Since it is never too early to try and predict the opening day 25-man Orioles roster, let’s take a shot today. Yes, it is likely that more players will get added and there could be other changes, injuries and/or trades. So we take a shot as of the morning of Feb. 27. Everything is subject to change.
Starting rotation (5): Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Andrew Cashner, Chris Tillman and an in-house candidate. I’ll make Nestor Cortes Jr. my clubhouse leader for the last spot. As a Rule 5 pick, he has to make the roster and he is left-handed. A few weeks from now, things could be very different. As for today, he’s my pick for No. 5. We could still see a key addition here and certainly fans are clearly hoping that happens.
A signing of, dare we say, Lance Lynn, for instance, could move him to the top of this group, both making Tillman potentially the No. 5 and making it so that fewer ifs are needed for a big improvement over last year’s rotation disaster.
The Orioles need a lot to break right here with this current group, said Captain Obvious. If Bundy and/or Gausman can take steps forward, if Cashner pitches like he did or close in 2017 and if Tillman pitches like he did before 2017, this rotation could go from 2017 terrible to at least 2018 respectable. Yep, that is a lot of ifs.
Bullpen (7): Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens, Brad Brach and Richard Bleier are pretty firm for four of likely seven spots.
The Orioles have three Rule 5 picks and three open spots. Yes, that does mean there is a way all three could make it. Is it likely? No, it’s not. Mike Wright Jr. and Gabriel Ynoa are out of options. Miguel Castro has one left. We have to fit him in here somewhere, right, between either the rotation or bullpen?
If two of three open spots in the ‘pen as of today went to Wright and Castro, and Cortes is the fifth starter, that leaves one spot which could go to a second lefty. Maybe Joely Rodriguez, Andrew Faulkner or Donnie Hart, or even a much longer shot like Tanner Scott, could get the gig.
With Zach Britton’s injury, the ‘pen is a bit more open for spots than we might have expected. This season, the O’s need a fifth starter for the first time in the sixth game on April 4 at Houston. They could carry an extra position player or bullpen arm until adding a starter for that game. If the O’s add another starter, maybe Cortes gets bumped to a long man job out of the bullpen, backing up what would be at least four right-handed starters.
Catchers (2): Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco. I think it’s time to see what Sisco can do at the big league level. But Austin Wynns and Andrew Susac are also on the 40-man roster and this is far from settled at this point. All four catchers can be optioned.
Infielders (5): Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, Tim Beckham and the utility infielder. The utility guy could be one of Éngelb Vielma, Rubén Tejada, Luis Sardiñas or Erick Salcedo, a top defensive shortstop for Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie the past two years. This competition seems wide open and Vielma is the only utility candidate currently on the 40-man. There is even still a possibility of a Ryan Flaherty return if he takes a late spring opt-out from the Phillies and the O’s don’t like what they see from this group.
Outfielders (6): Adam Jones, Trey Mancini, Mark Trumbo, Colby Rasmus, Craig Gentry, Anthony Santander.
There is nothing settled here after the first three, with Trumbo likely to serve as a mostly full-time DH. Gentry injured his hamstring on Sunday and if he misses extensive time that could impact his chance here. If he comes back soon there is the potential of a Rasmus/Gentry right field platoon.
There is certainly still a chance, maybe a very good one, to see Austin Hays on opening day. Although with Santander needing to stay on the roster the first 44 days to satisfy his Rule 5 requirement, that makes it a bit tougher for Hays.
Rasmus has a career .463 slugging and .781 OPS versus right-handed pitching, while Gentry sports a career .347 OBP against southpaws. Hays, by the way, hit .411 against lefties on the farm last year. But would the O’s want Hays on the roster only starting against lefties when he could get full-time reps at Triple-A? No doubt his time is coming and, as Buck Showalter would say, it is more a matter of when and not if at this point. For that matter, Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart are on the come, as well, in the outfield, and Joey Rickard, Jaycob Brugman and Alex Presley are in the outfield mix, as well. Pedro Álvarez was officially added yesterday.