Decisions, decisions: O's final roster cutdown is challenging to say the least

We hear big league managers and front office types say something similar early each spring training. They hope there are a lot of tough decisions to make at the end of their camp. They hope a lot of players play well.

It doesn’t always happen. It probably doesn’t often happen.

For the Orioles, this year, it did happen.

Kyle Stowers is batting .297 with an OPS of 1.181 and seven spring homers. Colton Cowser is batting .364/1.246 with four long balls. Coby Mayo is batting .366/1.068. Even a more veteran player like Errol Robinson has gone 6-for-16 this spring. Tyler Nevin has hit .302 and Connor Norby is 6-for-20.

On the mound, the Orioles have nine pitchers with ERAs of 0.00 that have thrown at least three innings.

Heck the team is 18-5-2 with seven games left. Their .783 spring win percentage tops all teams in Florida and Arizona with the Los Angeles Dodgers next at .722. Los Angeles has a plus-46 spring run differential with Baltimore second at plus-37.

Manager Brandon Hyde is right when he says the record doesn’t mean much in spring, but how well the team has played to get that record could have meaning past March 28.

And now the Orioles are getting closer to the final roster cutdown and a time when surely, they will send some players to Triple-A that have done all they could and then some this spring.

In their final evaluations, so much comes into play like players who can be optioned and those that can’t. There are places on the roster where a position may be more open than others. They try to balance left and righty batters and pitchers. They want players who can bring a lot of tools to include defense and speed.

Fairness may not come into play. By that I mean a player with a lot of Triple-A time already may still have to start the year on the farm.

Just for a fun exercise here are some young players – some established and some not yet – and how many plate appearances they have in their careers at Triple-A only. And we also list their batting lines too from Triple-A only.

* Kyle Stowers – 783 PAs and has hit .258/.361/.507/.867.

* Jordan Westburg – 714 PAs and hit .283/.366/.533/.899.

* Connor Norby – 675 PAs and hit .295/.362/.498/.860.

* Ryan Mountcastle – 611 PAs and hit .303/.337/.505/.842.

* Colton Cowser – 523 PAs and hit .280/.399/.498/.896.

* Heston Kjerstad – 334 PAs and hit .298/.371/.498/.870.

* Gunnar Henderson – 295 PAs and hit .288/.390/.504/.894.

* Coby Mayo – 267 PAs and hit .267/.393/.512/.905.

* Austin Hays - 265 PAs and hit .250/.298/.456/.754.

* Adley Rutschman - 238 PAs and hit .295/.399/.480/.879.

* Jackson Holliday – 91 PAs and hit .267/.396/.400/.796.

Westburg had a long wait for his first chance and Holliday may have a short one – in terms of Triple-A time that was needed on the way. Sometimes the best talents come faster and teams just as I have said many times, pick a point to “get on with it.”

For me, Holliday has looked very ready, and it will surprise me if he is not on the Opening Day roster.

Again, decisions usually don't factor in how many plate appearances a player has had at Triple-A. Having zero never kept Manny Machado off the O's roster. Some players are just ready, maybe sooner than we think. 

Also keep in mind that while 26 players will be on the roster on March 28 for the opener, many more will be needed over the full season. Many more. Ryan O'Hearn began last year on the farm and ended it batting in the middle of the Orioles order. 

No, it will not seem fair for some players to go back to the minors if that in fact happens for Opening Day. Sometimes things have a way of working out and maybe that will still happen this year.

But, and kind of as we have expected for months now, the Orioles have more good players than rosters spots with a new season approaching. It's a good thing for the organization overall, but a challenging time for players and fans alike as some favorites might make it and some may not. 

Here are some power rankings: has the Orioles third behind Atlanta first and the Los Angeles Dodgers second in their first power ranking of the new season. The rankings are voted on by a panel of 14 of their writers.

There are four AL East teams among the first nine clubs. Following the Braves, Dodgers and Orioles in the top three spots, the Philadelphia Phillies are fourth and defending champion Texas is fifth. Houston is rated sixth followed by the New York Yankees, Toronto and Tampa Bay with Arizona 10th. Boston is ranked 22nd. 

Click here for more on the rankings. 

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