The Orioles have a tough decision looming. Who is going to get knocked off the 25-man roster once Manny Machado returns from the DL? It seems as though Ryan Flaherty, Steve Lombardozzi and Jonathan Schoop will be fighting for their roster spots within the next two to three weeks, as it is unlikely that Manager Buck Showalter will opt to carry two utility infielders.
All three have their strengths, as well as weaknesses. Showalter will have his work cut out in making any decisions regarding his crop of infielders.
Ryan Flaherty: So far, Flaherty has yet to hit his weight (which is 210 lbs., in case you were wondering). His .179/.238/.231 line won’t score him any points in the decision process, but his ability to play all infield positions and his sporadic power may be enough to keep a spot as a backup. Last year, Flaherty had his struggles, was demoted, recalled, and then went on an offensive tear until Brian Roberts took over at second base. Unfortunately, despite many opportunities, Flaherty really hasn’t proven to be an everyday player, leaving the door open for a demotion in 2014.
Steve Lombardozzi: Acquired from the Detroit Tigers just before the start of this season, Lombardozzi had demonstrated the ability to hit, run and field. His glove and bat have both contributed so far this season. Batting .286/.298/.321 at second base is always a plus. Unfortunately, Lombardozzi is the only one of the three players to get playing time at just one position. When Machado comes back, Showalter will likely want someone on the roster that can give him a break from time to time. Macahdo might see more days off, or games as the team’s designated hitter than previous seasons due to his injury, making it necessary to have a versatile crop of players.
Jonathan Schoop: The Top-100 prospect has really flourished thus far in his stint in the majors. He has batted .280/.280/.460 with one home run and six doubles. He leads these three players with eight RBIs (Lombardozzi and Flaherty both have just two RBIs) and has contributed to many of the Orioles’ wins against division rivals. His one downfall has been his defense at third base. A natural second basemen, Schoop has played out of position at third base in 11 of his 13 games. He has already committed three errors at third base, one which may have costed them a game. Yet Showalter continues to play him there, indicating a desire to increase his value to the club. He is young, talented, and rough around the edges. Eventually, he will have to make his mistakes at the Major League level so that he can learn from them, and it is unlikely that those three errors will calculate into the final decision.
All three have their place on the roster. Whether they can play multiple positions, hit, or field, there will be many things to consider by Showalter and General Manager Dan Duquette. There seem to be two possible directions that they could take with this roster. First, they could opt to keep someone to play second base on an everyday basis and then keep the most versatile of the group to be the reserve infielder. The second alternative would be to keep two versatile players and platoon them. This scenario would likely result in Schoop being demoted to get regular at-bats, as he is far too valuable to sit on the bench for any prolonged period of time.
It will be a tough decision and hopefully it only gets tougher. The better these guys perform, the harder the choice will be. The last thing the Orioles or their fans want to see is somebody work their way off the roster at the cost of the team.