What the O's might look like on Opening Day

Many spots still up for grabs as competition heats up

March 6th, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Midway through Spring Training, questions and competition still abound all over Orioles camp. As far as sifting through the mass of players fighting for jobs, the club remains very much in-process. Here is a snapshot of where things stand, with little settled and roughly three weeks until Opening Day.

Catcher (2): Chance Sisco, Carlos Perez

What changed? Sisco has gone from the probable Opening Day starter to a near-lock after opening the spring white-hot at the plate. Austin Wynns is on the 40-man, but is dealing with oblique soreness that clouds his status for Opening Day. That’s the type of injury that would’ve seemingly opened a door for Jesus Sucre. Sucre, though, missed half of camp due to visa issues and didn’t arrive in Florida until this week. Now the inside track appears to belong to Perez, another veteran backstop in camp on a Minor League deal.

First base (1): Chris Davis

What changed? Davis is currently nursing a minor left hip flexor strain; he’s considered day to day. Until that changes, he’s still slated to man first base in New York on March 28.

Second base (1): Jonathan Villar

What changed? Only the confirmation Villar received early in camp that he’ll mostly play second, not short. This didn’t come as a surprise, given how the Orioles went out and signed Alcides Escobar and Villar has played second more or less full time since 2017.

Shortstop (1): Richie Martin

What changed? The question marks, mostly. They aren’t gone completely, but Martin is making them fade more and more by the day. The Rule 5 draftee has impressed both defensively and at the plate, where he is hitting .450 across 20 at bats.

Third base (1): Renato Nunez

What changed? A lot could in the weeks to come. This is probably still Nunez’s job to lose, but he’s been outplayed thus far by Rio Ruiz, whom the Orioles brought in on a waiver claim in December. Ruiz hits left-handed, has showed some versatility and now has six hits this spring, half of which have gone for extra bases. Nunez, meanwhile, has gotten off to a slow start at the plate and struggled defensively.

Utility (2): Drew Jackson, Alcides Escobar

What changed? The addition of Escobar, whom the Orioles did not name their shortstop after inking the 11-year veteran to a Minor League deal in mid-February. Instead, they viewed Escobar as insurance should Martin or fellow Rule 5 pick Jackson stumble in camp. Neither has. Escobar’s pedigree, though, probably gets him on the roster regardless in a backup role.

Outfielders (4): Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, Joey Rickard, Austin Hays

What changed? Rickard was a bit overlooked at the beginning of spring, but he’s outplayed DJ Stewart on both sides of the ball and has been hitting in the middle of Brandon Hyde’s batting orders. Hays hit cleanup Tuesday and is slashing .353/.389/.824 across 18 plate appearances.

The biggest change is how Anthony Santander has played himself into the mix. On the outside looking in at the dawn of spring, Santander is squarely in the conversation again after homering in each of his last two starts. His spring OPS is 1.500.

Designated Hitter (1): Mark Trumbo

What changed? We’ll know more about Trumbo’s status next week, when he’s scheduled to see game action for the first time since undergoing right knee surgery last summer. If he hits his March 12 target date, Trumbo should have enough time -- barring setbacks -- to be ready for Opening Day. But any further delay probably means he opens the year on the injured list, thus clearing a roster spot for the likes of someone like Santander.

Starting pitchers (4): RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Alex Cobb, RHP David Hess

What changed? The timetable for Nate Karns. His recent bout with arm soreness has the Orioles considering moving him to the bullpen. Karns entered camp as the club’s ostensible No. 4 starter, but had to prove durable after missing much of the past two seasons with injuries. There is still a chance Karns gets built up, but he projects less as a starter and more as a multi-inning reliever than he did a few weeks ago.

We’ll only list four starters here since the Orioles don’t technically need a fifth until the third week of the season.

Relief pitchers (8): RHP Mychal Givens, LHP Richard Bleier, RHP Miguel Castro, RHP Nate Karns, RHP Mike Wright, RHP Branden Kline, RHP Cody Carroll, LHP Tanner Scott

What changed? Carrying both Jackson and Escobar north will require the Orioles to break camp with 12 pitchers instead of 13, which would usually mean one fewer reliever. But the early off-days will likely let the Orioles play with an eight-man ‘pen anyway -- what team turns down that type of opportunity these days?

Wright has been the Orioles’ best pitcher this spring, while the club loves Carroll’s mix of size and velocity. Scott’s pure stuff gives him the edge here over fellow left-handers Paul Fry and Josh Osich. Jimmy Yacabonis may be the odd man out.

For reference, here is the breakdown for Round 1 of MLB.com’s roster projection:

Chance Sisco
Jesus Sucre

Chris Davis
Jonathan Villar
Richie Martin
Renato Nunez

Drew Jackson

Trey Mancini
Cedric Mullins
DJ Stewart
Austin Hays

Mark Trumbo

Dylan Bundy
Andrew Cashner
Alex Cobb
Nate Karns
Yefry Ramirez

Mychal Givens
Richard Bleier
Miguel Castro
Tanner Scott
Mike Wright
Branden Kline
Luis Ortiz
Pedro Araujo