Orioles Spring Training: It’s all about Backups and 2016

Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) talks with first baseman Chris Davis (19) and shortstop J.J. Hardy (2) before a spring training baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I am already looking forward to Spring Training 2016 of the Baltimore Orioles. Understand, there is no complaint here that after a long, cold winter without baseball, finally games are being played again in Florida and Arizona. But the storylines regarding the roster are not nearly as compelling as previous years, nor what they will be at this time next year.

There is not really a lot of intrigue about what is going to be the composition of the April roster for the Baltimore Orioles. Think for a moment about where there are uncertainties (apart from any injuries that cannot be anticipated). 

Regarding Pitching: The question regarding starting pitching is which one of the six possibilities will be bumped to the bullpen. This leaves six additional bullpen positions. Zach Britton, Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter are three of them. The other three positions will likely include Brad Brach and T.J. McFarland, leaving only questions about what to do with Brian Matusz, Wesley Wright, or how to keep a Rule 5 player.

Regarding Position Players: Again, apart from something unexpected happening, the outfield is set with Adam Jones, Alejandro De Aza, Travis Snider, Steve Pearce, Delmon Young and David Lough. The infield question comes down to which of three players cover second base and utility man: Jonathan Schoop, Ryan Flaherty and Everth Cabrera. The only catching question is if someone can pass Caleb Joseph for the backup role.

The Baltimore Orioles 40-man roster and beyond is filled with quality players. A number of those who do not go north in April will contribute; this happens every year, even if it cannot be anticipated during spring training. So, for many of these players on the fringe, spring training is about positioning for the inevitable changes that will come – to be prepared to be called upon in need and take advantage of that opportunity.

Beyond that, it is not too much of a stretch to say that the 2016 season is in view for many of these players. The Orioles have the unusual collection of a total of 11 players who will be free agents at the end of this season. The only other MLB team with more than five is Washington, which has a total of seven.

We will have a lot of discussion about how many of the O’s free agents are worthy of re-signing and for how much. But it is certain that the majority of them will end up elsewhere. This is going to create quite a number of openings.

Besides the big names at catcher and first base, there will be two starter openings (Norris, Chen), three outfielders (Pearce, Young, De Aza) and four relievers (Wright, O’Day, Hunter, Webb).

It is all interesting: the rather known lineup for 2015 and the unknown bunch of changes for 2016. With both, Orioles fans can anticipate a high level of competitive baseball.