When coaching high school sports as I’ve done, sometimes there are decisions to be made about who gets to have one of the limited number of seats on the team bus. For major league baseball, that decision is made by the roster limitation of 25 players. So who will be sitting in those 25 seats for the Baltimore Orioles on opening day? I would like to apply another logical thought process about the total camp roster, and I believe that by so doing, the answer to the question is that there are only 3 seats unoccupied at this time.
Assumptions for this article: I am assuming that everyone is healthy and that the prime players from last year do not have dramatic setbacks of health or performance. I am assuming a healthy enough Brian Roberts, Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis, etc. Yes, that might be a lot of assuming, but work with me here for the sake of argument.
12 Total Pitchers: 5 Starters and 7 Relievers …
So … there is really only one seat – the fifth starter. Though T.J. McFarland would likely be desired to be kept, unless he is outstanding and is the fifth starter or a long man if Matusz becomes the fifth starter, this team is too good to risk carrying a Rule 5 guy just to keep him around for another year. My guess, based on early reports, is that Zach Britton has his health and “stuff” back together and will be that guy.
13 Total Position Players: 8 Starters, 1 DH, and 4 Utility Players …
The 8 starters leave little room for debate. Working around the field in order of scorer’s numbers: Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Brian Roberts, Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, Nate McLouth, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis.
The DH (for this argument): Nolan Reimold
The backup catcher: Taylor Teagarden
The 3 bench players: Like it or not, with his contract, Wilson Betemit is going to be kept. So that leaves essentially just 2 empty seats. Surely either Ryan Flaherty or Alexi Cassilla is kept … could be both, but not likely. If both, the bus is full. If only one of them, then the last spot is between Danny Valencia, Conor Jackson, Trayvon Robinson, Travis Ishikawa, or one of a handful of others who might smoke the ball throughout spring training. This is really the most interesting story to follow in terms of the roster.
Conclusion: So again, apart from unexpected problems (which, yes, were common last year and which reason would say may well happen again), there really are only 3 open seats on the team bus – 1 starting pitcher and 2 utility players. This is very different than recent years, and that truth speaks well of the progress this organization has made.