Taking a guess at who might play this year at Norfolk

Now that the Orioles’ spring training roster is out, we can take a guess and make some projections as to what this year’s Triple-A Norfolk lineup might look like.

It’s clear to me that Norfolk is likely to have a more veteran lineup this year, one potentially filled with players that may be more major league-ready than in some past seasons.

Not only is the O’s big league roster upgraded, but it looks like the Orioles have made a decided effort to have players at Triple-A that will have some major league experience and be ready to come up and contribute at a moment’s notice pending an injury.

In projecting which players could be at Norfolk, you have to also take a guess at which players could clear waivers to get to Triple-A if they are out of options and/or which ones would accept an assignment there.

Not knowing the answer to that question, we can still take a shot at what the Tides could look like come April.

The pitching staff could be headed by Chris Tillman and Zach Britton in the rotation and maybe Troy Patton, too. Also, it could include one or more of Mitch Atkins, Josh Rupe, Ryan Drese or David Riske.

If Jake Fox makes the Orioles’ roster at backup catcher, Craig Tatum could potentially be the Tides’ opening day catcher.

Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell could start at the corner infield positions while players like Nick Green, Robert Andino and Brendan Harris could be playing in the middle infield.

Nolan Reimold and Matt Angle could be in the starting outfield and, who knows, maybe even a vet like Randy Winn could be there, too.

Of the 16 players I have mentioned, all but Angle and Britton have already been not only at Triple-A before, but they have major league experience as well.

That would mean that if the O’s had an injury and needed to call to Norfolk for help, they could bring up a player that already knows what the majors is about and may be more major league-ready right now than a Ryan Adams, Tyler Henson or Joe Mahoney.

That leads to another question: If Norfolk does become a more veteran team this year, do players like Adams, Henson and Mahoney even make it to Triple-A? Will there be playing time and at-bats for them?

Many organizations do put older players at Triple-A these days so they can call on a major league-ready player when needed and not have to hope a rookie making his first trip to the show can handle it.

In one sense, this would mean the Orioles have somewhat of a logjam developing between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk. It would also create some big-time competition for spots on the Norfolk roster. Often, competition is good and brings out the best in the players.

Plus, keep in mind you can call players up from Bowie to Baltimore and even if an Adams, Henson or Mahoney played at Bowie, they would still be getting at-bats in a challenging league and they could still develop as players while waiting to play at a higher level.

Making players work hard and really earn their way to a higher level in the minors is not a bad thing. Maybe the days are over when, just because a player played all year at one level and put up OK numbers, they automatically advance to another level on the farm.

So as spring training goes on and opening day approaches, we will be watching to see who gains the final spot or spots on the O’s roster. But it will also be interesting to see how many older, veteran players wind up at Norfolk.

For those of you in the Baltimore region, hope to see you Monday night from 6-8 p.m. at Hightopps Backstage Grille on York Road in Timonium. MASNsports.com’s Jen Royle, Pete Kerzel and yours truly will host a night of Orioles talk with trivia questions and prizes for O’s fans. Come on out and say hello. For more on this event, click here.

By the way, follow me on Twitter at @masnsteve.

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