The Baltimore Orioles invited two non-roster outfielders to spring training this year. One of them could end up on the Opening Day roster.
While Diaz won’t make the major league roster out of spring, Mason Williams has a real shot at winning a reserve outfield job with the Orioles with an impressive showing in spring training. He will have some competition, but Baltimore wanted to see what Williams could do at the major league level last season, a stint which unfortunately ended prematurely due to a knee injury.
Mike Elias and his staff wanted a second opportunity to look at Williams, deciding to bring him back into the fold with another minor league deal earlier this offseason. With DJ Stewart on the shelf to begin 2020, an opportunity on the 26-man roster has opened up.
Cedric Mullins has revamped his swing and is looking for a fresh start in 2020, while Dwight Smith Jr.showed a little bit with his bat last season after being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. Anthony Santander, Austin Hays, and Trey Mancini figure to be the starting outfield on Opening Day, meaning we could see two among the group of Mullins, Smith, and Williams make the roster.
Ryan McKenna will be in camp, but after a less than impressive, but still decent, stint in Double-A last year, the Orioles will surely want to see him master Triple-A before making the jump to the big leagues.
Looking at Williams’ numbers, the Triple-A baseball certainly helped, but the former top prospect and 10-year veteran hit .308 with a .371 OBP and 117 wRC+ in 121 games with the Tides, showing off an impressive glove and range in center field. He has the arm to play all three outfield spots, posted one of the highest walk rates of his career last season (9.3%), and brings 87 games of major league experience to the table.
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When looking at the outfield competition, I’d like to see Williams make the roster out of spring. If he doesn’t perform up to standard, he can head back to Norfolk and serve as outfield depth again. If he does impress in spring, the Orioles can give him a month or so in the big leagues until DJ Stewart returns and keep Mullins in Triple-A to put his new swing to the test without the added pressure of having to perform at the big league level.
As for Diaz, let’s hope this is his year. We highlighted Diaz not too long ago, a story you can read here. He should be healthy coming into spring and spend the majority of the season in Triple-A before forcing the Orioles hand and making things interesting at the end of the season.
The 23-year-old simply wasn’t healthy for much of the season in 2019. When he was healthy, Diaz showed us just how valuable he can be. His July numbers showed the most promise, just before going down for much of the rest of the season. In 28 games, Diaz slashed .299/.353/.514 with 12 doubles and three home runs.
Overall, Diaz appeared in just 76 games with the Bowie Baysox, but still produced a wRC+ of 135 and 34 extra-base hits. Expect to see more of those impressive extra-base hit numbers in Triple-A when he gets to play his home games at Harbor Park.
Ideally, come September, Chris Davis is no longer on the roster, Mancini is no longer in the outfield, and we’re looking at an outfield of Diaz in right, Hays in center, and the July/August 2019 version of Anthony Santander in left, with a confident and speedy Mullins serving as the fourth-outfielder.
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Stay tuned on Monday as we discuss the four non-roster catchers invited to camp this spring.