There’s a lot of spring training left for the Orioles, but as of today the locker room is pretty crowded. The Orioles are going to have some difficult roster decisions coming soon, and those decisions are that much more complicated given the relative lack of open positions. With the departure of long time Oriole, Brian Roberts, the everyday second-base job is one of the few openings this spring and the Orioles have plenty of quality options to decide from.
Coming into the spring, it is has been widely believed that Ryan Flaherty will be the everyday second baseman on March 31st, but Buck’s going to make him earn it. The former Rule-5 pick has shown some pop despite inconsistent playing time the last two seasons and has become a more than reliable defender. Both his swing and the short porches in the American League East could translate into some solid power numbers. However, his position on the field could be determined by necessity if Manny Machado isn’t ready by opening day, which could force Flaherty over to third to start the year. He’s probably going to get a chance to play everyday, but it’s that versatility that could make him more valuable in a utility role.
Flaherty’s biggest competition is the newly acquired Jemile Weeks. The switch hitter hit .303 and stole 22 bases in 2011, but injuries and inconsistency throughout the last two seasons has lowered his stock. At only twenty-seven years old he could regain the swing that made him the high-rated prospect with Oakland, and with his speed and base running ability he could provide the Orioles with the base-stealing element the lineup lacks. However, he does have some outfield experience, which could benefit the Orioles coming off the bench.
Buck has stated that infield prospect Jonathan Schoop will have a chance to be on the opening day roster. He’s the manager; he’s supposed to say things like that. But it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Schoop isn’t in Norfolk in April. The twenty-two-year-old spent much of 2013 on the DL, although he put up decent numbers for Norfolk when on the field. He got a taste of big league action in September and during his first full game fans got a glimpse of why he was ranked so high on the Orioles’ prospect list when he drilled a no-doubter over the center-field fence. He’s been good so far in the spring and could force his way back to Camden Yards early in the summer.
Although Ryan Flaherty may be penciled in at second on opening day, the quality depth behind him isn’t going to give him a lot of room to struggle. That’s just another characteristic of a winning team.