Opening Day is less than a week away and there are many questions that still surround the 25-man roster for the Orioles. Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette will more than likely wait all the way until the deadline to set the team as they figure out the last two bullpen arms and final bench spots.
However the roster shakes out, the Orioles will once again be positioned to contend for a playoff berth.
Mancini Has Earned a Spot
The Orioles can go a lot of different ways with this, but Trey Mancini needs to be more than a pinch hitter and spot starter. However, there’s a good chance he may not even crack the 25-man roster, especially when the Orioles finally need a fifth starter. That would be a huge mistake.
Unfortunately, this is what happens when you have two outfielders – Hyun-soo Kim and Seth Smith – who are not everyday players, and Mark Trumbo playing the same position as Mancini. There’s not a lot of flexibility.
I think when the Orioles return to the normal four-man bench, they will elect to go with the defense of Gentry over the bat of Mancini. This would be a shame as there’s no doubt in my mind that Mancini can help this team win ballgames on a consistent basis all season long.
Gausman Named Opening Day Starter
In the least surprising news, Kevin Gausman was officially named the Opening Day starter for the O’s. This was a foregone conclusion once Chris Tillman was shut down with a shoulder injury. This is a huge honor for a pitcher who should be in store for a big season.
Gausman flashed over the final two months of last season that he is ready to take the next step and I’m excited to see if that will translate over 30 starts. It’s a lot to put on a pitcher who has never thrown 200 innings, but Gausman needs to step up if this team is going to have any chance of competing.
We still don’t know how long Tillman will be sidelined, and with the question marks surrounding the rest of the rotation, Gausman needs to be a stabilizing force every five days.
Minor Leaguers to Follow
OF Cedric Mullins – It will be hard to find another player who has improved his stock this spring as much as Mullins. The 22-year-old had a big 2016 season with the Shorebirds and has played extremely well this spring, including an opposite field home run against Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. Mullins may start the year in Frederick, but it shouldn’t be long before he is in Bowie. The centerfielder brings speed and even some pop to his game, the former of which is a skill lacking in the organization.
RP Stefan Crichton – The 24-year-old pitcher has been in the organization since 2013, but it appears he is close to helping out the big-league team. Crichton has not allowed a run this spring in Grapefruit League action and pitched so well that there was speculation he could crack the 25-man roster. We all know how the O’s shuffle their relievers so there’s a strong chance we see the right-hander at some point in 2017.
SP Matthias Dietz – This right-hander was the Orioles third pick in the 2016 June draft, but gets lost in the shuffle behind Sedlock and left-hander Keegan Akin. However, Dietz has opened eyes this spring and as a college pitcher, he could be on a fast track to the big leagues. Dietz could start the year in Delmarva, but maybe the Orioles get a little aggressive and start the 6’5 righty in Frederick.