Which Non-Roster Invitees Have Best Chance With Orioles?
Each week, PressBox baseball writers weigh in with their thoughts about a different question. This week, Stan "The Fan" Charles and Paul Folkemer discuss which of the Orioles' non-roster invitees in spring training have the best chance of making the team and contributing in a meaningful way this season.
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
During the past 15 springs, usually someone in the Orioles' camp listed as a non-roster invitee makes a strong case to make the Opening Day roster. That won't be any different in 2013, but anyone who does make that leap this spring will be a decent major leaguer that can help a contending team.
In the long term, the most talented this season is the team's first-round 2012 draft pick, right-hander Kevin Gausman. And, although manager Buck Showalter wanted him in camp, Gausman has little or no chance to make the team.
If you base the prediction on track record, right-hander Jair Jurrjens probably stands out. But Jurrjens, a National League All-Star as recently as 2011, is only on a minor league deal, and it looks as if he'll be an insurance policy in Norfolk early this season.
Left-handed relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth is an interesting candidate coming off of an injury-plagued season with the Tigers. During the 2010 and '11 seasons, Schlereth pitched 67.2 total innings during 67 appearances, and his ERAs were 2.89 and 3.49, respectively. He is also the son of former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskin guard Mark Schlereth, so he has a professional athlete pedigree. But chances are it would take an injury to either Troy Patton or Brian Matusz to give Schlereth a real shot at breaking camp with the big club.
Three others will do battle during the next few weeks, but probably come up a tad shy of making the big league club. Former Oriole left-hander Mark Hendrickson is trying to come back as a reinvented sidearmer. But, like Pat Neshek a year ago, if Hendrickson gets a big league chance this season, it'll be with another club. Outfielder Lew Ford showed some moxie and leftover big league skills during the last two months of the 2012 season. But he will most likely be bypassed this season, because he's competing against better players for a spot. Former O's second baseman Robert Andino was traded to Seattle for some potential outfield insurance in Trayvon Robinson. Robinson spent most of the winter on the club's 40-man roster before passing through waivers to allow right-hander Todd Redmond to join the squad. Robinson figures to be what Ford and Nate McLouth were in 2012: insurance down in Triple-A Norfolk.
The three players most likely battling for one spot should be outfielder Steve Pearce, first baseman Travis Ishikawa and outfielder/first baseman Conor Jackson. The Orioles acquired Pearce early last season, and he provided a little bit of offense for the big league club as he ping-ponged back and forth among three clubs.
Ishikawa stood a better chance at making the team if the O's still had major concerns about first baseman Chris Davis' defense. Ishikawa, considered a slick-fielding first sacker, can be a respectable contact hitter, but with little or no power. Don’t be surprised if one of his former teams, the Milwaukee Brewers, reaches out to acquire him for some insurance at first base.
That leaves one man standing, Jackson. Jackson actually figures prominently in a couple of roles for Showalter. He can hit with some power, and he could slide in nicely as the right-handed hitter in a designated hitter platoon with Wilson Betemit. Jackson could also play either of the corner outfield positions and fill in periodically at first base.
When camp opened, Jackson's position probably figured to go to either Danny Valencia or Russ Canzler, who are both currently on the 40-man roster. But if Jackson can stay healthy and show the pop he has provided to date, he'll beat out his competitors.
By Paul Folkemer
If there's one thing general manager Dan Duquette has made clear during his Orioles tenure, it's that he places a high value on non-roster depth. A big part of the reason the O's had such success in 2012 is the team was able to dip into its minor league system and plug in holes with non-roster veterans, who provided valuable contributions in place of injured or ineffective players. In all likelihood, the 2013 Orioles will again need to rely on these types of players, because not every player on the Opening Day roster will stay healthy and effective all year.
In the February issue of PressBox, we profiled several non-roster players who could see major-league action at some point this season, including outfielders Conor Jackson and Chris Dickerson, first baseman Travis Ishikawa and left-handed relievers Zach Braddock and Daniel Schlereth. All of these players have extensive major league experience and at least some history of success. Recent Orioles such as outfielders Lew Ford and Steve Pearce and left-handed reliever Mark Hendrickson also could return to the active roster at some point.
Outfielder Trayvon Robinson, whom the Orioles acquired from Seattle for Robert Andino this past winter, is another intriguing name. He was taken off the 40-man roster in February, but cleared waivers and remained in the organization, and so far he has looked impressive during spring training. If the Orioles decide to include a fifth outfielder on the Opening Day roster, Robinson is as good a candidate as any. If not, he'll still be just a phone call away at Triple-A Norfolk.
Perhaps the biggest potential reward among the non-roster invitees is veteran starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens. A one-time Atlanta Braves standout, Jurrjens has gotten his Orioles career off to a rocky start, beginning when his reported $1.5 million contract was downgraded to a minor league deal after concerns regarding his physical.
So far during spring, Jurrjens has had a rough time trying to regain his command in the wake of a knee injury, which ruined his 2012 season. Jurrjens is almost certain to begin the year at Norfolk, but if he can show he's healthy and return to his former All-Star form, he could be a valuable addition to the Orioles if they're in need of a starting pitcher.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see nearly all of the players mentioned here make an appearance for the Orioles at some point this season, along with others who aren't currently in the organization. With any luck, the O's will strike gold for the second year in a row and end up with the next Nate McLouth or Miguel Gonzalez.
Posted March 5, 2013