The recent news of Manny Machado's knee surgery -- from which his recovery could sideline him for up to six months, putting the start of his 2014 season in jeopardy -- comes as an uncomfortable development for Orioles fans. If Machado's rehab goes slower than expected and he misses any significant time in 2014, that would potentially be a crippling blow for the Orioles. It's hard to think of a player who would be tougher to replace than a 21-year-old, Gold Glove-caliber, All-Star third baseman.
That got me thinking about which players on the Orioles' roster are the most -- and least -- irreplaceable. Whose absence would leave a gaping hole in the team? By contrast, whose departure would barely cause the Birds to bat an eye?
We'll run down the entire roster of 2013 Orioles -- all 52 players who made an appearance for the Birds this year -- and rank them based on how easy or difficult they'd be to replace in 2014. First we'll cover the most easily replaceable Orioles -- the blink-and-you-missed-them players who appeared in only a handful of games. Then we'll work our way up through the semi-useful Orioles who provided some value, leading up to the most irreplaceable core of the team.
THE EASILY REPLACEABLE
Wilson Betemit: It's hard to find a more replaceable player than the 2013 version of Betemit, who was expected to be a designated hitter. After missing most of the season with a leg injury, Betemit returned to the team and went 0-for-10. To replace him, you just need to find someone else who can go up to the plate 10 times without getting a hit. Possibilities include: you, me, any random fan, any random fan's grandmother, Miley Cyrus, a beer vendor, a Comic-Con attendee or an adorable kitten holding a bat.
Steve Clevenger: Clevenger, a Baltimore-born catcher who went to high school at Mount St. Joseph, appeared in four games and went 4-for-15 ... which actually made him the best-hitting backup catcher for the Orioles this year. He's a candidate for the 2014 backup job.
L.J. Hoes: An outfielder, Hoes was one of the Orioles' better hitting prospects and could carve out a decent career for himself, but the Birds won't have trouble replacing his 2013 production, considering that he went 0-for-3 during his lone game before getting traded to Houston.
Travis Ishikawa: Ishikawa was tearing up Triple-A Norfolk to such an extent that the O's added him to their roster for fear of losing him to the Yankees. It turned out to be a lot of consternation about nothing. Ishikawa hit .118 (2-for-17) with the Birds, and then the Yankees did in fact claim him on waivers -- but then released him after two at bats, both strikeouts.
Dan Johnson: Johnson, a befuddling late-season pickup, pulled a half-Betemit: he was hitless in five at bats as a designated hitter/first baseman. Even his name is easily replaceable; "Johnson" is the second-most common last name in the United States, and is the most common surname in Orioles history (15 players).
Michael Morse: The Birds' August trade for Morse quickly turned into a dud. Morse -- an outfielder who might have been damaged goods when the O's acquired him from Seattle -- mustered three hits (all singles) in 29 at bats, providing little to no value in any aspect of the game. If the O's make a late-season trade next year, it almost has to turn out better than this one.
Yamaico Navarro: The Orioles' search for a capable second baseman during the first half led them to Navarro, a journeyman infielder, in May. Navarro showed signs of life with the bat, but his defense wasn't up to snuff. He was banished back to Triple-A Norfolk, and didn't return.
Jason Pridie: The O's called up Pridie for the final home stand, after the end of Norfolk's season, as a reward for his solid season with the Tides. During four games with the Birds, Pridie went 2-for-10 and made several misplays in the outfield.
Jonathan Schoop: Schoop, the Orioles' top position prospect, was on the Birds' roster for three weeks before he appeared in a game. He made the most of his brief chance, going 4-for-14 and hitting a home run during his big league debut. Schoop will likely play a more significant role for the O's next season, but he had so few plate appearances that his 2013 production is easily replaceable.
Chris Snyder: A veteran backup catcher, Snyder appeared in nine games and went 2-for-20. I sometimes get him confused with Chris Stewart. After exhausting research, I've discovered they are not the same person.
Jairo Asencio: A journeyman minor leaguer, Asencio excelled as Norfolk's closer (28 saves) but bombed during a brief trial with the Orioles, giving up two runs in 2.1 innings. If he doesn't return to the Orioles organization next year, he'll be joining his fifth team in four years.
Luis Ayala: I'll admit I forgot that Ayala even pitched for the Orioles this year, but he made two appearances -- earning the win during the Birds' home opener -- before his April 10 trade to the Braves. On paper, Ayala is easily replaceable, but can anyone replace his uncanny ability to catch home run balls with his hat?
Mike Belfiore: The left-handed Belfiore was called up to the Orioles on three separate occasions before making his big league debut during the final series of the year, allowing a pair of home runs. Manager Buck Showalter didn't seem to be a fan of Belfiore, who is a candidate to be removed from the 40-man roster this winter despite a solid season at Norfolk.
Alex Burnett: Orioles pitchers recorded 4,359 outs this season. Burnett contributed four of them. To put that in perspective, first baseman Chris Davis has gotten two more outs as a pitcher during his O's career than Burnett (and Davis allowed no runs to Burnett's three). The Cubs claimed Burnett off waivers after his two appearances with the Birds.
Zach Clark: Clark one-upped Burnett by getting an extra out while also giving up three runs. A UMBC alum, Clark was a feel-good story in making his major league debut after toiling in the Birds' farm system for eight years. But his lone major league appearance made it clear his stuff wouldn't play in the bigs, and he returned to the minors to reinvent himself as a knuckleballer.
Jair Jurrjens: A veteran right-hander, Jurrjens made two appearances with the Orioles, more than a month apart. Following an injury-plagued 2012 season, his velocity didn't return to the level that made him an All-Star in 2011, and the O's sent him packing in July.
So there you have it ... the 16 most anonymous, most replaceable Orioles of 2013. The 10 hitters combined to bat .166 with one home run during 58 games. The six pitchers combined for a 9.00 ERA (16 earned runs in 16 innings). That's a whole lot of dead weight and wasted roster spots the O's shouldn't have trouble replacing next year.
In the next part of this series, we'll examine the players who got more playing time in 2013 -- and not always for the better.