The report date countdown for Orioles pitchers and catchers has reached five days. Or the amount of time it takes a call to be confirmed or overturned.
Which Orioles have something to prove in camp? Plenty of them, but here are a few ideas:
Dwight Smith Jr. is viewed within the organization as a left fielder and nothing more. It’s the only position he played last summer and his major league body of work includes a mere three starts in right and one in center with the Blue Jays.
The metrics and scouting reports on Smith’s defense aren’t favorable, but they’re easier to excuse if he swings the bat as he did in spring training and the first and last months of the season.
Smith’s value is higher if he’s the primary left fielder and reduced if he’s placed in more of a bench role, since he probably won’t be backing up Austin Hays in center field or comfortably shifting over to right. Someone else would have to handle the latter duties, with the possibilities including Cedric Mullins and non-roster invite Mason Williams.
Camp opens with Smith as a favorite to make the club, but it would help his cause if he’s able to project as more than just a left fielder. He has a minor league option remaining.
Health also is a factor, but that’s true with everybody. Smith made his first career opening day roster, but a concussion and strained calf muscle wrecked the experience.
Smith batted .337 (30-for-89) with eight home runs and 45 RBIs with runners in scoring position, and he crafted a career-high nine-game hitting streak in April. He also endured a career-long 0-for-33 hitless streak.
In one of those statistical oddities, Smith posted the same average (.241) in the first and second half. Has nothing to do with the above topic, but it caught my eye.
* Exhibition games enable players to be put in situations that might otherwise elude them. Rule changes can do the same.
Tanner Scott held left-handed batters to a .188 average (9-for-48) last season, but right-handers hit .358 (19-for-53) with a .997 OPS. Left-handers have slashed .204/.317/.328 since he broke into the majors in 2017 and right-handers have slashed .317/.411/.511.
Relievers are now required to face a minimum of three batters or complete an inning. Bullpens are less likely to carry specialists. Splits need to be more balanced.
Scott needs to get out right-handed hitters with a greater degree of frequency.
The Orioles also want Scott to lower his walk rate, with 6.5 per nine innings last season making it harder to stay off the shuttle. He averaged 12.6 strikeouts. The fastball and slider suggest that he can be a real weapon in the late innings. A dominant presence in the back end. But there are obvious areas that need improving or Scott could be optioned again rather than breaking camp with the team.
In one of those statistical oddities, Scott allowed seven earned runs in 13 1/3 innings at home and seven earned runs in 13 innings on the road. Has nothing to do with the above topic, but it caught my eye.
So did 16 of his 19 walks coming on the road.
* Shawn Armstrong was the opposite of Scott, making him a reverse-splits guy. Right-handers batted .324/.400/.534 with six home runs against him and left-handers hit .209/.310/.302 with two home runs.
In Armstrong’s five major league seasons, left-handers have slashed .205/.308/.298 with three home runs against him and right-handers have hit .280/.348/.484 with 13 home runs.
Armstrong is out of options and one of the favorites to make the club. He can be stretched to multiple innings, as he demonstrated in 18 games last season. But his 5.74 ERA and 1.638 WHIP in 55 games, the first four with the Mariners, won’t undergo a significant decrease if his splits stay the same.
In one of those statistical oddities, Armstrong worked 29 innings at home and on the road last season. He walked 14 batters and struck out 32 at home and walked 15 batters with 31 strikeouts on the road.
It has nothing to do with the above topic, but it caught my eye.