I’m More Excited for Spring Training than the Regular Season

At least for the Orioles. Mike Elias has been making late offseason moves again. Just two weeks before pitchers and catchers are set to report to Spring Training (those words sound so good), Elias traded Alex Cobb to the Angels for their #7 prospect (now the Orioles’ #19 prospect), Jahmai Jones. Then, we signed King Felix Hernandez to a minor league deal with an invite to camp.

These are clearly low-risk, high reward moves that could pay off for the Orioles in the long run. I’m very excited to watch King Felix in the orange and black. He should be the vet presence that the rotation needs if he can even come close to his Cy Young form. There are certainly some other bright spots on the team that I’m excited for too, like Mancini being back, Kremer and Akin in year 2 and the Orioles’ outfield being weirdly deep and legit.

However, I think I’m more excited for Spring Training than for the regular season. I just want to see the position battles and to see the prospects play some real baseball after being locked at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie for the summer last year. Soooo many guys are almost ready and I want to see who is the real deal. That said, almost none of them will probably make the Opening Day roster.

The pitching situation will be something to keep your eyes on. On the 40 man, we have plenty of guys who started games for us in the past. I’m hoping that Means gets a handle on things and he gets that filthy changeup working again. I want to see Akin and Kremer make some strides. There’s quite a few guys who I’ve accepted as gap year guys until the prospects are ready to get in on the action. Lakins, Eshelman, LeBlanc, and even the hometown kid Bruce Zimmermann. If any of them end up as key contributors, I’ll be happy.

That said, I’m more excited to see guys like Mike Baumann, Alex Wells, Zac Lowther, Kevin Smith, DL Hall and Gray-Rod get some action. DL Hall and Rodriguez most certainly won’t make the club, but I’m really hoping they’re our 1-2 punch for years to come. Elias has definitely placed an emphasis on pitching development and not all of these guys can possibly be in the rotation, but I like the strategy, dump a bunch of dudes in the funnel and see who comes out as legit. Some will be better suited for the bullpen, some will stay starters and some will fall off. All part of the process. Let’s see what the kids do in the spring and go from there.

The outfield has been the most crowded over the past couple of years, but I think we have that all figured out. Mountcastle in left, Hays in center and Santander in right. The battle will be for the fourth outfielder spot between Mullins, Stewart, Diaz, Ryan McKenna and maybe even Jahmai Jones. He primarily plays second, but sounds like he plays a little outfield too. Maybe we just got ourselves a Kike Hernandez/Chris Taylor type of guy. I hope Heston Kjerstad gets an invite to camp just so he can blast a baseball out of Ed Smith Stadium one time.

The infield should be interesting. The Opening Day roster will probably have Mancini (YES HE’S BACK) at first, Yolmer Sanchez at second, Freddy Galvis at short, and Rio Ruiz at third. After those guys, we have a logjam of prospects that should be fun to watch. The most exciting of the bunch is probably Gunnar Henderson who they say looked really sharp at the alternate site last year. Cadyn Grenier, Adam Hall, Ramon Urias, Terrin Vavra, Jahmai Jones, and Rylan Bannon are all guys who might get some time throughout the spring on the field. Of those guys, only Bannon is on the 40 man roster, so as I said before, this will just be a very limited preview. Just give me a glimpse of the future and I’ll be happy.

And then there’s the prodigal son, the 1.1, Adley Rutschman. Rumors are that Adley will start the season in Double A, but I will be pumped if he gets some Spring action. When I worked for the IronBirds, it was awesome watching him play for the 20 days he was at low A. He’s the real deal folks. Elias will most likely play the service time game with him, but he could be ready very soon.

I’m thinking that in a perfect world for Elias, Adley, DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez will all be ready around the same time (September???), with Henderson and Kjerstad not far behind (mid ’22???). Give the baby Birds a year or two for a learning curve and then we’re talking about 2024 World Series champs baby. Let’s ride.

I’m clearly overexcited, but that’s what happens when I think about the young guns. Our prospect pool is the deepest it’s been in my lifetime. This is how it works. This is how teams become and STAY successful. The problem with the 2012-2016 run was that we were so top heavy and we forgot to reload. Guys had to get paid so they got traded. Regimes change and I think we got the best guy for the job. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll remember the Hanser Albertos and the Renato Nunezes of the world, but 2021 and beyond is going to be fun.

In Elias We Trust. 11 days until pitchers and catchers report. LFG.

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Photo via Baltimore Sun

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