SARASOTA, Fla. – Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and his staff have several decisions coming when spring training nears the end and the regular season is about to begin.
Not only do they have to set the 26-man roster for the big league squad but also for Triple-A where they get callups and reinforcements throughout the year. And the Norfolk team should see numerous top 100 prospects on its roster through the season. Players like Colton Cowser, Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby and Jordan Westburg could be there and others could find their way later in the year such as Heston Kjerstad and Coby Mayo.
The top young prospects will need to get their at-bats, so where does that leave roster room at Norfolk for veteran non-roster players in camp, who might also go there as injury insurance and to provide more depth. A list that could include a Nomar Mazara, or Daz Cameron, Josh Lester or Lewin Díaz for instance. Can the club try to keep the vets too or will some leave via opt outs or other avenues if they don’t make the Opening Day roster.
“It really depends on a case-by-case basis,” Elias said during Saturday's live broadcast on the Orioles Radio Network, heard in Baltimore via WBAL and 98 Rock. “Some of them do not have any type of opt out. Others, by virtue of their service time, have opt outs, several of them that are mandated by the collective bargaining agreement. Some of them are at the end of camp, some in May, some in June. Mazara fits that bill. And there are others that have negotiated a couple of opt outs or what are called assignment clauses. Which is, sort of, a step down from an opt out.
“That is going to impact some of these guys staying in the organization, if they don’t make the team. We recognize that not all of them are going to make it out of the chute, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The Orioles of course, don’t want to block any of their prospects from getting time at Triple-A with an older player on that Norfolk roster.
The Tides should have a pretty stacked roster and Elias stated what should be obvious - they will not block a prospect.
“Try not to stress out about that too much in advance, because things kind of have a way of sorting themselves out, an injury or just other developments. But certainly as we were bringing some of these guys into the organization over the winter, we were cognizant that, we expect we are going to have a lot of prospect-types in Triple-A. They are hard to put on the bench when they are at Triple-A, you need them to play as much as possible. And we may be working around that in some regards with some of this major league depth. I don’t know what that is going to look like exactly, I just know we’ve got an eye on that and it is something we’ll be careful to sort out so that our guys that are top 100 prospects, they need to get what they need to get when they are there."
One of those prospects, Ortiz, hit a rocket RBI triple 400-feet to center during Elias' appearance on the broadcast. From July on last year on the farm, Ortiz hit .352/.416/.610 and led all of the minors in hits and total bases and his OPS in that span of 1.026 was seventh-best.
“That’s good for my credibility with the radio audience,” Elias quipped after Ortiz hit that ball so hard.
“He seems to have picked up where he left off in this camp. Everybody is raving about him, both offensively and defensively. He looks great. Kid’s a plus defensive shortstop. Got over an injury, was really good as you mentioned in the second-half. It’s a short, quick, snappy swing, not a lot of holes in his game right now.”
The subject of the World Baseball Classic came up during that interview as Anthony Santander batted during Elias’ appearance. He said he didn’t think losing players like Santander, Cedric Mullins and Dean Kremer for a time from camp would be too impactful on the Orioles this spring.
“I’m hopeful not too much. These guys are excited about it,” he said. “They have been, it seems to me, a little more advanced in their live at-bats than the other hitters. I think they came in probably a bit earlier and got into game-mode a couple of weeks earlier which makes sense.
“But I’m hopeful for a position player that it shouldn’t matter too much. Dean Kremer, pitching for Team Israel as a starter and for a pitcher, especially a starting pitcher, it’s a little bit more of an impact on your preparation. Just that, he needs to have his game velo and be built up and stretched out sooner than we would have had planned, but I’m sure he’s going to be fine.
“I was expecting we were going to have more (in the WBC), just kind of didn’t happen for a number of different reasons for some guys, but you know I don’t think it’s something to worry about. It’s a great event. You’d be surprised, I think, how much the players love it and take pride getting to play for their team and their country. Every guy when we told them they were going to play for their team and their country was fired up and they are taking it very seriously.”
The Orioles are off to a 2-0 Grapefruit League start scoring 20 runs after Sunday's 10-6 win in Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers. Today the Birds host Tampa Bay at Ed Smith Stadium with lefty Bruce Zimmermann getting the start.