The season isn’t starting today. The Orioles aren’t in the Bronx and Manny Machado still isn’t wearing pinstripes. The roster hasn’t really started to take shape unless you count a couple of Rule 5 picks who will compete for shortstop and utility jobs and a left-handed hitting third baseman to compete against a right-handed hitting third baseman.
Keep a brown paper bag handy to prevent hyperventilating.
The clock hasn’t become the enemy, with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias already stating that the Orioles will be slower and later moving into the free agent market. They’ve already discussed trades. No one is slipping into a panic on Jan. 2.
I provide these reminders as I uphold the tradition of submitting to a national publication a projected rotation, bullpen, lineup and bench. The deadline arrived before Christmas, early by any standards and especially so with the Orioles, who often do chunks of their business in spring training.
I put DJ Stewart in right field having no idea whether he’ll break camp with the team. I kept Renato Núñez at third base because there isn’t a better alternative currently on the roster, though Rio Ruiz was acquired at the Winter Meetings to provide an alternative.
I have Austin Wynns behind the plate on opening day rather than a proven veteran because the Orioles don’t currently own a proven veteran. I have Rule 5 pick Richie Martin at shortstop with Jonathan Villar at second base.
The order includes Chris Davis in the fifth slot, higher than deserved given the continuing lack of production. But again, the alternatives are really limited on this date. It goes against what I’ve been preaching, but bumping up Núñez, for instance, would seem to be a reach and in this lineup leave the Orioles with three right-handed batters in a row.
Here’s the lineup, which isn’t likely to match the one posted on March 28:
CF Cedric Mullins (S)
2B Jonathan Villar (S)
LF Trey Mancini (R)
DH Mark Trumbo (R)
1B Chris Davis (L)
3B Renato Núñez (R)
RF DJ Stewart (L)
C Austin Wynns (R)
SS Richie Martin (R)
The bench has to include a backup catcher, utility infielder and a spare outfielder. Teams ideally want someone with the versatility to move from the infield to the outfield.
I’ve included Drew Jackson, another Rule 5 selection who was obtained in a trade, but Ruiz, Steve Wilkerson or Jace Peterson could unseat him. And the lack of an experienced major league catcher is reflected again here:
C Chance Sisco (L)
OF Joey Rickard (R)
INF Drew Jackson (R)
INF Breyvic Valera (S)
My 25-man roster excludes Austin Hays due to his ankle surgery following a disappointing season. Otherwise, he’d certainly be in the mix for the right field job.
Here’s are the starters, which leaves ample room for debate:
RHP Dylan Bundy
RHP Alex Cobb
RHP Andrew Cashner
RHP David Hess
RHP Yefry Ramírez
There are plenty of other candidates for the last two spots, including Josh Rogers, who would provide a much-needed left-handed presence.
Southpaws aren’t lacking in my mock bullpen, which reads as follows:
RHP Mychal Givens
LHP Richard Bleier
RHP Pedro Araujo
LHP Tanner Scott
RHP Mike Wright Jr.
RHP Miguel Castro
LHP Paul Fry
Jimmy Yacabonis is absent from the rotation and bullpen, but he certainly could make the club in either capacity. It’s important to learn whether Elias, manager Brandon Hyde and the new director of player development agree that he needs to stay in a specific role.
Now it’s your turn. How would you set the 25-man roster today?