Orioles Roster Crunch Could Affect Mancini,Taverez, Santander
Only days into their spring training slate, it is apparent that the Baltimore Orioles will have some tough roster decisions to make. Depending on what the club decides over the coming weeks, some of the organization’s more notable prospects could either find themselves in Baltimore on Opening Day or down in the minors.
There are three position players who could be affected: first baseman Trey Mancini, and outfielders Anuery Tavarez and Anthony Santander. To look at what needs to happen for these players to make the Opening Day roster, I have analyzed the cases of all three.
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Note that, barring injury problems among the Orioles’ other options, I find it highly unlikely that all three will make the roster, as there is seemingly not enough at-bats to go around. However, it is worth considering the factors that could make or break these players’ chances of starting the year in the majors.
Background: His steady rise through the farm system continued last season, which culminated in his short but impressive stint in Baltimore last September.
Why he could make it: The Orioles enter camp with some unaddressed questions relating to their outfield/DH situation. Mark Trumbo appears likely to assume most of the at-bats in the DH slot this year, but could play right field in place of Seth Smith when the Orioles face left-handed pitchers. As my colleague, Brandon Warne, noted on Monday, this could lead to Mancini getting semi-regular at-bats as a DH.
Why he might not make it: It would be unwise of the Orioles to bury Mancini on the 25-man roster if they cannot guarantee him at least semi-regular playing time. In that case, sending him down to Triple-A Norfolk—where he would receive regular at-bats—could become desirable. The fact that Mancini has options remaining may make him an easy choice to send down to the minors in the event of a roster crunch.
Conclusion: This will likely come down to how the Orioles handle their outfield situation. If the club believes Mancini’s offensive upside is greater than his competition, and is comfortable with playing Trumbo in right field on occasion, then Mancini may have an opening.
Background: Selected in December’s Rule 5 draft, Tavarez is coming off of a breakout season in the Boston Red Sox’s farm system that saw him just narrowly miss the Double-A Eastern League batting title.
Why he could make it: In the aftermath of the Rule 5 Draft, I noted that Tavarez had a skillset that could allow him to fill the role served by Michael Bourn late last year. His profile as a solid contact hitter with speed could give the left-handed hitting Tavarez playing time as either a part-time player or as a late-inning replacement. With Bourn’s broken finger likely sidelining him for at least four weeks, it could leave an opening for Taverez. The Orioles also have a track record of holding on to Rule 5 selections.
Why he might not make it: The Orioles have a glut of outfield options in camp. Hyun Soo Kim, Joey Rickard, and Adam Jones return from last year, while the Orioles have brought Smith into the fold. Even after Bourn’s injury, the Orioles’ have players such as Anthony Santander and Dariel Alvarez on the 40-man roster, and non-roster invitees Chris Dickerson, Craig Gentry, Logan Shafer, and David Washington. If someone from that group emerges as a surefire Opening Day roster choice, it could leave Tavarez on the outside looking in.
Conclusion: Sincehe is a Rule-5 choice, Tavarez could end up back with the Red Sox if he does not crack the Orioles’ roster. Therefore, expect the club to give him every chance to prove himself over the coming weeks. That might wind up being just enough for him to begin the year in Baltimore.
Background: A Rule-5 selection from the Cleveland Indians, Santander is coming off of back-to-back productive seasons at the plate, though he has yet to play above High-A. He is playing in camp with the club after having surgery to remove a bone spur from his shoulder this offseason.
Why he could make it: The Orioles spoke highly of the switch-hitting Santander’s offensive upside after the draft, and the fact that he is receiving at-bats this spring gives him an opportunity to make his case. If he does just enough to outperform his competition over the coming weeks, his power potential might justify a roster spot.
Why he might not make it: He has nowhere near the level of experience of his competition—including Tavarez—which might make him a curious choice for a club that has aspirations to contend this season. Santander has also not seen action in the field this spring and, while there is time for the Orioles to look at his defensive skillset, he will likely have to make a good impression on both sides of the ball to stand out from the crowd.
Conclusion: Santander has the same restrictions as Tavarez, so if he is not kept on the Opening Day roster, the 22-year-old may very well wind up back in the Cleveland organization. It is easy to see why the Orioles could be intrigued enough to give him a possibility, but Santander’s lack of experience stands a chance at holding him back unless he exceeds expectations.