#OrangeSpring: Things to Watch
With all players reporting to Spring Training, baseball season is in full effect. We are still 40 days away from Opening Day, so roster changes are inevitable between injuries, free agent signings, and minor league call-ups or send downs.
For O's fans, this is an important time, mainly because the team is going through a minor make over. The core group still remains but team dynamics are not the same. Between player, coaches and executives, there will be a lot of things to look out for this Spring Training.
Duquette's roster changes
Dan Duquette is probably the most important person during the O's Spring Training this seaso. So far, Duquette has had a solid off-season, signing Davis, Weiters, and O'Day to big-dollar contracts. Currently, the O's are in talks with signing free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler. Fowler batted a .278 in the postseason last year with the Cubs and started 149 games in the outfield.
For Duquette, this is an important season after last season started with rumors swirling that he would be jetting to an executive position with the Toronto Blue Jays. The commitment to winning has always been a topic among Orioles fans and this is Duquette's opportunity to prove he committed.
The importance of signing Dexter Fowler is at an ultimate high. The Orioles once had two Golden Glover and a hitting machine with Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Nelson Cruz.
Those days are long gone.
Adam Jones is the only outfielder on the depth chart that has 100+ starts in the outfield, the remaining are utility players. A close eye and high expectations will be on newly acquired Hyun-Soo Kim who will make his MLB debut this season. Kim was a three-time golden glove recipient in the Korean Baseball League. Achievements like that gives you confidence that Kim could be a solid and consistent stater in the outfield but only time will tell.
The rest of the outfield is filled with utility players. Orioles fans are already familiar with Nolan Reimold and Ryan Flaherty, who has had success with the O's but do not signal everyday starters. Former All-Star, Mark Trumbo, has played 136 complete games in the outfield and 245 starts in his career but is known as a first basemen. In 2012 he played 97 games in the outfield for the Angels and was elected to his only All-Star game. Trumbo could be an everyday starter for the O's but his main value will be at designated hitter.
You always want to watch the best player on the team. Jones has been the leader of the Orioles since signing his big contract in 2012. Jones has also been to four straight All-Star Games and a four-time Golden Glove recipient. At the age of 30, Jones is at the prime of his baseball career.
What concerns me is last season was his worst since signing the 6-year $88 million dollar deal. Jones played the least amount of games (139), hit his lowest batting average (.269), least Home Runs (27), and lowest RBIs (82). For most that is a great season, reason why he was voted to the All-Star game. A monster season from Jones would obviously be what Birdland would want to see and I think the only way to determine will be how he start in Spring Training and the opening month.
This has been Buck Showalter's darling child for the last four seasons. With the lack of a shutdown ace and powerful pitchers, Buck has relied on one of the best bullpens in the majors. This year the bullpen is expected to have some new names, most notably Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey. Darren O'Day has gone record to say that he will help Bundy in the bullpen during spring training which is a great sign for Oriole's fans. The question still remains on when Bundy will be called up to The Majors. Overall the bullpen will once again be the most important aspect of the team.
Since they missed the postseason last year, the Orioles are due for a postseason trip this season and it's not impossible. The Orioles have made some good acquisitions this off-season, similar to the ones they made before the magical 2014 season. Mark Trumbo might be the same steal that Nelson Cruz was in 2014. Trumbo hasn't played an inning in the postseason, but he has been a solid player in the MLB, averaging 26 bombs in his career.
What must happen is the young guys like Gausman, Bundy, and Schoop must step up and become bigger in their roles. Similar to 2014 it's going to take a valiant team effort for the O's to make a leap back into the postseason. Buck Showalter has earned the fans trust as manager and they should expect the same day-by-day lineup changes.
Whether the Orioles make it to the postseason or not, they will be competitive. One more acquisition should make them a bonafinde favorite in the AL East but as of now, they are a longshot with the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Red Sox still at the top of their game.