Only a few 25-man roster spots figure to be up for grabs as the Orioles report to spring training this week to begin preparations for the 2015 season.
Manager Buck Showalter frequently warns against being fooled by a player’s performance in March, but a number of individuals will be competing for a job to help Baltimore defend its 2014 American League East title. As we’ve learned throughout the Showalter era, roster flexibility is a must, so it’s critical to remember which players have minor-league options that could impact their standing on the big-league roster at any given time.
The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently in the major league camp at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on the projected 25-man roster. An asterisk indicates a player who is a non-roster invitee.
LOCK: Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brian Matusz, Bud Norris, Darren O’Day, Chris Tillman, Wesley Wright
BUBBLE: Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez, Ryan Webb, T.J. McFarland, Jason Garcia, Logan Verrett,
LONG SHOT: Tim Berry, Dylan Bundy, Oliver Drake, Eddie Gamboa, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, Dane De La Rosa*, Hunter Harvey*, Mark Hendrickson*, Steve Johnson*, Chris Jones*, Chaz Roe*
Skinny: By their merits, both Gausman and Gonzalez should be locks for the 25-man roster, but the current logjam in the starting rotation — and Jimenez’s albatross of a contract — could bump one to the bullpen or even to Triple-A Norfolk at the start of the season since both have a minor-league option remaining. A trade is always possible, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette also wants rotation depth in the event of an injury or two. As for the bullpen, Brach, Matusz, and Webb are all out of options and Garcia and Verrett are Rule 5 selections, making a trade or two a distinct possibility to clear roster space.
LOCK: Matt Wieters, Caleb Joseph
BUBBLE: Steve Clevenger, J.P Arencibia*,
LONG SHOT: Ryan Lavarnway*, Brian Ward*
Skinny: Based on what Wieters and the Orioles are saying, the three-time All-Star selection could very well be ready for Opening Day, but it will be interesting to see which direction the club goes in if he needs a few more weeks to strengthen his surgically-repaired elbow. Joseph showed enough behind the plate to feel good about him being Wieters’ backup, but Clevenger and Arencibia could be battling it out to be Joseph’s backup to begin the season. Arencibia showed promising power in Toronto, but his career has gone downhill dramatically over the last couple years.
LOCK: Chris Davis (suspended for Opening Day and does not count toward current 40-man roster), Ryan Flaherty, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop
BUBBLE: Rey Navarro, Jimmy Paredes
LONG SHOT: Christian Walker, Michael Almanzar*, Paul Janish*, Chris Parmelee*
Skinny: The Orioles’ fascination with Navarro is curious as they were willing to give him a big-league contract while other teams pursued a minor-league agreement. Paredes showed nice ability at the plate late last year, but his defensive limitations won’t help his chances in Showalter’s eyes. Baltimore expects more at the plate from Schoop this year, but his excellent work in the field makes him a lock to be on the roster with Flaherty occasionally spelling him at second base. Machado has been fully cleared, so there isn’t as much uncertainty with his status for Opening Day as there currently is with Wieters.
LOCK: Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones, Steve Pearce, Travis Snider, Delmon Young
BUBBLE: David Lough
LONG SHOT: Alex Hassan, Henry Urrutia, Dariel Alvarez*, Nolan Reimold*, Matt Tuiasosopo*
Skinny: At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much drama here, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see changes in the outfield as the year progresses. The Orioles hope De Aza settles into a regular leadoff role and Snider is a solid replacement for Markakis in right field, but the likes of Hassan, Urrutia, Alvarez, and Reimold will be on call at Norfolk for opportunities. Lough is out of options and provides speed and defensive ability off the bench, but it will be interesting to see if he can build on a .941 on-base plus slugging percentage in 64 plate appearances in the second half of 2014. Truthfully, Jones in center field is the only sure thing.