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  • Writer's pictureGrant DeVivo

It's Gameday Eve!

Updated: Feb 27

Campers looking to make difficult decisions for GM Mike Elias

Tomorrow at 1:05 pm, newly acquired Orioles ace and 2021 NL Cy Young award winner Corbin Burnes will toe the rubber at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. Once he throws the first pitch, so begins the Orioles’ Spring Training exhibition schedule.

So begins the climb to the 2024 regular season and for many prospects, the road to the show

There are some roster spots open including two starting rotation spots, a fourth outfielder, and bullpen help. The depth is so deep, however, that vice president of baseball operations Mike Elias has some very hard decisions to make. It will be a dogfight for guys who are looking to claim those roster spots. Here are some questions that I thought of that could be floating around Birdland this spring as well as my answers and opinions to them.

Will Jackson Holliday make the Opening Day roster?

No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday is playing for an Opening Day roster spot.

I already covered this topic in a previous blog, so I’ll keep this one short and sweet. The anticipation is that yes, he will make the big league squad out of Spring Training. He came into camp as confident as one 20-year-old number 1 prospect hopeful can be. However, he also knows that nothing is given or guaranteed yet. I believe that he is 90% ready for the show. His defensive durability and skillsets are very polished, and he has a very level head for a player his age. Again, the only barrier between him and a roster spot is if he can translate his offensive success in the minors into big league camp against established big league arms. He hit .323 across all four Minor League levels in 2023. If he hits well in Spring Training and especially against quality big league pitching, then he’s good.

Read more about my thoughts on the Jackson Holliday decision here.


Who is the Orioles’ fourth outfielder?

The Orioles’ starting outfield is pretty much set. You’ll have Austin Hays in left field, Cedric Mullins in centerfield, and Anthony “Tony Taters” Santander in right field.

There will be a ton of competition for the fourth outfield spot. Former top prospects Ryan McKenna and Kyle Stowers, as well as waiver claim Sam Hillard, will obviously be in the competition. Speedy shortstop Jorge Mateo will also be in the mix as the Orioles have been working him in centerfield this week.

Heston Kjerstad (MLB No. 32 prospect) is competing to be the O's 4th outfielder this spring.

However, it seems reasonable for the Orioles to use one of their left-handed hitting top prospects to fill in that slot. Both Colton Cowser (MLB No. 19), who is built around contact and OBP, and Heston Kjerstad (NLB No. 32), who is built around power, dominated the minors last season and reached the big leagues for brief periods of time. This is a tricky one for me because both bring so much to a lineup and both have left-handed swings that are perfect for Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I would like the Orioles to keep both though I doubt they will. I have no say in this one right now. I say let Cowser and Kjerstad play and compete. Ask me again in a month.


Could someone sneak up on us and steal a starting rotation spot?

Absolutely. Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin are favored to take the remaining two rotation spots though again, nothing is guaranteed or set in stone. Do not sleep on some of the young arms at camp this spring. Keep an eye on the following names as you watch exhibitions.

·       Justin Armbruester (121.1 IP, 3.56 ERA, 126 K, 1.068 WHIP)

·       Garrett Stallings (127.1 IP, 5.16 ERA, 133 K, 1.390 WHIP

·       Chayce McDermott (119 IP, 3.10 ERA, 152 K, 1.151 WHIP)

·       Cade Povich (126.2 IP, 5.04 ERA, 171 K, 1.358 WHIP)

All four handled the heavy hitting Double-A Eastern League very well and got promotions from Bowie to Norfolk midway through the season. Each brings uniquely different arsenals and material that could prove affective for the Orioles at some point this season, though preferably sooner than later given early injuries to Kyle Bradish and John Means. Stallings is a pitch-to-weak contact guy who mixes his pitches well and hits his spots. The other three use mid-90s fastballs and breaking balls to collect swings and misses, especially in clutch situations where the swing and miss is needed.

The critics will say Irvin and Wells win the jobs. However, I say that either of these four prospect arms have a legit shot at claiming a rotation spot of their own and completely surprising baseball.


What do you do with Coby Mayo?

MLB's No. 30 prospect Coby Mayo is looking for an explosive spring that could get him an MLB promotion.

Perhaps Mayo, MLB Pipeline’s No. 30 prospect, starts at Triple-A to begin the season depending on how he handles big league pitching at camp, though he will surely give Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn a run for their money. The 2023 Eastern League MVP unleashed full power, hitting 45 doubles and 29 home runs while slugging .564 with just an RBI shy of 100. He has one of the strongest yet controlled power swings that I have ever seen. I saw him turn on 100 MPH vs. Somerset last June to the deepest part of Bowie’s Prince George’s Stadium and I swear that ball still has not landed yet.

Mayo, 22, is a thirdbaseman by trade, though the Orioles are very comfortable with Jordan Westburg at the hot corner right now. This would move Mayo to either firstbase or designated hitter, hence why he is chasing for Mounty and O’Hearn. For me, he has graduated the Minor Leagues. He has very little if anything at all left to prove in the minors. There isn’t any room for him on the 26-man right now so he’ll probably start at Norfolk. Do anticipate his Major League debut somewhere in the Orioles’ infield this year because it will happen.


Final Thoughts

So these are just some questions and names that will float around during camp. As Spring Training progresses, we will begin to see the answers to some of these questions as the formula to a World Series run is created.

Do you have anymore questions for me? Follow the link below to my contact information and let’s talk Spring Training!   

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