While the Baltimore Orioles have some glaring holes on offense and in the field, could the team be competitive in 2017 with their current roster?
I have no doubt that Dan Duquette will improve the Baltimore Orioles 25-man roster prior to opening day. He has an absolute duty to do it based on the team’s success over the last 5 years and the fact that they are very close to fielding a team that is capable of making a World Series run. But let’s imagine he does nothing…what would the team look like?
Let’s start with the infield which could be one of baseball’s best. I would argue that very few changes are necessary – this is a playoff caliber infield. Chris Davis will be at first base and hopefully his hand has healed so he can be an offensive force once again. An improving Jonathan Schoop is at second base. He mashed 25 home runs and drove in 82 last year. J.J. Hardy is at shortstop. Hardy is a question mark as he hasn’t hit double digits in home runs since 2013. Manny Machado is at third base. Need I say more? Ryan Flaherty will again serve in a utility role. In 5 seasons, Flaherty has barely been able to hit his weight, but he plays a steady defense and has come up with some clutch hits for the Birds. Trey Mancini could also make the club as a first base / designated hitter / possible outfield back up.
As for catcher, the Orioles recent acquisition of Welington Castillo should end their pursuit of a catcher. It is likely that Caleb Joseph will serve as Castillo’s backup. Both catchers are capable offensively with Castillo having the edge.
In the outfield, the Baltimore Orioles have many question marks. Adam Jones is the only one
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who is a known starter on opening day. Jones will likely play centerfield once again, although a move to a corner spot is not out of the question depending on what else Duquette does this winter. The other “steady” player the Orioles have in the outfield is Hyun Soo Kim. He is the only left-handed hitter on the roster beyond the Orioles two Rule 5 selections. In fact, outside of David and Flaherty, he is the only left-handed hitting player on the team (again, outside of the two Rule 5 selections). Kim hit righties last year to the tune of .321; however, he was 0 for 18 against lefties. Joey Rickard hit .313 against lefties so it’s conceivable he could platoon with Kim.
What about right field? The only other players on the Orioles 40-man roster with major league experience is Christian Walker (actually plays more left field than right field) and Dariel Alvarez, a natural right fielder. Perhaps one of Anthony Santander, Aneury Tavarez or Adam Walker fills out the outfield from a depth standpoint.
Offensively and in the field, it should be clear that we need some left-handed hitters along with right field help and help at designated hitter.
On the pitching front, we have 6 starters for 2 spots with Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy holding down the first 3 spots in the rotation. The 4th and 5th starter will be a battle between Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley with the one missing out likely headed to the bullpen as a long reliever.
Speaking of the bullpen, it’s clearly the strength of the team. Zach Britton leads the way as one of the most dominant closers in baseball. Brad Brach, Darren O’Day Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart will likely lead up to Britton. I also suggested one of Gallardo, Jimenez or Miley in the pen. I would expect one more reliever such as T.J. McFarland in the pen.
Barring a trade, I feel the Orioles pitching is pretty much set.
Still lots of questions to be answered before the winter is out. You know where the holes are – it’s now up to Dan Duquette to fill them. Be patient, he has shown his ability to deepen the team late into the offseason.
To me, without filling out the right field and designate hitter spot, I do not feel the Baltimore Orioles are a playoff team. Do you feel they are a playoff capable team right now? If so, why?