The first spring training workout is four days away. Some baseballs will be dropped, but not many clues about how the roster is going to be constructed and the pitching staff assembled.
The full squad doesn’t take the field until Feb. 22, but again, there’s only so much you can read into early drills. Maybe where some players are taking grounders, though the media isn’t permitted on the back fields. Maybe where some players are grouped - whether a fringe guy is placed with the regulars or the minor leaguers.
I’m going to wonder how many positions Jahmai Jones plays in camp. He’s been an outfielder and second baseman since the Angels drafted him in the second round. If the Orioles are giving him a shot at a utility job, he’s going to need plenty of reps at shortstop and third base.
Jones could become the starting second baseman at Triple-A Norfolk and get the call later. Perhaps forming a double play partnership with shortstop Richie Martin. The Orioles already have Pat Valaika as a utility option and there are others, including Stevie Wilkerson, who could join him on the bench.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said yesterday that second base is the priority with Jones, but the outfield also could be a landing spot.
I’m going to wonder, and we won’t know the answer for a while, whether the Orioles carry three or four bench players on their 26-man roster.
There’s no limit this year on the number of pitchers, which could prompt manager Brandon Hyde to keep an extra reliever. If that’s the case, there might be room for only one super-utility player who absolutely needs to be able to play the infield and outfield. That’s what makes him “super.”
It isn’t the red cape and the tights.
They seem like a lock to head north, with Austin Wynns destined to be on the taxi squad so often, he becomes the new host of “Cash Cab.” Will Wynns, Nick Ciuffo and Taylor Davis receive a legitimate shot?
I’m going to wonder whether Adley Rutschman takes ground balls at first base and how he looks doing it.
Rutschman isn’t changing positions. Trust me. But the Orioles are likely to give him reps at first.
It can’t hurt, unless there’s a bad hop.
I’m going to wonder whether Trey Mancini spends more time at first base or in right field.
My guess is first base, based on everything that’s been said in the offseason. But Mancini won’t be excluded from the outfield group. There’s room in his locker for a glove and a mitt.
I’m going to wonder whether Cedric Mullins can carry the lessons from the alternate camp site into 2021. He was much better after he returned to the club and now he’s got to be viewed as more than just a possible fourth outfielder.
Mullins has plus speed and he was able to use it.
The first step, so to speak, is getting on base, and Mullins led the majors with nine bunt hits.
A utility role seems unlikely because his shortstop experience is restricted to two games at Xavier University in 2015. He’s a third baseman who’s also played second. Nothing “super” there. But the Orioles want to know if he can eventually be their starter at third.
I’m going to wonder who shows up in the best shape of his life.
Spoiler alert: It’s everyone.
I’m going to wonder whether Félix Hernández has anything left in the tank.
“We all saw him in person in North Port at the new Braves facility last year and he looked great, and then the shutdown happened,” Elias said. “Obviously, he’s been keeping his arm in shape and keeping his body in shape. But recently there’s not a whole lot to go on there.
“He’s a Hall of Famer, he’s got a lot of moxie and pitchability in this phase of his career and we’re hopeful of seeing what that Félix Hernández looked like with the Braves last spring. He had a couple of opportunities and he eyed our situation and it was attractive to him, so we’ll see.
“There’s going to be a lot of unknowns in this camp. These guys haven’t played in a while and that’s why we’re doing this. I actually think performances in spring training and exhibitions are probably going to be a little bit more meaningful than they have been the last few years, just because these are some guys who haven’t played in a year in an organized fashion. No one has seen them in a year, really. We’re going to have to watch everything and probably put a lot of stock in what happens here in a lot of cases.”
I’m going to wonder whether we get a better version of Wade LeBlanc, who’s no longer experiencing discomfort in his elbow. Whether César Valdez gets any consideration as a starter after his dominant stint in winter ball and the Caribbean World Series. Whether Yolmer Sánchez comes as advertised defensively.
Our curiosities will be satisfied. It’s just going to happen gradually.