As the baseball season approaches, my "baseball nerd" mind begins it's yearly process of trying to figure out some Orioles-centric questions that likely only matter to me and a handful of others. Or maybe just me, it's honestly hard to say. But since it matters to me and this is my blog, you know that I'm gonna write about it.
In Monday's post
, I wrote about (and reminded myself) that prospect L.J. Hoes was the final new Oriole to make his debut last season; he became the 942nd player to appear in a game in Orioles history when he debuted on September 25 in Baltimore against the Blue Jays. Hoes grew up in Maryland, had been with the team for nearly a month before his debut, and has a fun last name, so the fans were rather excited for his debut.
Anyhow, my wheels have begun to spin in regards to whom might be the first new player to appear in a game for the Orioles in 2013. It's a difficult, nearly impossible, thing to predict over a month before Opening Day, but I'm going to look at a few candidates today, and possibly make a prediction.
To make things easier for myself, I'm going to break the possible candidates into a few possible categories, in descending order of the likelihood that Oriole #943 will come from that group.
First off, let's look at the players currently on the 40-man roster who have never appeared in a game for the Orioles. Since a roster move wouldn't have to be made for them to break camp with the O's, it's most likely that the newest O will be amongst these guys: LHP Mike Belfiore, IF Russ Canzler, IF Alexi Casilla, RHP Zach Clark, LHP T.J. McFarland, IF Yamaico Navarro, RHP Todd Redmond, IF Jonathan Schoop, IF Danny Valencia, and LHP Tsuyoshi Wada all fit the bill here.
Again, it's nearly impossible to eliminate anyone at this point, but Wada is the easiest cut as he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery that was performed last May and his MLB ready date is expected to be somewhere in late May, so it's highly unlikely the he could become the first new Oriole of the season.
The next three easiest cuts for me are Navarro, Redmond, and Schoop. I just rank too many of the other similar players ahead of Navarro and Redmond, so they have an extremely uphill battle to break camp with the O's, but an excellent March could obviously change that. And Schoop is the O's #3 prospect, still just 21 years old. He spent 2012 at AA Bowie, and is spending part of Spring Training with the team from the Netherlands to play in the World Baseball Classic, so I just don't see anyway he comes north with the team.
The group that I have an extremely hard time of creating some separation with includes three pitchers; Belfiore, Clark, and McFarland. The one advantage that McFarland holds over the other two is that he is a Rule 5 draft pick and would have to be offered back to the Indians if the Orioles don't keep him on their 25 man roster all season. Which is extremely unlikely, although they did it with Ryan Flaherty last year. But the other two guys have pitched better than McFarland through the first week of games, so that doesn't establish much. Both Belfiore and Clark were added to the 40-man over the winter, and none of the three have any MLB experience to date.
Zach Clark has been in the Orioles farm system for a number of years, and has steadily moved through the ranks, but put himself firmly on the team's radar after a 2012 late season promotion to AAA Norfolk where he went 5-2 with a 1.75 ERA over seven starts. Like Hoes, he is another (relatively) local guy from Wilmington, DE who went to college in Baltimore at UMBC. I like Zach' chances because Buck Showalter keeps calling him a "baseball player" which is a very high compliment in Buck's vernacular.
Mike Belfiore was acquired from the Diamondbacks last season in return for one-time prospect, Josh Bell. The O's added him to the roster prior to the Rule 5 draft to protect him from other teams, so that tells you that they obviously think that he possibly has something to offer the team. And he has pitched well so far this spring in a few appearances.
So as far as the 40-man roster guys go, that leaves us with three infielders, Russ Canzler, Alexi Casilla, and Danny Valencia, and in my opinion, Oriole #943 is likely going to be one of these three. Although it could also be that not a one of them ever plays for Baltimore. Currently, all of them are playing multiple positions during Spring Training to prove their value to their new organization and they will also have to hit at least a little bit too to prove that they belong. On top of that, they are competing with a glut of non-roster invitees to fill very similar roles and if any of those non-roster guys outplays this trio, they could easily swipe their spot on the 40-man without much of a hassle.
My gut says that probably two of these three guys break camp with the O's, and that Casilla is the most likely to become Oriole 943, mainly due to his glove skills, and that he would specifically be providing depth at 2B behind the recently oft-injured Brian Roberts.
In addition to all of these players, any of the non-roster invitees could stand out and break camp with the big league squad. This group includes pitchers Zach Braddock, Kevin Gausman, Mark Hendrickson, Jair Jurrjens, Daniel McCutchen, Eduardo Rodriguez, Adam Russell, Daniel Schlereth, and Mike Wright, catchers Allen de san Miguel, Jose Gil, Luis Martinez, and Chris Robinson, infielders Travis Ishikawa, Steve Pearce, and Niuman Romero, and outfielders Chris Dickerson, Lew Ford, Conor Jackson, Jason Pridie, and Trayvon Robinson.
My short list of those guys who are more likely than the others to make it to Baltimore in April are Jurrjens, Ishikawa, Pearce, Dickerson, Jackson, and/or Trayvon, although guessing about something like this on March 1st is like pulling names out of a hat. If I had to narrow my list down to just two of this group, I would take Jurrjens and Ishikawa.
And on top of all of those options for the next Oriole debut remains the distinct possibility that the O's swing a trade between now and Opening Day. Baltimore's surplus a of starting pitching is well documented, and the team really could use another power bat. If they make a trade like that, that type of player would likely be someone who would be in the Opening Day lineup. So absolutely everything that I've just written could go out the window.
Finally, to wrap things up if anyone has actually made it to the finale of this novel-length post, as of today, my guess for the next player to make his Orioles debut will be utility infielder Alexi Casilla. But I will likely revisit this topic again closer to Opening Day, when the overall picture might be a bit more clear.