1. The World Baseball Classic is upon us, and for the most part, I don’t care. Sure, it’s nice seeing the early storylines like Israel making the second round. But honestly, the WBC remains a nuisance for teams that send their players away for weeks at a time. The Orioles are missing Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, Welington Castillo and Mychal Givens from the big league roster.
Castillo is perhaps the most important missing piece, as he’s a catcher with a new team. There will be very limited reps for him with his pitching staff, especially if the Dominican Republic makes a big run as expected. The WBC simply hasn’t served as a good replacement for the Olympics, despite it having major league players involved.
It’s impossible with the length of the season to hold a proper tournament like this in baseball.In March, it’s too early and players aren’t prepared like they should be. By October or after the World Series, players are exhausted after a long year.
2. Listening to an edition of ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” podcast this week, Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian spent time hyping up the Orioles a bit. It was as surprising as it may sound. They basically went over how everyone tends to underrate the O’s and how they always seem to be competitive under Buck Showalter.
The one player they hyped up more than any other was Kevin Gausman. I’d say they have reason. Gausman has been impressive so far this spring, especially after retiring nine of ten batters against the Dominican Republic the other day. I’m going to call myself cautiously optimistic for Gausman’s 2017 campaign. I fear he may wear the burden of trying to carry the O’s rotation, something he shouldn’t have to do. He obviously has all the potential in the world and the type of stuff that plays at any level.
I hope he makes the leap to one of the American League’s top arms right away. It would certainly take the burden off the rest of the rotation and allow them to just pitch.
GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld
3. Trey Mancini presents an interesting situation for the Orioles. He’s a man without a position for the most part. I don’t think he’ll make the roster coming out of spring training, and that was mostly expected after Mark Trumbo re-signed. But part of me still feels like we’ll see more of Trumbo in the outfield than we may expect this year.
The O’s still have uncertainty in the corner outfield spots, and Buck Showalter sent Trumbo out to right field 96 times last season. He even played left field once and started four games at first base.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Trumbo has a good glove. I think keeping him in the DH role is best. But something tells me he plays more outfield than you’d expect at first glance.
I posted a poll to Twitter earlier this week regarding this. I set the over/under at 45 games for Trumbo in a non-DH role this season. The voting so far has tended to favor the under, but I’m going with the over.
4. The one thing the Orioles didn’t want this offseason was a slew of injuries to deal with. They’ve seen quite a few, but for the most part seem to have dealt with them in the best way possible. J.J. Hardy, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton are not names you want to see go down.
Luckily, both pitchers had full bullpen sessions yesterday and appear to be on track to return to action soon. Hardy started swinging a bat earlier this week and is looking to return to games in the near future. The latest injury is to Logan Ondrusek, and it doesn’t sound as favorable. Elbow pain is never a good sign for a pitcher, and if Ondrusek is lost for significant time, it could be more impactful than some think.
I’m not trying to argue that Ondrusek was going to be a major part of the bullpen this season, but there’s no question he could be a contributor if healthy.
GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld
5. The Orioles are going to make Dariel Alvarez a project, as if he wasn’t already one. Just two weeks ago, Alvarez wasn’t thinking about a move from outfielder to pitcher, but now he’s agreed to undergo it.
I always find these situations strange. They rarely work. Mychal Givens seems to be one of the few exceptions. Givens was a shortstop before moving to pitching, and I’d say it has worked out so far. Alvarez may not be convinced that his best path to the majors is with his arm, but the Orioles are at least attempting to push him that way.
I’m not sure exactly what this says about the Orioles’ minor league system or their scouting, but I don’t think any of it is good. Some viewed Alvarez as a corner outfield option for down the road. Then, down the road became now.
He’s not ready there, at a position the Orioles are desperately weak. That says a lot about how Alvarez was progressing and a lot more about what the Orioles want to get out of him now. Let’s hope he is the next Givens.