The Orioles on Thursday announced their initial list of nonroster invitees to spring training, a group that nearly doubles the number of players they’ll have in major league camp when it begins in Sarasota, Florida, later this month.
The 30-player list, which could change if Baltimore makes more moves in the coming weeks, includes both a cadre of the club’s top prospects and players who will contend for spots on the backend of the Orioles’ 26-man roster that will begin the season March 30 against the Boston Red Sox.
With pitchers and catchers set to report to Sarasota on Feb. 15, here are the four types of players the Orioles invited to spring training.
The top prospects
Colton Cowser, Jackson Holliday, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby, Cade Povich, César Prieto, Jordan Westburg
Including those who will already be in major league camp because they’re on Baltimore’s 40-man roster, the Orioles will have all of their top 10 prospects in Sarasota, according to Baseball America’s rankings. Nineteen members of the publication’s most recent top 30 list from August are now on the Orioles’ spring training roster.
That includes each of their past three first-round draft picks, each officially in big league camp for the first time. 2022 first overall selection Jackson Holliday gets to start his first professional spring training on the major league side. Heston Kjerstad, 2020′s No. 2 pick, will also get the experience for the first time after dealing with heart and hamstring issues the previous two springs. Colton Cowser played in a handful of major league exhibitions last year, but 2021′s fifth overall pick figures to make more frequent appearances after finishing last year in Triple-A.
Infielders Jordan Westburg and Connor Norby also ended 2022 at the highest minor league affiliate and aren’t far off from making their debuts. Left-hander Cade Povich, the centerpiece of last summer’s four-player package from the Minnesota Twins for All-Star closer Jorge López, reached Double-A after the deal, with infielders Coby Mayo and César Prieto also topping out at that level; that possibly puts each in reach of a 2023 debut.
With the likes of Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall and others already set to be in camp, Thursday’s news showed how much of Baltimore’s future will be on display throughout the spring.
The former 40-man members
Anthony Bemboom, Daz Cameron, Lewin Díaz, Mark Kolozsvary, Ryan O’Hearn, Chris Vallimont
Each of these players spent time on the Orioles’ 40-man roster this offseason but will enter camp off it.
Anthony Bemboom and Mark Kolozsvary will provide catching depth throughout spring, potentially competing for a major league spot should an injury prevent either projected starter Adley Rutschman or backup James McCann from being available opening day.
The Orioles twice claimed Lewin Díaz on waivers and twice designated him for assignment, with three other teams also removing him from their 40-man rosters in a two-month span before he finally cleared waivers to stick with Baltimore. Both he and Ryan O’Hearn are among a large group of nonroster left-handed hitters jockeying to serve as depth behind Ryan Mountcastle at first base.
A former top prospect who the Houston Astros selected 37th overall in 2015 while Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias oversaw their drafts, Daz Cameron hasn’t lived up to the potential in the majors but offers outfield depth.
A right-handed pitcher, Chris Vallimont recently ranked among Baltimore’s top 30 prospects and pitched well at Double-A Bowie after being claimed from the Twins, but he struggled in Triple-A and didn’t make it through Baltimore’s offseason roster churn. Another pitcher, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez, will fall in this category if he remains with the Orioles after being designated for assignment last week to open a roster spot for trade acquisition Cole Irvin.
The minor league signees
Eduard Bazardo, Wandisson Charles, Franchy Cordero, Kyle Dowdy, Reed Garrett, Ofreidy Gómez, Josh Lester, Nomar Mazara, Curtis Terry
These players, with varying degrees of major league experience, signed minor league deals with the Orioles this offseason. If they don’t break onto the opening day roster, they’ll still provide experienced depth.
Franchy Cordero and Josh Lester offer two more left-handed options at first base, with Curtis Terry a right-handed alternative. Cordero might be a better fit in the outfield, where he and Nomar Mazara will contend with Kyle Stowers to fill a role as a left-handed-hitting corner piece.
Right-handers Eduard Bazardo, Kyle Dowdy and Reed Garrett have each pitched in the major leagues before, while Wandisson Charles and Ofreidy Gómez have yet to break through. Each could factor into the Orioles’ bullpen competition and offer depth throughout the season.
The familiar faces
Maverick Handley, Morgan McSweeney, Robert Neustrom, Ramon Rodriguez, Kade Strowd, Cole Uvila, Ryan Watson
This group reflects players who spent 2022 in the Orioles’ minor league system but haven’t appeared among the organization’s top prospects of late. That doesn’t mean they can’t provide value and make an impression with strong camps.
Maverick Handley and Ramon Rodriguez both caught in the upper minors in 2022, and catching depth is vital in spring training with so many pitchers needing to throw. Handley was the Orioles’ sixth-round pick in 2019, five rounds after they took Rutschman first overall.
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Now in his second major league camp, Robert Neustrom broke out in 2021 but struggled to replicate that performance in 2022. With the Orioles setting aside a spot on their roster for a left-handed-hitting outfielder, there’s opportunity for Neustrom this spring, at least to position himself for a potential debut in 2023.
Morgan McSweeney, Cole Uvila and Ryan Watson each spent time in Triple-A Norfolk’s bullpen in 2022; Watson, a free agent signed after the shortened 2020 draft, was the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year largely thanks to his breakout performance in Bowie’s rotation. Kade Strowd hasn’t pitched above High-A but performed impressively at that level in 2022.
In all, the 30 NRIs leave the Orioles’ spring training roster with 37 pitchers, six catchers, 17 infielders and 10 outfielders.
Pitchers and catchers report: Feb. 15
First full-squad workout: Feb. 21
Grapefruit League opener: Feb. 25 vs. Twins