What a difference a few weeks makes.
The Orioles were, as expected, busy adding to their roster in the first half of Spring Training. Their most notable additions included adding pitchers Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, along with outfielder Colby Rasmus, first baseman Pedro Alvarez and utility-man candidate Danny Valencia.
While there's plenty of spring still left to decide the roster, it seems like a good time to update some of our previous picks and refresh our best guess at the Opening Day roster.
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Here are my updated preseason predictions using only the players currently in the organization and employing a traditional seven-man bullpen and four-man bench to start the season. (The O's have been creative in previous years with roster makeup coming out of camp.)
Here's an early look ...
Catchers (2): Caleb Joseph, Chance Sisco
Certainly this could change if the O's don't feel that Sisco is necessary. But Joseph did a nice job bouncing back at the plate last year and they also have Austin Wynns as a solid option. Wynns could edge out Sisco to start the season, but I'm sticking with my original pick here.
1B (1): Chris Davis
Trey Mancini provides a more than capable backup here as well.
2B (1): Jonathan Schoop
Whoever wins the utility man job will back up Schoop.
3B (1): Timothy Beckham
Beckham will move over for Manny Machado, who will play shortstop this season, giving the Orioles a nice boost up the middle.
SS (1): Machado
Obviously, Beckham can also back up Machado, and the O's are having a competition for the utility infielder role. Watching Machado will be fun in his final year under team control.
UTIL: (1) Valencia
Valencia is not your traditional utility guy, but I think they can make it work to start the season. The idea of him being a late-game pinch-hitter is appealing. If the Orioles don't go that way? Luis Sardinas and Ruben Tejada seem to be the main candidates for the utility spot right now, though other options could emerge outside of camp.
OF: (6): Adam Jones, Mancini, Mark Trumbo, Anthony Santander, Rasmus, Craig Gentry
The late signing of Rasmus all but guarantees him a spot, given what he can add defensively to the team. Trumbo is expected to be the primary designated hitter while Santander remains an interesting name to watch. Orioles top prospect Austin Hays will likely get bumped to Triple-A to start the season now that they have Rasmus. Joey Rickard is also still in the mix, though I'd give the edge to Gentry.
SP (5): Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Cashner, Tillman, Mike Wright Jr.
The addition of Cashner and Tillman gives the Orioles a bunch of guys competing for one spot in the rotation. In the end, I think it's Wright's to lose, though there definitely is still time for one of the O's Rule 5 Draft picks to emerge and seize the spot.
Wright is out of options and is an interesting case. A power arm, the organization seems split on whether he's best suited in the bullpen. Either way, he's still my pick for that fifth spot. I think he'll get every chance to prove himself this spring.
RP (7): Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier, Nestor Cortes Jr., Miguel Castro, Jose Mesa Jr.
Brach, O'Day, Givens and Bleier should be penciled in. The rest of the bullpen is largely wide open. The injury to closer Zach Britton -- who is expected to miss the first two months of the season -- means the O's need another lefty. Cortes Jr. has been intriguing enough in camp, and while he could swap roles with Wright, I'd put him in the 'pen to start. Castro, who got his first spring start on Friday, is a bit behind and we know he's good in relief. He remains, like Cortes, a starting option down the road.
Cortes is one of the O's three Rule 5 Draft picks and comes from the Yankees organization. The final bullpen spot is totally up for grabs, with the O's other Rule 5 pick Jose Mesa Jr. and lefty Donnie Hart two options. Mesa can't get sent down, and I have a hard time believing the Orioles will be able to carry two Rule 5 Draft picks in the bullpen, but they could try to start the season.