Baltimore Orioles Spring Training: Players on the Bubble


Sep 3, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles teammates

Jimmy Paredes

(38) and

David Lough

(9) celebrate after a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Reds 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

So it is nowhere near as cold as predicted here in Western Maryland just before dawn on this President’s Day. Weather-predicting alarmists! Saying it would be possibly down to zero!  It’s four degrees outside. I can feel spring training in the air for the Baltimore Orioles.

Just yesterday a friend of mine who was a professional baseball player for about a decade after college – a pitcher – commented upon how strange it was the first couple of years after he retired to not be leaving his wife in the north as he went to spring training. He said that he had forgotten just how long the winter is and what that felt like.

Speaking of spring training, what is a list of the Baltimore Orioles players who are on the bubble this year? That is probably a frozen bubble, but that makes it even more slippery.

Apart from injury or some unforeseen situation (bigger than simply having a bad spring training) these 18 players are locks to be on the 25-man roster at the beginning of the season: Wieters, Davis, Schoop, Hardy, Machado, De Aza, Jones, Snider, Young, Pearce, Tillman, Chen, Gonzalez, Norris, Gausman, Britton, O’Day, and Hunter.

Here is a list of those on the bubble, from least vulnerable to most likely to not break camp with the Orioles:

Ubaldo Jimenez – It is a bit crazy in a way to even speak of Jimenez as on the bubble. In terms of being one of the five starters in the rotation … yes … he certainly is. But truthfully, the Orioles are stuck with him. If he doesn’t pitch well, nobody wants him with the salary he commands. And if he pitches well, the Orioles will want to use him in the rotation (though Rich Duboff says it could give some hope of unloading him – I don’t think so). Beyond that, with Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris almost surely gone for 2016, the O’s are going to hope Jimenez will be an effective rotation piece.

Caleb Joseph – I don’t actually think Joseph is really on the bubble that much. His defense is too valuable to not retain, no matter how well Steve Clevenger or anyone else hits. My hope is that Joseph’s offensive abilities catch up to his place in life right now, that the combination of a near full-year of experience and the winter off bring him back as a new threat for the Orioles this season.

Ryan Flaherty – After three seasons now with the Orioles, Flaherty seems like a fixture. That’s because he probably is. Likely either of two utility infielder competitors – Jimmy Paredes or Rey Navarro – would hit for a superior average, and I’d sure like to see that happen. But Flaherty’s defensive options and plus skills make him the preferred and likely choice.

David Lough – The question is if the long-term Lough is more like the guy of the first half last year, or the one with the extremely good stats of the second half. He’s not as bad as the former, nor as good as the latter, but is probably good enough to begin the season as the final outfielder for the Orioles. Defense and speed helps also to make this choice. But he has to see that there are some good options knocking on the clubhouse door just behind him.

Brad Brach – Only on a team with a bullpen like the Orioles would Brach not be a rather certain lock to be a part of it. I am big on the big guy. Even with the crowded pen, I think he makes the team … apart from a spring training meltdown.

Brian Matusz – A fellow who has become a favorite of O’s fans to beat up, Matusz has sadly earned some of it. Yet he can soundly shut down Big Papi and quietly shut down hitters over a stretch of time. He is becoming more expensive to have and maintain. He’s a better choice in my view than Wesley Wright, but not by much. My bet is that he is with the Orioles in April.

Logan Verrett and Jason Garcia – The Orioles love Rule 5 Draftees like few other organizations. They did not go through the trouble of getting these two players to not give them a very long look and every shot at making the team and being retained. But it is difficult to be one of the top teams in baseball (which is what the Orioles are, prognosticators be cursed) and have room for a fringe player in this category. My guess is that they find a way to make it happen, at least for a while.

Wesley Wright – It would not seem that the Orioles got Wright without a plan to keep him, so I suspect he makes it. But this is the very pinnacle of the bubble. In fact, if you’re keeping score, we are actually at number 26. So, either Wright, a Rule 5, Matusz or Brach can’t make it.

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T.J. McFarland – As much as McFarland has given the Orioles some game-saving innings in the past in middle relief, I don’t see a scenario where he comes north at the beginning of the year. There are too many others blocking the road. If he pitches well at all, he will see time again in Baltimore through one circumstance or another.

Ryan Webb – In the second year of his free agent contract, Webb has had some successes with the Orioles, but his several bad outings inflated his numbers while deflating the Orioles’ confidence in him. Webb will pitch some for the Orioles in 2015, I just don’t think it will be at the beginning or for the full season. If he has a great spring training, perhaps a team in serious need of relief help would be willing to trade and add his $1.75 million salary.

Henry Urrutia – The Cuban defector seemed to have all the air knocked out of him in 2014 when he did not make the roster at the end of spring training. Then an injury messed up the remainder of the year. He has to not allow those things to happen this season. Urrutia needs a great spring and a solid start at AAA to be positioned for a call-up when need and opportunity collide.

Nolan Reimold – Would even a blistering spring with six or seven home runs put Reimold on the team? I don’t see how. It will take something else to happen.

All in all, there are a lot of good baseball players on this list. The Baltimore Orioles truly do have team depth, and they use it … as in the roster article from yesterday …

Next: The Orioles will find a way to use 45 players