Taking a look at the projected bench

We’re 13 days away from Pitchers and Catchers reporting to Sarasota, but that’s not what we’re here for this morning. Today, we’re looking at what Roster Resource projects to be the four-man bench the Baltimore Orioles will open the season with.

A catcher, an outfielder, an infielder and a Rule-5 selection that can play multiple positions on the diamond. Austin Wynns, Hanser Alberto, Drew Jackson and Joey Rickard. I’ll let you match the player to the position. If you’ve been following along with the team, you’ll know who’s who.

Remember though, it’s January 30th. It snowed last night. The wind chill will be close to zero and the decisions to set a roster are still months away. Plenty of things can change between now and Spring Training.

The projected players

Expecting to break camp with 13 position players and 12 pitchers, the four-man bench has a technicality. When the Orioles acquired Drew Jackson during the Rule-5 draft, they solidified his status on the 25-man roster. He has to be there, otherwise he needs to be returned to the Philadelphia Phillies organization. That four-man bench now only has three slots up for grabs.

Drew Jackson, as I mentioned, was acquired in the Rule-5 Draft back in December. He wasn’t drafted by the Orioles, but he was traded to the team for international bonus pool money. In 2015 with Low-A Everett, Jackson was voted to the Northwest League midseason All Star game. He finished that season with a .358/.432/.447 slash line in 59 games. In four seasons in the minors – reaching as high as the Double-A level – Jackson has a career .360 on-base percentage.

BALTIMORE, MD – JUNE 16: Austin Wynns #61 of the Baltimore Orioles singles during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 16, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Austin Wynns is projected to be the backup catcher. His competition in Spring Training is stacking up to be Martin Cervenka, Carlos Pérez and Andrew Susac. All three receiving invites to Spring Training, although not on the 40-man roster. Last season, Wynns appeared in 42 games, starting 33 at catcher. While hitting .255 (28-for-110), he allowed just three passed balls and threw out 32% of would-be base stealers (7-for-22).

Hanser Alberto was selected off waivers from the New York Yankees earlier this month. Back in November, he was taken off waivers from the Texas Rangers. Alberto appeared in 13 games last season, starting three at second base, three at shortstop and one at third base. Alberto missed the entire 2017 season due to right shoulder issues and had right rotator cuff debridement surgery in June of that season. In 2014, he was named statistically as the best defender among Texas league shortstops with at least 50 games played.

Joey Rickard is no stranger to the Orioles bench. Drafted in the 2015 Rule-5 draft from the Tampa Bay Rays, Rickard has played in 275 games with the Orioles. He holds a respectable .252 average over 789 plate appearances and can play anywhere in the outfield. Rickard has appeared in 144 games in right field, 110 in left and 43 in center. In 400 chances, he’s committed just three errors and has 19 assists.

Players that could make the roster

The Orioles have a few players that’ll be in camp that could wind up proving these projections wrong.

Austin Hays is expected to be ready to go by Spring Training. Last season was a challenging one for Hays as he spent the majority of the year on the Disabled List. He underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right ankle and appeared in just 66 games with Double-A Bowie. Baseball Prospectus’ eighth best prospect in the organization, he’ll be competing for a job in right field this spring.

Ryan Mountcastle will have eyes all over him when the team heads south for the winter. Mountcastle was the 36th overall pick in the 2015 Amateur Draft, straight out of Paul J. Hagerty High School. Over four seasons in the minors, Mountcastle has slashed .289/.323/.453 in 397 games. He’s projected to play his 400th minor league game this season and if he’ll be on the 25-man roster, he’s going to need to sharpen his defensive skills. Last year with Double-A Bowie, he started 81 games at third base. In 181 chances, he committed 16 errors. He doesn’t have a rocket launcher arm, so there may need to be some internal discussion about which spot on the diamond suits him best.

Yusniel Diaz is the organizations number one prospect according to Baseball Prospectus. He was acquired in the deal that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He carries a .359 career on-base percentage in the minors and was hitting .314 at Triple-A Tulsa before being dealt to the Orioles. In BP’s prospect report, they state, “He has a patient approach with an excellent feel for the zone and quality pitch recognition.” Díaz, at the very least, is projected to be a September call-up, barring any unforeseen injury.

Brian Pinter

Brian Pinter is the Director of Coverage on the Baltimore Orioles for Maryland Sports Blog. His views and opinions are that of his own and he welcomes any and all discussions. Follow along with Brian Pinter this season on Twitter, @b_pinter23.

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