Each March, it seems, there are one or more players that surprise us all and make the Orioles Opening Day roster or make it down to one of the final cuts.
Will there be a surprise out there this year?
It seems unlikely with the O’s 25-man roster pretty set before the club even reports to Sarasota. But that’s why they play the games. There could be injuries and/or a trade or trades that could change things in a hurry.
Some players could report and be more improved or advanced than anyone thought or some could show up and not be the talent that everyone expected.
Here are some players that could surprise everyone and make the Opening Day roster and one or two that may have to wait for their time to come.
Jake Arrieta: Last season he made 17 Triple-A starts, pitching 91 2/3 Norfolk innings. That is more Triple-A work than Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez each put in before their Major League debuts. Chris Tillman had him beat by one start and five innings.
Could Arrieta out-pitch Tillman by a large enough margin in March to win the fifth starters’ job? Would the O’s even consider him for a bullpen role? His time is drawing closer but Opening Day is probably not it just yet.
Luis Lebron: No player had a bigger breakout year in 2009 in the Orioles minor leagues. Between Frederick and Bowie he fanned 90 in 60 1/3 innings and gave up just a .137 batting average against. In 27 1/3 innings with Bowie he allowed just eight hits, a .093 average against. In the Eastern League!
Many will be excited to watch the Dominican fireballer in March. Some are convinced he has a chance to be a big league closer someday. But because he has never pitched at Triple-A, coupled with the fact that the club has a lot of right handed relief candidates, that may have to wait a while. But 2010 could be the year of his Major League arrival.
Justin Turner: He got a September callup last year by the O’s. In 2008 with the Reds he played almost always at second base in Double-A. At Norfolk last year the Orioles gave him a handfull of starts at third and short.
He’s a career .307 minor league batter who hit .300 for the Tides. But can he play decent enough defense at short and third to challenge for the backup infielder job?
Scott Moore: He seems like the longest of longshots to make the Orioles Opening Day roster. He played just 32 games for Norfolk last year and his season ended in mid May when he underwent surgery on his right thumb. Reports say he is 100 percent heading to camp.
Moore has played mostly first and third base for the O’s. He can play second and has played some shortstop in his career but is not considered strong enough on defense there to be considered in the running to challenge Robert Andino for the utility infielder spot. He did make the O’s Opening Day roster in 2008.
Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell: They may be the future corner infielders for the Orioles, but barring something incredible, the future will not come as soon as Opening Day.
After all, the O’s are paying Garrett Atkins and Miguel Tejada over $10 million combined this year, in part so this pair can get more minor league seasoning.
Bell has never even played at Triple-A and Snyder needs to prove he can hit Triple-A pitching. It would take some real strange things happening for the future to be now for one or both.
It shows how far the club has come with its depth situation that players like Bell, Snyder and Arrieta seemingly have little chance to make the team.
Do you have any candidates that could surprise everyone and earn a roster spot this year? What players are you most excited to see and hear about when spring training starts? Where will be the best competition for jobs when the games start?