Spring Training launches new era for Orioles

February 12th, 2019

As pitchers and catchers reported Tuesday to Ed Smith Stadium, it marked the end to an offseason of overhaul in Baltimore, and the dawn of a new era. The focus will shift even further, from the front office to the field, when the club's first full squad workouts commence on Monday.

Gone are most of the figures who defined much of the past decade of Orioles baseball, and with them, the expectations that spring so often brought along during the Dan Duquette/Buck Showalter regime. Apprehension and intrigue now come in their place, with the Orioles set to embark on a full-blown rebuild in perhaps the most competitive division in baseball.

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Here are a few storylines to watch while they take the first steps toward doing so.

Starting from scratch

New leadership, new players, new vision, new everything. Now three months after replacing Duquette as general manager, Mike Elias inherits a 115-loss team with no qualms about his plan to build it back into a contender. The gist of that plan: It'll take time, and a lot more change. All told, Elias has either already altered or plans to continue altering every facet of the club's baseball-operations initiatives, from analytics to infrastructure to player development and international scouting.

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No area figures to see as much consistent churn, though, than the roster. That process has already begun in earnest.

More than a third of the 59 players in camp were not with the organization a year ago. More than a quarter of those players are on the 40-man roster, a massive one-year turnover that speaks to where the Orioles currently stand on the competitive bell curve. The majority of new manager Brandon Hyde's staff is beginning its run with the franchise as well.

What does Camp Hyde look like?

The Orioles' new regime will be judged largely by how it adds to the farm system it's inherited, and how quickly the young players already there develop. The latter initiative falls to Hyde, the first-year manager Elias plucked from the Cubs' bench to replace Showalter. Hyde's first spring in charge will be defined by first impressions, initial assessments and a slew of young players fighting for jobs. He'll be tasked with setting a tone and creating an identity for a group that'll likely rank among the youngest in baseball by Opening Day, then with the challenge of developing many of those players at the big league level. That's no easy feat for any manager, nevermind a rookie skipper.

Hyde comes prepared to first Spring Training

Positional battles

More questions abound, roster-wise. Can claim the job behind the plate? Will Rule 5 picks and Drew Jackson stick? Who emerges at third base from the double-digit field of candidates? And that's without mentioning the outfield or bullpen.

The easy answers are few. is entrenched at first. , and (health barring) will get at-bats. , and will start in some order, and anchors the bullpen. Besides that, every other roster spot is up for grabs.

Which prospects are closest to ready?

Are the kids alright? Elias and company are going to see. The next six weeks will provide the O's new front office with the first glimpses of the blue-chippers Duquette added last summer, many of which will be in camp as non-roster invitees.

Orioles Top 30 Prospects

Three of the five players acquired for will be on hand, as well as all three swapped for Zack Britton, and one scooped up for . Several, like , , and holdover prospects and , could be big league ready now. A host of others -- No.1 prospect Yusniel Diaz included -- appear primed to appear in Baltimore at some point this summer.

But the O's new front office essentially has personal experience with none of them, so getting them all on the same field should go a long way toward determining how each fits into the club's short- and long-term plans. It also figures to clear up some logistical debates, like whether can stick defensively at third base, or whether the club can expect oft-injured to stay healthy enough to factor in somewhere.

Is this the year for Harvey?

Speaking of Harvey, the right-hander says he's fully healthy after missing most of yet another season with arm trouble in 2018. The club's top pitching prospect not long ago, Harvey once looked like the type of arm the Orioles could build around. But injuries have consistently cut into that potential, costing him two full seasons and limiting him to just 17 starts since 2016.

Now at age 24, he's yet to pitch above Double-A and hasn't thrown a competitive pitch in more than nine months. He'll report to camp with the hopes of pitching a full season for the first time since the O's drafted him in the first round in 2013, though he'll have to prove durable enough to contribute in any significant way.