Who is edging their way toward a roster spot?
As we head towards the end of March’s second week of Grapefruit League action, the Orioles currently sit with a record of 7-5-2. They’ve defeated the Boston Red Sox twice and the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays each once. They’ve taken two-of-three from the Minnesota Twins and only one-out-of-three from the Tampa Bay Rays. However, they tied with the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies and lost yesterday’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Spring Training wins and losses don’t mean much though. Sure, it’s always nice for the team to pickup a win and yes, something could really be wrong if you finish with only a handful of exhibition wins. However, when the team heads north to New York in 20 days, the Spring Training records disappear and the six-month marathon known as the regular season begins.
This year’s camp has been all about competition and that theme will most certainly be carried over into the regular season. But in order to get there, a roster needs to be set. After 13 games, we’re still too far off to fully grasp who boards a plane to New York in a few weeks, but there’s certainly a good crop of standout candidates to talk about.
Mike Wright started yesterday’s game in Bradenton against the Pirates. It’s been documented many times since camp opened and a few times by myself, but Wright is out of options. The only option he has is to make the team and as it stands this morning, he’s now projected to be the number five starter in the rotation.
Wright has ten innings under his belt this spring and is yet to allow a run. His seven strikeouts is tied for second on the team and he’s only issued two walks in four outings. He has allowed nine hits, but each runner he’s allowed to reach base has been stranded and limiting damage with runners in scoring position will be noticed each-and-every time it happens.
David Hess has also flipped projections and has thrown himself into the rotation. Projected now as the team’s fourth starter, Hess has pitched seven innings over three appearances this spring. He given up just two earned runs and two walks, while striking out four batters he’s faced. While making 19 starts in 21 appearance last season, if he makes the rotation, Hess will certainly look to improve his posted 4.88 ERA from a season ago.
Cody Carroll is making a strong big to pitch out of the bullpen this summer for the Orioles. Among other projected right-handers to make the 25-man roster, Carroll allowed just two earned runs in his appearance against the Phillies in Clearwater on February 28. He’s tossed four innings, one per appearance and has allowed just four hits, one walk and has struck out five batters.
Tanner Scott is positioning himself to land in the bullpen, as well year. He’s given up four earned runs this spring, all in his debut on February 24 against the Blue Jays. In his past three outings, he’s only given up one hit, hasn’t walked a batter and has struck out two.
Leading the position player discussion here is Richie Martin. On Wednesday, I covered how he’s devoted to staying consistent, but he’s certainly turning heads in camp. Currently tied for team lead among players with 20 at-bats or more with a .450 batting average (9-for-20), he’s one of three players with a triple this spring and has doubled twice. Martin has knocked in four runs and has two stolen bases and if he continues at this pace, there’s no doubt he’ll be the Opening Day shortstop.
Chance Sisco is trying to prove that he’s not the same player he was, offensively, in 2018. He’s still tied for second in MLB Spring Training with four home runs and his nine RBI are tied for fifth-most. He’s gone 5-for-12 (.417) so far in six games and is putting together a nice big to be on the 25-man roster to open the season. The question is, will he be the starting catcher or the back-up?
There’s no doubt the outfield competition is crowded this spring. Joey Rickard and DJ Stewart are really beginning to pull away from the competition though. Through 11 games, Stewart is hitting .217 (5-for-23) however, four of his hits have been doubles and he’s knocked in a pair of runs. Rickard on the other hand is tied for fourth on the team in hits with seven and has posted a .333 (7-for-21) average over eight games. He’s also knocked in a pair of runs and has two doubles.
Anthony Santander is also beginning to get some extra looks. The former Rule-5 pick from the Cleveland Indians organization is the other player – mentioned above – tied with Martin among players with at least 20 at-bats, with a .450 batting average (9-for-20). He’s hit two home runs this spring, with six RBI and is currently second on the team with a 1.450 OPS.
Then, there’s the battle for who starts the season at third base between Renato Núñez and Rio Ruiz. As it stands now, Núñez is projected to be the starter, but Ruiz is hot at the plate. Núñez has gone 4-for-19 with a home run and five RBI, while Ruiz is hitting .333 (7-for-21) in nine games, with five RBI, including one yesterday in the 5-4 loss to the Pirates.
Although he may not break camp on the 25-man roster, I have to mention how the number one organizational prospect, Yusniel Diaz, is really smacking the ball and showing why he’s the number one prospect. He’s played in 11 games and is in a four-way tie, leading all of MLB Spring Training with 11 hits. His .407 (11-for-27) batting average is fourth among all qualified players.