Rejoice baseball fans – the Baltimore Orioles have arrived in sunny Sarasota and Spring Training 2018 has commenced!
As pitchers and catchers reported on Tuesday, the most important spring campaign for Buck Showalter’s men since 2012 brought with it high levels of uncertainty and competition, as the Orioles look to settle a roster which is still littered with holes.
As it currently stands, three of five rotation spots are yet to be decided, there are spots up for grabs in the bullpen, the outfield is far from set, and who will secure the backup infield utility role is anyone’s guess. Buckle up #Birdland, you’re in for a bumpy ride!
With the Opening Day roster far from being confirmed and numerous spring battles set to commence, it’s worth revisiting some individual performances of recent seasons where Spring Training form – both good and bad – proved to be an early indicator of what would follow during the regular season.
- Trey Mancini entered camp looking to secure a roster spot and eventually hit .333/.379/.600 with three home runs in 60 at bats. His hot form continued throughout the season, eventually hitting a team-high .293 with 24 home runs and 78 RBI.
- Manny Machado had just four hits in 26 at bats, owning a dismal .549 OPS. He then started the season with the worst slump of his career, hitting just .224 and .191 in April and May respectively, striking out 49 times in 200 at bats.
- Chris Davis (.195) and J.J. Hardy (.172) both hit below the Mendoza Line during spring and continued their struggles into the regular season. By season’s end Davis had hit just 26 home runs, while Hardy’s .217 average and four home runs were the lowest marks of his 13-year MLB career.
- Joey Rickard, the Rule 5 pick, entered camp looking to secure a roster spot and produced a .397/.472/.571 slash line with eight extra-base hits in 63 at bats. He carried that form into his debut season with a hot start through April and ultimately finished his rookie season hitting .268 with five home runs.
- Miguel Gonzalez had been a very consistent performer for the Orioles since his 2012 debut, however had a horrible spring, allowing 21 earned runs in his 19 1/3 innings, losing four of his six starts. The Orioles were so frustrated, the permitted him an unconditional release and he ultimately signed with the Chicago White Sox – where he would go on to perform solidly over 46 starts between 2016 and 2017.
- Yovanni Gallardo arrived in Baltimore with expectations of being one of the rotation’s more reliable arms, however he finished his spring with a 10.38 ERA after making four horrible starts, striking out just five hitters in 13 innings of work. It was a sign of things to come, with the veteran winning just six of his 23 starts that season and owning a career-worst 5.42 ERA.
- Bud Norris had a career-best 15-win season in 2015 however finished Spring Training with a 0-3 record and a 9.26 ERA from his four starts. He allowed nine home runs in just 11 2/3 innings. It proved to be a telling warning too, as his 2015 season crumbled, ultimately finishing in San Diego. With the Orioles, he went 2-9 with a 7.06 ERA, looking like a completely different pitcher to what was seen just 12 months prior.
- David Lough entered camp on the back of a solid 2014 season with the Orioles, however hit just .185/.241/.185 in 27 at bats during spring. That miserable form continued into the regular season where he hit just .201/241/.313.
- Zach Britton had been tried as a starter for three seasons with mixed results and a whole lot of frustration, so when Spring Training arrived and he was shifted to a relief role, many were curious to see how he’d go. The early signs were positive as he allowed just one earned run in 10 2/3 innings of work. From that moment on, he’s never looked back is is currently one of the best relievers in the game – owning a 11-5 record with a 1.58 ERA over 244 relief outings.
The Orioles’ first Spring Training game of 2018 is on Saturday 24 February when they take on the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium, and while it’s hoped that some free agent signings are made between now and then, there will still undoubtedly be some fierce competition for roster spots over the coming five weeks as players seek to ready themselves for another grueling season.