a playoff team, but he plays great defense at shortstop, second base and third base. This versatility will make Casilla a perfect utility infielder.
Steve Pearce is another player fighting for a backup spot on the Orioles, and he looks primed to win the backup corner outfielder and first baseman spot. Pearce filled this role for the Orioles last season, and his mix of adequate defense and pop off the bench is very valuable as injuries and fatigue wear on throughout the season.
The Orioles signed Nelson Cruz to a one-year contract when few other teams had interest in the 33-year-old, and they will utilize him as a designated hitter in 2014. This looks to be a perfect spot for Cruz, as he isn't a good outfielder but should provide 25 home runs, 30 doubles and 80 RBI.
Adam Jones is another durable player for the Orioles, as the center fielder played 160 games last year and made his third career All-Star Game. The 28-year-old will once again be one of the best center fielders in MLB in 2014, as he will play above average defense, hit 30 home runs, 30 doubles, steal 15 bases, score 100 runs and drive in 100 runs while playing nearly every day.
Nick Markakis has never really broken out into the superstar that many people thought he would be, but this doesn't mean he isn't a solid everyday player. Only once in the last six years has Markakis played less than 157 games, and he still has the ability to get on base with consistency, provide some pop at the plate and play average defense on a daily basis.
David Lough is expected to be the Orioles' starting left fielder, a spot that he has never played consistently at the MLB level. Lough won't provide any wow moments at the plate, as he doesn't get on base at a specifically high clip and is likely to fill the ninth lineup spot as a sort of second leadoff man. The 28-year-old should play 120 games in the field and will provide above average defense because of his good range.
Henry Urrutia is fighting to become the last man off the bench for the Orioles, and his main contributions would come at the plate. The Cuban born outfielder tore up the Arizona Fall League in 2013, compiling a slash line of .377/.434/.551 in 18 games played, and surely would be a good bat off the bench late in games.
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