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Harvey, Mancini among 17 non-roster Orioles invited to spring training

Posted on 08 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey and 2015 Orioles minor league player of the year Trey Mancini were among the 17 non-roster players officially invited to major league spring training on Monday.

The list includes a total of seven pitchers — four lefties and three right-handers — as well as three catchers, four infielders, and three outfielders. Of course, the list below does not include players on the 40-man roster, who are automaticallly invited to spring training.

Orioles pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota on Feb. 18 with the first full-squad workout set to take place at the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Feb. 24.

PITCHERS (7)

RHP Pedro Beato
Skinny: Originally a first-round pick of the Orioles in 2006, the 29-year-old bounced around the majors in 93 1/3 career innings before posting a 2.65 ERA pitching in relief for Triple-A Norfolk a year ago.

LHP Jeff Beliveau
Skinny: Signed to a minor-league deal in December, the 29-year-old southpaw has a 4.00 ERA in 45 career major league innings with the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay.

LHP Cesar Cabral
Skinny: He received a cup of coffee with Baltimore in early June, but Cabral posted an underwhelming 4.95 ERA in 40 innings for Norfolk in 2015.

RHP Hunter Harvey
Skinny: The health of the 2013 first-round pick will be a big story of the spring after Harvey, 21, missed the entire 2015 minor-league season with a broken fibula and lingering forearm and elbow issues.

LHP Andy Oliver
Skinny: After pitching briefly for Detroit in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the 28-year-old has bounced around the minors and was picked up by the Orioles last July and posted a 3.72 ERA for Norfolk.

RHP Todd Redmond
Skinny: The 30-year-old veteran posted a 4.13 ERA for Toronto over the last three seasons and is now in his second stint with the Orioles organization.

LHP Ashur Tolliver
Skinny: A fifth-round pick of the 2009 draft, Tolliver, 28, has overcome some injuries and used a three-quarters throwing motion to post a crisp 2.91 ERA for Double-A Bowie in 2015.

CATCHERS (3)

Jonah Heim
Skinny: The 2013 fourth-round pick saw his 2015 season with Single-A Delmarva derailed by a Lisfranc injury in his foot, limiting him to just 164 plate appearances in his third professional season.

Audry Perez
Skinny: Acquired from Colorado in late March, the 27-year-old posted a .582 on-base plus slugging percentage for Norfolk in 282 plate appearances last season.

Chance Sisco
Skinny: Rated the Orioles’ No. 3 prospect by Baseball America, Sisco had an .809 OPS at Single-A Frederick before being moved to Bowie where he produced a .729 OPS in 84 plate appearances in 2015.

INFIELDERS (4)

Paul Janish
Skinny: The slick-fielding infielder hit .286 in 35 at-bats for the Orioles last season, but he carries a career .574 OPS in seven major league seasons and is off the 40-man roster.

Trey Mancini
Skinny: The 23-year-old took off in 2015 by hitting a combined .341 with 21 home runs, 89 RBIs, and a .938 OPS between Frederick and Bowie to land himself firmly on the organization’s radar for the future.

Ozzie Martinez
Skinny: The starting shortstop at Bowie hit only .252 with a .613 OPS, but the 27-year-old plays good defense and provided veteran leadership for the Baysox in 2015.

Steve Tolleson
Skinny: Having already spent time with the Orioles in 2012, the 32-year-old utility man signed a minor-league deal in November and appeared in 128 games for Toronto over the last two years.

OUTFIELDERS (3)

Xavier Avery
Skinny: The 2008 second-round pick has been with a number of organizations since being traded by the Orioles three years ago and signed a minor-league deal to return in November.

L.J. Hoes
Skinny: Reacquired in November, the 25-year-old was outrighted to Norfolk but still figures to compete for a roster spot despite an underwhelming .617 OPS in parts of four major league seasons.

Alfredo Marte
Skinny: After seeing limited action with Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels in the last three years, Marte, 26, inked a minor-league deal in November and had an .850 OPS with Triple-A Salt Lake in 2015.

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Orioles can’t afford to experience déjà vu in outfield

Posted on 27 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The surprise expressed by some over L.J. Hoes being designated for assignment on Tuesday says all you need to know about the current state of the Orioles outfield.

Dan Duquette still has work to do with spring training only a few weeks away.

Any notion that Hoes — a former third-round pick who has yet to establish himself as a bona fide major leaguer — was even a sleeper candidate to start in right field reflects how little quality depth the Orioles have at the corner outfield spots. The acquisition of Efren Navarro from the Los Angeles Angels doesn’t change that reality, either.

The Orioles cannot afford a repeat of last year at the positions flanking five-time All-Star center fielder Adam Jones. In 2015, Baltimore left fielders combined to hit .210 with a .640 on-base plus slugging percentage and were worth minus-0.7 wins above replacement. Right field was better at 2.0 wins above replacement, but nearly half of that value stemmed from the 29 starts Chris Davis made at the position.

If the season were to begin today, Korean newcomer Hyun Soo Kim would likely be the starting left fielder with Nolan Reimold trotting out to right field. That combination doesn’t inspire confidence in an otherwise-strong lineup.

To be fair, the Orioles have spent gobs of money this offseason re-signing Davis and Darren O’Day to long-term deals, inking Matt Wieters to a $15.8 million qualifying offer, and acquiring slugger Mark Trumbo and his $9.15 million salary for 2016. The Kim signing at $7 million over two years could pay major dividends, but you’d prefer a relative unknown who was playing in the Korean Baseball Organization a year ago to be slated as the No. 4 outfielder to start a season for a contending club.

The 32-year-old Reimold managed to stay healthy last year, but a .247 average with a .738 OPS in 195 plate appearances doesn’t scream starting right fielder. The club’s other options don’t carry great appeal, either.

Rule 5 selection Joey Rickard, 24, hit a combined .321 at three levels in the Tampa Bay system last season, but why did the Rays — a club always needing cheap talent — leave him off their 40-man roster? At the very least, he’ll be a name of interest to watch during spring training.

Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez was promoted to the big leagues in late August, but he’s 27 and received a meager 31 plate appearances with the Orioles, making you wonder whether manager Buck Showalter has much confidence in him. He has an exceptional throwing arm, but a .305 on-base percentage at Triple-A Norfolk in 2015 isn’t what you’re looking for.

Henry Urrutia provided one of the feel-good moments of the 2015 season with his walk-off home run against the New York Mets in August, but the 28-year-old struggles to pull the ball and isn’t a graceful fielder despite some improvement over the last couple years. He was optioned back to the minors just before September call-ups and wasn’t summoned to Baltimore again.

The Orioles could always turn to Trumbo at a corner outfield spot, but the fielding metrics suggest first base as his only suitable position without compromising the overall defense. Showalter has already indicated that he’ll serve as Baltimore’s primary designated hitter with Davis back in the fold.

And there’s always Jimmy Paredes, who played right field regularly in winter ball this offseason in hopes of finding a defensive position he can handle. But the bigger problem could be Paredes’ .517 OPS in the second half of 2015 after he posted an .807 mark before the All-Star break.

This group sounds a lot like last year’s flawed collection that included Alejandro De Aza, Travis Snider, Delmon Young, Steve Pearce, and David Lough. If we’re being honest, it looks even worse on paper than that group did at this point last year.

Wednesday’s report indicating that the Orioles still had a five-year offer on the table for Yoenis Cespedes even after re-signing Davis to a $161 million contract creates hope that Duquette will still make an impact addition to the outfield. A couple attractive options still remain on the free-agent market.

His signing would require the Orioles to surrender their first-round pick in this year’s draft, but Dexter Fowler holds a sparkling .363 on-base percentage in his career. His speed would also be a nice addition, and he could probably make a positive transition to a corner outfield spot after less-than-impressive defensive metrics in center over the last few seasons.

Austin Jackson is coming off consecutive years with an OPS below .700, but he’s only 29, is still a solid defender, and performed fairly well before being traded in the midst of each of the last two seasons. Perhaps some stability would help get his career back on track, and he wouldn’t command a draft pick or — one would assume — a lucrative commitment to sign him.

There’s always the possibility of a trade, but the Orioles’ shortage of quality prospects has been discussed ad nauseam. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Other platoon types such as Will Venable, David Murphy, and Matt Joyce remain unsigned as well.

In a perfect world, fans would probably like to see the Orioles add two quality outfielders to the current mix, but the rest of the lineup is strong enough to carry a question mark at one of those corner positions as long as that individual plays good defense, which was another issue at those spots.

There’s still time, but the Orioles need to do whatever it takes to fight off that feeling of déjà vu in the outfield that plagued them throughout the 2015 season.

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Orioles acquire outfielder Efren Navarro from Angels

Posted on 26 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Still needing to add a corner outfielder and a starting pitcher before spring training begins next month, the Orioles made a minor roster move on Tuesday with the acquisition of outfielder Efren Navarro.

Sending cash to the Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore added the 29-year-old Navarro and designated outfielder L.J. Hoes for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. The Orioles’ third-round selection in the 2008 draft and part of the Bud Norris trade in 2013, Hoes had been reacquired from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash considerations in late November.

The left-handed Navarro has batted .246 with a .303 on-base percentage in 280 major league plate appearances over the last four seasons. He carries a .365 career OBP in the minor leagues and hit .326 or better for Triple-A Salt Lake in each of the last three straight seasons (2013-15), but he never showed more than gap power in the minors — Navarro has hit more than seven home runs in a minor-league season just once —  and his success at the plate has yet to translate to the big leagues.

Navarro appeared in 118 games over the last two season for the Angels, but he was designated for assignment last week. Primarily a first baseman in the minor leagues, Navarro has learned to play the corner outfield spots over the last couple seasons and is considered a solid defensive player.

Meanwhile, Hoes had been discussed by some fans as a potential sleeper candidate to win a starting job, which is more a reflection of the Orioles’ lack of quality outfield depth. The addition of Navarro does little to improve an outfield picture that consists of All-Star center fielder Adam Jones and a list of question marks headlined by Korean newcomer Hyun Soo Kim and veteran Nolan Reimold.

Mark Trumbo is also capable of playing the corner spots, but manager Buck Showalter has already indicated that he will primarily serve as the club’s designated hitter while receiving occasional starts at first base or in the outfield.

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Orioles reacquire outfielder L.J. Hoes from Houston

Posted on 25 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Two years after sending outfielder L.J. Hoes to Houston as part of the trade for pitcher Bud Norris, the Orioles have reacquired their former prospect for cash considerations.

To make room on the 40-man roster, Baltimore designated infielder Andy Wilkins for assignment on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Hoes batted .295 with 24 doubles, three triples, three home runs, and 53 RBIs in 99 games with Triple-A Fresno last season. He only received 16 plate appearances for the Astros in 2015 after 317 plate appearances for Houston over the previous two seasons.

After originally being selected by the Orioles in the third round of the 2008 draft, Hoes was traded along with pitching prospect Josh Hader and a draft pick to the Astros in exchange for Norris on July 31, 2013. Norris won 15 games as part of the Orioles’ American League East championship club in 2014 before struggling mightily and eventually being released this past season.

Having played 112 career games in the majors, Hoes has hit .237 with 12 doubles, two triples, four homers, and 22 RBIs in 337 plate appearances. Over 777 career minor-league games, the right-handed hitter has a .288 average with 29 home runs and a .369 on-base percentage over eight seasons.

The 27-year-old Wilkins had been claimed off waivers by the Orioles from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 6.

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Orioles recall Hoes to serve as right-handed bat off bench

Posted on 28 July 2013 by WNST Staff

The Orioles announced Sunday that they have recalled outfielder L.J. Hoes from Triple-A Norfolk. To make room for Hoes on the roster, right-handed pitcher Jairo Asencio has been designated for assignment.

Hoes, 23, was batting .304/.406/.403 in 99 games for the Tides. He ranks among International League leaders in on-base percentage (3rd), hits (5th, 111) and runs (T-3rd, 62). The 2012 Orioles Minor League Player of the Year appeared in two games for the Birds last season.

Asencio, 30, appeared in four games for the Orioles, posting a 7.71 ERA (2.1IP, 2ER).

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