One easy thing about sizing up the 2018 roster for the home team was that it was almost etched in stone from the time players reported to Sarasota, Fla. Well, that is until they made those two later-than-usual additions to the starting rotation in Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb.
This season, everything is seemingly in flux and still may be. General manager Mike Elias indicated to reporters that the O's will be at the ready to scour the waiver wire after the last round of cuts by other teams with more settled rosters.
Keeping in mind that a couple of last-minute surprises could be on the way, here is my projection of the 25 men manager Brandon Hyde will go into battle with in New York City March 28.
Starting Pitchers (5)
It's no secret Cobb, Cashner and Dylan Bundy are the top three and carry with them any hopes of moving back to respectability. It's indeed an oddity to be rooting for three guys to succeed with an eye toward the benefits of a better team and better returns on trades.
David Hess made some strides in his second stint in the rotation last season and has gained a level of appreciation from Hyde. He needs to figure out with his somewhat limited repertoire how to stop the bleeding and, like a boxer, hug his way through to the bell.
Mike Wright is a big, strapping guy with a big league arm. The hope here is the Orioles help Wright find the keys to becoming a solid major league contributor, much like the Houston Astros were able to improve some pitchers who were more effective once they collided with analytical information.
Relief Pitchers (7)
Mychal Givens was just a puppy when he came up, and he was raised with quite a group of heads and arms in Darren O'Day, Zack Britton, Brad Brach and even Richard Bleier. Now, he is supposed to be one of the leaders of the 'pen. He's had a rough spring with an ERA of 22.09, which comes on the heels of a disappointing 2018 season in which his ERA was just a touch below 4.00.
Givens' WHIP was a more respectable 1.19, and he allowed just four homers during his 76.2 innings. He is an important member of this 'pen; when the O's have leads, they have to be able to nail them down and get some W's, and the better he pitches, the more value he could bring back in a midseason deal.
Bleier and Paul Fry seem to be locks as lefties in the 'pen. Miguel Castro and Nate Karns will have jobs in the 'pen. Pedro Araujo -- who is 17 days away from satisfying his Rule 5 requirements -- also figures to be in the 'pen.
The last spot in the 'pen is a battle between Tanner Scott, Jimmy Yacabonis and Evan Phillips. I see Yacabonis winning out. I think lefty Josh Rogers goes to Triple-A Norfolk to stretch out and be the early-season guy to replace an injured or highly ineffective starter.
Chance Sisco's shock-and-awe power wave during the first week of exhibition games propelled him to the starting gig over an injured Austin Wynns and a gaggle of weak-hitting, strong defensive backstops. The story here is that Sisco has batted .321 and reached base at a .486 clip while knocking in 11 runs. From a guy who batted .181 and reached base at a .288 clip last year, it represents progress. His confidence needs to be propped up, and he may have found his support system in Hyde.
The backup job was Wynns' to lose, and an oblique injury has probably cost him a chance to head north with the team. Whether the backup is ultimately Carlos Perez or Jesus Sucre is not truly important. Once he gets over the strained oblique injury, Wynns should be back up.
Six guys seem to have locks on the roster. Chris Davis, Jonathan Villar, Rule 5 pick Richie Martin and Renato Nunez should be the starters from first to third. But Drew Jackson, the Orioles' other Rule 5 pick, and Rio Ruiz both figure to be on the roster as well. Ruiz will most likely platoon with Nunez, who is a weak link in the field. Keep in mind that Jackson also will get lots of action in the outfield.
Outfielders/Designated Hitter (4)
Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins and Joey Rickard have spots on lockdown. If healthy, Mark Trumbo (knee) makes the team as the designated hitter.
If you are as good as I am at math, you've been able to count to 24. It's also time to remind everyone that the new regime may not feel compelled to keep Araujo around for 17 days.
If that is indeed the case and Trumbo needs time on the injured list, the last spot becomes two spots, and voila, infielder Alcides Escobar -- the only guy in camp with a World Series ring -- could make the team along with outfielder Dwight Smith Jr.
However, if Trumbo doesn't go on the injured list, then my last man is Smith. That would leave Escobar to walk out the door unless the longtime Kansas City Royal believes going to Norfolk and staying in shape would be his quickest route back to the big leagues.