Any of you who have ever managed a stock portfolio know that it is a difficult process, and even on the best days there are a few investments going in the wrong direction.
That is something of an illustration as to how spring training is for a baseball team. It is evaluating what investments (and literally, players are investments) are ready to be cashed in by the organization in terms of making the final 25-man roster.
Every Baltimore Orioles fan can name a list of the 17-18 players who are “locks” to be on the roster. But filling the remaining handful of positions is more complicated this year than any other season in recent memory. Adding to the complication are some temporary setbacks that likely make Manny Machado unavailable for opening day.
Relative to the players who are somewhat on the bubble, let’s take a look at whose stock is rising or falling right now …
Rising Stock Value
Jonathan Schoop – The second baseman looks like the second coming of Machado. After a mediocre season with some health issues in 2013, and then a very lackluster Arizona Fall League performance, I am totally surprised at how well he has performed in spring training. Much of this is due to the obvious benefits of a workout regimen that has reshaped him into an athletic specimen. If it were up to the fanbase, Schoop would be playing second base now.
Steve Clevenger – The local boy is ripping the ball with a 9 for 19 / .474 average. That’s more than enough to make us all forget Taylor Teagarden, and he would seem a no-brainer for the open role of backup catcher. But Johnny Monell is playing nearly as well.
Alex Gonzalez – The long-time veteran looks to have plenty of quality baseball in him, both in the field and while currently hitting 10 for 23.
Steve Pearce – No doubt, when Pearce squares a ball, it is hit with authority. He is currently 9 for 36 with the most at bats on the Orioles. Unlike the other outfield candidates, he can play 1B. Buck loves him … always calls him a “professional hitter.” Hear me, there are many players who are far worse. I’m just not a fan … just don’t think he is an athlete with the upside potential of anyone else vying for the extra OF positions. Even so, I’d not be surprised to see the Orioles keep him, though I believe that would be a mistake.
Eddie Gamboa – He is not going to be on the final 25-man roster, and has already been sent down. But the knuckleball experiment is bearing fruit.
Josh Stinson – Out of options and pitching well, he’ll make the team for opening day this year.
Brian Matusz – Out of options and pitching well, he’ll make the team for opening day this year.
Steve Johnson – Not out of options and pitching well, he won’t make the team for opening day this year.
Kevin Gausman – see Steve Johnson.
Zach Britton – As I wrote in a piece yesterday, Britton is currently pitching as well as he ever has – touching 96 and 97 with his fastball – from a lefty! And his off-speed and breaking pitches look deadly. It would be a shame to lose him at the very moment he may well be ready to truly excel. I think he has to be kept, and I would not be surprised to see him as a starter at some point this year.
Falling Stock Value
Alexi Casilla – He is finally starting a game today, but has had one injury after another. I know he is a great clubhouse guy that Buck likes, but there are simply more and better options.
Jamile Weeks – There is no doubt that Weeks can really run. However he is not hitting for much at the moment, and having an option, it will likely be used.
Delmon Young – Though Young delivered two hits yesterday including a double that turned into the winning run, overall he has not produced the sort of spring that cries out for a definitive place on the roster.
Alfredo Aceves – He has given up five runs on seven hits in five innings. He does not seem to be fooling anyone, though Buck speaks well of his long-term record.
Troy Patton – With the 25-game suspension, Patton is not getting much of a look this spring, and when he has pitched, it has been ugly. I have the sense that the Orioles are disgusted with him, and I’ll predict he never pitches again for the Birds. But that is total conjecture.
David Lough – Lough has demonstrated the hustle and all-out aggressive style that marks his approach to the game, and perhaps that has caused him to have some current issues with neck problems from diving for balls. He might be a bit like Bryce Harper in terms of how his style is going to lead to some occasional bangs and bruises. He is currently 6 for 23 with two triples and two stolen bases. If healthy, he’ll be in LF for the Baltimore Orioles.
Nolan Reimold – It really is make-or-break / do-or-die time with Nolan. He is only batting 5 for 20, but has six walks for a good OBP. The Orioles are doing all they can to give him sufficient at bats to regain his form. Will it be enough? I don’t know what to think on this one. I can’t imagine being an Orioles writer without having Reimold around to talk about.
Henry Urrutia – The guy can hit, but he has demonstrated the base running blunders he is known to sadly still possess, though his fielding is better. Since his position is already crowded, and since he can be optioned, and since he needs some more tuning on defense and the bases, he will be sent to AAA. However, I cannot imagine but that he will totally tear up the International League with his bat. How long can he be denied?
I am not even going to try to figure out the LF and DH combo. I’ll say it is Clevenger for backup catcher. And with Machado not likely being ready, I’ll go with Ryan Flaherty / Schoop / Gonzalez as covering 2B, 3B and backup infielder.
Here’s the pitching staff – The five well-known starters … with the bullpen of Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Ryan Webb, Zach Britton, Josh Stinson, and Kelvin De La Cruz (since he is out of options) or Evan Meek if he continues to pitch well. However, if Aceves looks good at all over the next two weeks, he’ll be the final guy based upon his history.
I know there are hundreds of readers out there. How about weighing in on this post, or at least passing in on through Facebook or Twitter?