Some potential Orioles non-roster invite spring storylines

The media crowd around Jackson Holliday’s locker will have more layers than an onion on his first day of availability in camp. Must be his appeal.

(You see what I did there.)

Holliday was a good story last spring. The first-overall draft pick with the youthful face and famous father. Everyone wanted to see him play, and he stuck around much longer than anticipated.

It turned out to be more than a courtesy look and a chance to soak in the environment. Holliday wasn’t reassigned to the minor league side until March 14, after batting .385 with a .991 OPS.

The Orioles announced 30 non-roster invites on Feb. 2 and expanded the list later that day after outrighting reliever Darwinzon Hernández. The camp roster held 71 players, with an overflow in the auxiliary clubhouse.

Holliday will return next month as baseball’s No. 1 prospect, and this time he’ll be bombarded with questions about his chances of breaking camp with the team. Having his name announced on Opening Day in Baltimore at age 20. Starting at second base or shortstop.

He’s also the No. 1 storyline.

Connor Norby will be invited again and I’m wondering how he views his future in the organization. The Orioles aren’t holding second base for him. They have Holiday, Jordan Westburg and possibly others.

So, what’s next for Norby?

Of course, the point is moot if the next thing is a trade.

Coby Mayo also is receiving another invite and I want to know more about the team’s plans for him in camp. His work in the outfield and how he views his chances of making the club as a corner infielder.

Here are a few other anticipated invites of interest:

Outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr.

First, I’m interested in whether he’s in major league camp. It certainly seems possible since Holliday was there last spring. Second, it would be nice to review his first professional season after the Orioles selected him 17th overall in last year’s draft. And third, someone needs to set up a match race between Bradfield and Jorge Mateo.

Catcher Samuel Basallo

I’m working off another assumption here. Basallo is the No. 2 prospect in the organization per Baseball America and is moving up from No. 5 on MLB Pipeline after its next update. How does he co-exist with Adley Rutschman, and is he expecting to get lots of reps at first base?

Outfielder Hudson Haskin

MLB Pipeline ranks Haskin, a second-round pick in 2020 out of Tulane, as the No. 17 prospect in the organization but he could drop in the next update. He played in only 33 games last year due to a hamstring injury and season-ending surgery in July for a hip impingement, and the Orioles left him exposed in the Rule 5 draft. How’s his health and his outlook on 2024 after reaching Triple-A?

Catcher Michael Pérez

The backup catcher battle is a one-man fight, with James McCann heading north unless he’s injured again. Anthony Bemboom is gone, and Pérez is an experienced alternative. That makes him interesting.

Right-hander Chayce McDermott

McDermott was chosen as the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He’s the highest ranked pitching prospect in the system. That’s enough to attract media.

Outfielder Dylan Beavers

Beavers was the 33rd-overall selection in the 2022 draft who displayed big-time power at the University of California. He’s a top 10 prospect in the organization who reached Double-A Bowie last summer. It isn’t hard to find reasons to talk to him if he’s in Sarasota.

Right-hander Nate Webb

Webb signed a two-year minor league contract while recovering from Tommy John surgery in late March. That’s a bit unusual. Webb might not be a full-go in camp, but he’s got an invite and could make his major league debut later in the summer.

Third baseman Max Wagner

I talked to a scout from outside the organization who loves Wagner’s swing and approach. Wagner, a second-round pick in 2022 out of Clemson, underwent surgery in December to excise a fractured hook of hamate in his left hand. The media really loves a good injury update (see above), but I once had a Baltimore Sun editor complain about me leading off too many spring training notebooks with them.

My response was to stop for one day.

Note: The Orioles signed undrafted free agent pitcher and Baltimore native Dominic Freeberger, 23, to a minor league contract. 

Freeberger attended the University of Connecticut, where he was Big East Conference Player of the Year as a third baseman in 2023. The school announced his signing Wednesday night on the former Twitter.

Freeberger graduated from Calvert Hall and spent four years at the University of North Carolina-Ashville before transferring to UConn, where he batted .346/.429/.484 with 13 doubles, seven home runs, 61 RBIs, 34 walks and 38 strikeouts last year in 298 plate appearances.

The right-hander made 35 relief appearances in college, including six last year, and posted a 6.29 ERA and 1.544 WHIP in 34 1/3 innings. He averaged 6.0 walks and 9.2 strikeouts.

The Orioles announced Freeberger as a pitcher, but he's played every infield and outfield position.

Freeberger returned to his local roots two years ago with the Frederick Keys in the MLB Draft League.

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