The Baltimore Orioles Roster Makeup Will Reveal Team’s Priorities

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 06: Joey Rickard
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 06: Joey Rickard /

The Baltimore Orioles are looking for the best 25-man roster they can have, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the best 25 players will be on it.

When you are putting together a mock 25-man roster for the Baltimore Orioles, there are several considerations.

How much different will the Opening Day roster look from a few weeks into the season, for example? Will the Orioles choose to keep an extra pitcher, as the starters are just getting their feet wet?

Maybe they will keep an extra position player due to contract obligations.

There are four Rule 5 draft players. Anthony Santander seems like a lock to be on that roster, but what about Nestor Cortes Jr., Pedro Araujo and Jose Mesa Jr.?

The initial 25-man roster will reveal a few things about the Orioles. It will also explain a few things about their management, who is making decisions, and where their priorities lie.

Issue No. 1 – Is defense a top priority?

Buck Showalter has emphasized that the Orioles need to get better defensively. Dan Duquette has mentioned the need to be better defensively.

If Danny Valencia is your utility man, you aren’t taking steps to be better defensively.

The Baltimore Orioles have four players who want to play every game in the infield in Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado and Tim Beckham. Each of those players is strong offensively, with Beckham’s game a little different from the power displayed by the other three.

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Look, I’m all for Danny Valencia being on the 25-man roster. The Orioles need a guy who can pinch hit and do some damage. But, if you have spoken since the end of last season about the need to get back to being an active defensive team, Valencia isn’t the right person for the roster.

This can also be extended to the outfield.

If Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, Santander and Colby Rasmus are all making the team, that likely leaves room for another outfielder.

The website has some useful defensive information. One such statistic is outs above average for outfielders.

The Orioles have one player in the top 25 for 2017. Any guesses on who that is? The answer is Joey Rickard.

Of 4-star catches, ones that are only made 25 to 50 percent of the time, Rickard went 8-for-11 in 2017. Craig Gentry, the next Orioles player in 84th, went 1-for-3.

The list holds 309 outfielders with Adam Jones at No. 299, with outs above average of minus-7.

Colby Rasmus, by the way, is number 121 with an Outs Above Average of minus-1, the same as Austin Hays (limited sample size).

I’m not saying Gentry would be a wrong choice here, either. He brings speed and an arm that Rickard doesn’t possess. Keep someone other than one of these two, or a young player who statistics do not exist for, but is a decent defender (Cedric Mullins, for example) would not be smart.

Issue No. 2 – Orioles Starting Pitching Competition

This will be a bit of a hot take, but the Orioles’ starting pitching competition is a bit of a mess (that’s not breaking news).

Sure, everyone knows 1-3 is Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Andrew Cashner. My inclination is that Buck will give the ball to the veteran on Opening Day, but regardless, they will pitch the opening series.

After that, it is anyone’s guess.

Everyone assumed Chris Tillman would be the fourth starter. All spring training long, the word was that Tillman looked great, he would rebound, yada yada.

Then, he made his first Spring Training start, and he walked 6-of-14 batters he faced. It wasn’t pretty. If not for double plays, he may not have even made it that far. Then, the fifth battle is up for grabs.

It could be Mike Wright Jr., who continues to look, well, average at best. Or it may be Nestor Cortes Jr., who struggled in his last outing. What about Miguel Castro, who may have the lead so far, and is likely the fan choice.

There is an incentive to keep Wright because he is out of options. Sure, he can go to the bullpen, but if the Orioles see him as a starter, then that’s unlikely.

There’s also an incentive to keep Wright in the rotation because of a letter penned just yesterday by a former Oriole.

“In the midst of what felt like never-ending adversity and failure, I was traded to the Chicago Cubs on July 2nd, 2013.”

Of course, the Orioles were the ones who traded Arrieta, essentially giving up on a pitcher who had a lot of promise, but just couldn’t get it done in Baltimore.

Arrieta is now a Cy Young winner and a World Series champion.

Cortes is a Rule 5 pick, so if the Orioles decide he isn’t ready for the rotation, he will likely go back to the New York Yankees. And the Orioles won’t be inclined to do that.

So, it seems likely that the Orioles may not put their five best pitchers in the rotation, but instead either go with veteran loyalty or use contracts as an excuse.

Next: Serious outfield competition brewing at Orioles camp

The Orioles’ roster construction should come down to how to best build the roster to compete, not based on contracts, veteran status or any other reasons. However, if previous teams are any indication, that may not be the case.