What is that sound? You hear it in the air, the bat’s crack, and the glove’s pop. You can sense the smells that come from somewhere and can envision the crowds roaring. Your senses have been taken over and filled with memories of summers long spent outside or watching at home; you know it in your heart to be true: it is Baseball Season.
Pitchers and Catchers reported on Wednesday, which can only mean one thing: Orioles baseball is back. Baseball was fun in 2022, but this season could be even better as the Birds enter camp with fewer questions about their roster, and it’s looking to be the best year of Orioles baseball since at least 2016.
With that said, there are still questions that need to be answered. When looking at this roster, there are about 15 players that are considered locks to make the team, and the others will fall into place. This is much better than years before when we had to put together a rotation out of John Means, duct tape, and super glue. It feels nice to sit back and just know that you have a team that feels ready to compete with little to no questions about who is starting.
Spring Training is not only about putting yourself in the best position to prepare for a grueling 162-game season, but it is also about players answering some of those type of questions.
So let’s do a Pitchers and Catchers reporting special and talk about five questions that should be answered by the end of Spring Training.
Who will shine while others are away for the WBC?
One of the things that this Spring Training will bring will be the World Baseball Classic. The WBC allows players to play for their country during Spring Training. The Orioles have to worry about two guys who will miss time thanks to participating. Dean Kremer will play for team Israel, and Cedric Mullins will represent Team USA.
While these players are away, others will have to step up. But who will that be? Will a young pitcher step up and show that he can be in the rotation? Could that pitcher be DL Hall, or will it be someone we aren’t even talking about? Does Colton Cowser show he can play center and answer some questions about his defense?
Seeing who sinks or swims while a couple veterans are away will be fun.
Who will win the “Chris Davs 2020 Spring Training Award?”
This award is given to the player who looks awesome in Spring yet doesn’t do much when the season starts, a la the 2020 Spring Training campaign of Chris Davis, which was generational hopium.
So who is it this year? Non-Roster invite Franchy Cordero is the favorite. If he has a good Spring, he will fool many people into thinking he is good because that power is fun to watch. The issue is everything else, and he is so inconsistent.
Another name to watch is Nomar Mazara, a more consistent version of Cordero. These two are the favorites, but look out for Josh Lester, who also has a lot of power.
If money was on the line, though, bet on Cordero to win this award.
What happens with DL Hall?
If there is a question that most fans want answered, it is this one. Hall’s role was in the bullpen in 2022, but he was used as a starter throughout his minor league career. The Orioles seem determined to use Hall as a starter in 2023, in Triple-A or the majors.
This does seem like a weird situation. If there were one word to describe the Orioles’ 2023 rotation, it would be “crowded.”
They have the acquisitions of Cole Irvin and Kyle Gibson, along with Grayson Rodriguez, all but guaranteed to get a spot. That is five pitchers. So now we have a bit of a problem. A six-man rotation could work, but the team doesn’t want to do that.
So now we have a weird dilemma. Hall was good enough to be in the majors last year (no, don’t look at his ERA), but what happens if no spot is available? Hall has the pure stuff to be an amazing pitcher, but his problems have been the same for years, his control. An easy solution would be putting him in the bullpen or doing a piggyback role with GrayRod. These, however, seem like bandages on a huge wound as they don’t fix the problem.
Putting Hall in the bullpen would seem like a waste of talent, and piggybacking doesn’t work all the time if GrayRod is let off the leash a little bit. Adding more intrigue is John Means coming back.
Maybe Hall impresses so much that it either forces the Orioles to try something unorthodox such as a six-man rotation or piggyback situation.
Will Kyle Stowers or Terrin Vavra make an impact?
These two were former top prospects that had odd paths to the big leagues. Despite doing well in the minors, both struggled to get into the lineup last year. For some reason, Brandon Hyde preferred to play veterans over the young players, (no, I still don’t understand why, but it is in the past.)
While it might seem Terrin Vavra’s path might be a lot tougher with no trades made in the infield, he has been working at first base, so his role might be as a super utility player.
Kyle Stowers should have a much easier path with Anthony Santander moving into a more permanent DH spot. Stowers should be playing right field a lot this year because his defense is much better. Whether or not these players will be given a fair chance, unlike last year, is yet to be seen. We can hope.
With a crowded Infield, will prospects Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz, and Connor Norby be given a fair chance?
The Orioles haven’t made a trade in the infield, and it doesn’t seem likely at this point. It looks like this mess of an infield with moving parts all around, with Ramon Urias and Vavra being utility pieces, is what they are going with.
So what does that mean for these three prospects? Mike Elias said that all three of them will have a fair shake to make the roster and head to Boston as a part of the 26-man. Just how real is that, though? Like, let’s say Jordan Westburg has a better spring than Urias. Then what happens? Or what if one of Connor Norby or Joey Ortiz outperforms someone like Vavra? If these things happen, will Elias stand by his word and put one of the three on the roster over someone else, or are these guys just fighting a losing battle and will have to wait until summer?
That is what Spring Training is about, answering these tough questions.
Please enjoy Spring Training if you fly down, and if you don’t, well, I am sorry you’re missing out on the weather and baseball.