Sep 20, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles teammates Christian walker (18) and Adam Jones (10) celebrate after a game against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Red Sox 7-2.Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Though certainly excited for spring training for the Baltimore Orioles to be starting next week, I feel like I and everyone else who writes about the Birds have pretty much said all there is to say about what to anticipate. There really are going to be a lot of battles for the few spots remaining on the roster, and it would appear that some very fine baseball players are going to end up at AAA or in some other organization. Yet at the same time, every year there are injuries and other issues that make the Orioles go through a startling numbers of players before the season is over.
But a part of putting together a roster and building an organization is not only thinking about the immediate season that is approaching, but looking also at the next one, two, and even three years. The need is to think about player development, having appropriate levels of play to best build skills, and all the while anticipating where openings are most likely to occur several years out.
So let’s take a look at the Baltimore Orioles two years from now at the beginning of 2017. Whereas we know that quite a few of the current team will be free agents – likely unsigned by the Orioles – there are also quite a number of key players who will still be with the O’s in 2017.
We can most likely figure that Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, and Bud Norris will be playing elsewhere. There are others as well; and for our purposes, let’s presume that not even a single one of them returns to Baltimore. What remains?
Quite a bit, especially with pitching.
This is conceivably what the starting rotation could look like: Chris Tillman, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey, Miguel Gonzalez. Harvey is the most questionable of that group, and we need to remember (whether we really want to or not) that Ubaldo Jimenez will be in the fourth year of his contract then.
As much as we might want to forget this, Ubaldo Jimenez will still be around in 2017
Of the current corps of relievers, Brad Brach and T.J. McFarland could still be with the team if not traded or otherwise out of commission. And Zach Britton will still be under team control and presumably the closer. Others who could be with the Orioles by then are prospects Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, Tim Berry, and Zach Davies. One of these could even be a starter.
Thinking of catcher, Caleb Joseph will still be under team control, and it would be wonderful to believe that he develops more as an effective major league hitter to go along with his excellent defense. And would prospect Chance Sisco be ready by then? Yes, if everything goes very well for him; and if not, he would be close.
The infield looks really quite solid and familiar. It would be expected that Christian Walker would be settled into first base and perhaps ready to have a breakout season. To his right will be Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, and Manny Machado. By this time it would be hoped that Schoop and Machado are dominant players in the American League, while Hardy still provides his steady defense and decent punch at the plate.
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The outfield in 2017 will remain under the control of center fielder Adam Jones. Dariel Alvarez should have his canon arm in right field and, like Walker, be ready to break out as a top-tiered offensive player. Left field is less certain, though it could be the speedy Josh Hart or even Mike Yastrzemski. Still banging round the O’s could well be Henry Urrutia – hopefully even a powerful force – along with David Lough.
I do understand that this is presented as a best-case scenario of all of these prospects developing as hoped. Likely at least a couple of them won’t, though maybe one or two could exceed expectations.
All of this is without considering the addition of even one free agent or player currently not in the organization. Honestly, the names above give credible hope for a team that is very, very good. So, there is even now no reason to fret over the loss of free agents with expectations of cheapskate ownership behaviors. There is already a lot to look forward to.