By this time next week, the Orioles will be on a mad dash north to Baltimore (by way of Norfolk), and whichever questions they have about their roster construction will be essentially answered.
But until then, there’s still plenty to speculate about as far as which 25 players will get to trot onto the field for Opening Day on April 3. What happens to Trey Mancini? Is this the year they don’t keep their Rule 5 draft picks? Has Craig Gentry done enough to earn a roster spot?
These questions and more are answered below in this speculative attempt at the Orioles’ Opening Day roster.
Catchers (2): Welington Castillo, Caleb Joseph (Remaining in camp: Chance Sisco)
This position was going to be one of intrigue until Francisco Pena was designated for assignment before camp began. That, combined with what has been a strong all-around spring for catcher Caleb Joseph, means it’s as easy as they come for manager Buck Showalter at this position.
Had Joseph not looked like he’d left his 2016 struggles behind him, it might have created a tough situation for Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette.
You’d think hitting .319 with seven extra-base hits in spring, all while adding a new position to his repertoire, would be enough to get Trey Mancini onto the club. And he probably will be up, perhaps sooner rather than later, but even with him pressing the issue this spring it’s hard to fit him into the Opening Day roster.
Now with that said, he is going to be a major asset in one particular sense this year — against the Boston Red Sox. With David Price, Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz all ticketed for Boston’s rotation at one point or another, Mancini’s right-handed bat will be required for those series. How they’ll get him on the roster for those series — especially the early one on April 11-12 — will be interesting to see, considering the position player portion of the roster isn’t flexible at all. But they’ll certainly try.
Either way, it’ll likely be another year before Mancini gets his orange carpet moment.
Outfielders (7): Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Hyun Soo Kim, Seth Smith, Joey Rickard, Craig Gentry, Aneury Tavarez (Anthony Santander – disabled list (shoulder/elbow); Remaining in camp: Pedro Alvarez, Chris Dickerson)
Here’s where there’s some fun. First, there’s the Craig Gentry renaissance, which will see him go from a late-spring signing to a member of the Opening Day roster as the lone nonroster invitee to make the club. He and Joey Rickard will likely patrol the corners against left-handed pitching, making Adam Jones happy in the process.
Aneury Tavarez stays essentially as roster manipulation to try to delay any decisions on the Rule 5 picks — the Orioles cannot really hamper their day-to-day desire to put their best team on the field and still carry him, at least to start the year. It will be the club’s greatest roster maneuvering triumph to keep either or both of these Rule 5 picks, with Anthony Santander starting the season on the disabled list, but this will be a good start.
Omitted here is Pedro Alvarez, the designated hitter-turned-outfielder who has barely had a week at his new position in camp as of now. Showalter has made it clear that Alvarez knows his situation, and knows that he might have to get some seasoning in the minors to do it.
As for Alvarez, here’s a weird thought: Why not let him play outfield every day at Double-A Bowie? He can still live in Baltimore, won’t be in as crowded of an outfield, and is more easily summoned when a need does arrive. With Mancini likely getting some right-field reps in Norfolk, it could make sense.
Starting pitchers (4): Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez (Chris Tillman – disabled list; Remaining in camp: Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Chris Lee, Gabriel Ynoa, Jayson Aquino)
Showalter has threatened to break camp with three starters if one wasn’t ready, but that doesn’t look like it will be necessary. Still, the smart money is they only break with four starters, given they won’t need a fifth until April 15. That way, the Orioles can give whomever will start that day a turn through the rotation in Norfolk to stay on his routine and keep on schedule.
Who that fifth starter is remains to be seen — Chris Lee and Gabriel Ynoa have been getting opportunities to distinguish themselves, and Mike Wright remains a candidate who probably gets the edge by having done it before — but that’s one of the big storylines remaining before the team breaks camp.
Relief pitchers (7): Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, Logan Verrett, Vidal Nuno (Remaining in camp: Oliver Drake)
Here’s another relatively interesting spot. The first five — Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, and Donnie Hart — are written in stone at this point. And whomever gets chosen for the (likely) two long-relief spots shouldn’t get comfortable.
Logan Verrett and Vidal Nuno are the choices here for two reasons. Verrett is having a decent spring and isn’t someone the organization seems to view as a starter. Showalter has grown more flexible in recent days, but said early on he didn’t want to move his Norfolk starters into the major league bullpen when there were going to be other long-relief candidates. So that gives an advantage to someone like Verrett over Tyler Wilson, though Wilson wouldn’t be a surprise given his fabled trustworthiness. With Nuno, the desire to have a left-handed long reliever in a division with so many talented left-handed hitters is always a priority. Nuno can fill that.
Oliver Drake’s omission means that he’ll have to be exposed to waivers in order to be sent to the minors, but that’s a chance you take at the end of camp when teams' rosters are packed and they’re all trying to hoard assets; not after the season begins when more 40-man roster spots are available.