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Baltimore Orioles

Orioles spring training stock watch: 10 players on the rise with two weeks left in camp

Sarasota, Fla. — With Monday’s scheduled day off in Orioles camp representing the two-week mark before the final spring training game in Florida, manager Brandon Hyde expects the intensity level to ramp up as the regular season approaches.

For the regulars who are using this time to simply round into game form, to those who are meaning to build on their first significant major league experience and become regulars themselves, it’s a matter of showing that they’re ready. For those on the fringes, it’s a continued evaluation period to prove that, even if it’s not for Opening Day, they can help the Orioles at some point in a season.

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Some have made that case better than others this spring. A camp that at one point boasted 69 players is down to 54, with some of the departed still leaving a strong impression. Here are 10 players whose stock has risen in the past month since the Orioles reported to spring training in Sarasota.

Chris Davis

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Where else could we begin? Though his power streak from the first week of camp has waned a bit, Davis’ at-bats continue to be completely different from what he’s shown in the past. He’s still being aggressive, with his newfound muscle giving him the confidence to attack more pitches that he can drive again, and with “a spring training is meaningless” caveat, consider that in his four games entering Sunday, he had two sacrifice flies and four two-out RBIs. He singled with Austin Hays at third base Sunday to continue his run of productive at-bats. Those are the types of plate appearances that Davis has been lacking in recent years. That, more than anything else, is likely going to hearten Brandon Hyde and the Orioles if he can keep it going.

Rio Ruiz

Speaking of slugging corner infielders, Ruiz has done everything he can to show his changes at the plate in the second half of 2019 were legitimate. After returning from a brief minor league stint Aug. 10, Ruiz’s slugging percentage over the final two-month span was over 100 points higher than it was before he was sent down. It was .335 at the time of his demotion, and .473 after. Such an upgrade spoke to a more aggressive approach on balls he could drive, and he’s done that again this spring.

Bruce Zimmermann

It speaks well to Zimmermann that all the other pitchers who began last year in Bowie — Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, and Alex Wells — are back in minor league camp already, and he’s still here. The Ellicott City native has faced some top-flight major league lineups and shown he has the stuff to get hitters out. He’s combined a little bump in velocity with a better slider and a good changeup, and if he was on the roster, there would be some serious John Means vibes in terms of making the team out of nowhere. As it is, he might have to settle for getting a long look with an eye toward a midseason call-up from Triple-A Norfolk.

Eric Hanhold

Hanhold was claimed off waivers from the New York Mets in September but didn’t join the Orioles that month. Considering what they’ve seen of him this spring, they might regret not taking a quicker look. Despite being outrighted off the roster in the offseason, Hanhold looks like he belongs, with five scoreless innings in five appearances, striking out eight while allowing two hits and walking two. Hyde likes his fastball-slider combination and his size. The quick, painless relief innings probably help, too.

Dean Kremer

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With only a month of time at Triple-A, it’s not necessarily an indictment of Kremer that he was optioned to minor league camp last week. He has to check some boxes at Norfolk, but he also set himself to be a valued addition to the Orioles whenever he joins their rotation. Kremer has added some fastball velocity in shorter stints to pair with his curveball, but showed the gains made in the Arizona Fall League on his slider and changeup as well. The Orioles won’t rush him when it comes to getting him to Baltimore, and nor should they. But Kremer’s spring efficiency and mindset means they’ll be getting something they like when they do.

Pat Valaika

The environs of Florida spring training parks aren’t necessarily as inflating to hitting numbers as the Triple-A Pacific Coast League was last year, but Valaika’s hard contact is resulting in home runs again this spring. More important to the Orioles, especially with a 26th roster spot available and designated for a position player, will be the fact that he can play all four infield positions, including a capable shortstop, and can provide a bit of pop with the bat.

Mason Williams

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Williams put in a workmanlike year in Norfolk before his major league call-up was cut short by a wall-crash in the outfield. Seeing him in spring training, however, has given a full glimpse of what he brought to both the Tides and his teammates. Williams is a popular player who, with two years of big league service time, was clearly an asset to younger teammates in Norfolk, and who has shown himself to be unselfish with his knowledge and time this spring. Add in his outfield ability and the fact that he plays center field, and he could be pushing for a bench spot come Opening Day.

Thomas Eshelman

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If there’s a theme developing of players bumped off the roster seeming to take it personally, it continues with Eshelman. With everything from his thoughtful personality to his soft-tossing arsenal, he has everything but the left-handed part down to qualify as a quirky lefty. But like those pitchers, he has had to prove his stuff plays at every level and took the lessons from his major league time to heart last year. He’s refined his off-speed pitches and is using them with conviction this year. That can turn an afterthought into rotation depth in a hurry, and he’s done that.

Cody Carroll

Carroll had a great spring last year but never pitched for the Orioles after that because of a back injury. He’s doubling down on the first part this year in hopes of showing the organization that he’s healthy and able to join the cast of bullpen contributors this year. He allowed his first run in five outings Saturday, but also recorded three strikeouts in the inning while sitting 98-99 mph with his fastball. He might start in the minors to get him back into more of a game routine than spring can provide, but that kind of stuff will be an asset to the big league bullpen when the time comes.

Richie Martin

With his Rule 5 roster requirements exhausted, Martin is playing for his job in a different way this spring. And he’s doing it quite well. Martin has had some second base time in addition to his traditional shortstop role, and worked out some at third base early in camp to get him used to that position. Adding versatility will help with José Iglesias in the fold if Martin wants to stick in the big leagues. So will the way he’s been driving the ball, with four of his seven hits going for extra bases, and three steals in four tries on his spring resume.


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