The 2018 Spring Training campaign has passed its halfway mark and for Orioles fans, there’s been more than enough reasons to smile and finally look forward to the season ahead. Despite a miserable winter and painfully slow start to the exhibition season, the team has strung together an impressive two weeks, cruising to 11 wins from 14 games.
Here are six things I’ve especially liked thus far:
Manny Machado continues to hit frequently – and hard. The defensive switch to shortstop seems to have rejuvenated the young star after a tough 2017 season, and through 34 at bats owns a sizzling 1.366 OPS. His .471 average, three home runs, four doubles, and 15 RBI only tell part of the story though, as his body language – calm, relaxed, and happy – speaks volumes.
Jonathan Schoop is almost matching his best buddy, owning a 1.316 OPS himself, while hitting four home runs and two doubles from his 32 at bats. Seemingly living in the shadow of Machado throughout his pro career, 2017 was the breakout season he’d been craving and that doesn’t appear to be letting up heading into 2018.
Anthony Santander is looking to put an injury-plagued 2017 behind him, and the early indications have certainly been promising. The 23-year-old, who has a real presence about him at the plate, has knocked in 14 runs from 43 at bats and owns a .960 OPS while doing so. His hot stick, highlighted by a pair of doubles and three long balls, adds further power to a potent O’s lineup, while his defense has also been impressive patrolling the outfield.
Chance Sisco entered camp with an expectation of securing the backup catcher’s spot on the roster, and he’s achieved that and more. The left-handed hitting 23-year-old has slugged three doubles and a home run in 21 at bats and owns a .458 on base percentage. Behind the dish is where Sisco really needs to continue his development and will need to improve his caught stealing ratio of just one in six.
Hunter Harvey‘s spring numbers – a 3.86 ERA and 1.86 WHIP – may not be headline grabbing, however his ability to remain healthy fills O’s fans with hope. Despite walking four in his seven innings of work, he has struck out seven and his fastball has consistently been in the 94-96 mph range. He’s mixed in his curveball and changeup well, and while yet to pitch as high as Double-A, there’s a feeling within camp that the 23-year-old will feature at some point this season.
Pedro Araujo, the Rule 5 pick who has an outside chance to break camp with a bullpen role, looks filthy. After seven years in the Chicago Cubs’ organization, the 24-year-old has struck out seven in five innings, and both his appearance and demeanor has drawn comparisons to former O’s reliever Pedro Strop. Araujo’s success has come from mixing his mid-90s fastball with a dirty changeup that catches hitters off balance.
Others who have impressed throughout Spring Training have been Trey Mancini, Tim Beckham, and prospect James Teague, while Andrew Cashner looked good in his only outing thus far – four scoreless innings against the Phillies on Sunday.