About this blog:

About This Blog:
I'm Denim. I cover all things sports, in particular Baseball, Football, College Football, & Hockey, especially the Baltimore Orioles, Penn State Nittany Lions, NY Giants, Colorado Avalanche, & Vancouver Canucks.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Under the Radar

A lot of "fans" are complaining that the Baltimore Orioles haven't made any "flashy" moves heading into this season, not acquiring any big names through trades or free agent signings. Those people aren't seeing the big picture or the moustache right under their noses.

The moves the team has made were for depth, which has paid off greatly, and the results of which will be seen in both Baltimore and AAA Norfolk all season. The Orioles brought in a lot of promising young players looking for a shot and a lot of former MLB players looking for a second chance in new scenery, all eager to earn a spot on a team that's willing to dole out opportunities to those who earn them. With only a week left before Opening Day, there are still 38 players in Baltimore's Major League camp, still fighting for the last few bench and pitching spots, all of them playing well enough to still be in the discussion. Position players Lew Ford, Steve Pearce, Chris Dickerson, Alexi Cassia, Conor Jackson, Trayvon Robinson, Jason Pridie, and pitchers Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson, Jair Jurrjens, and T.J. McFarland have all made the front office's final roster decisions incredibly difficult. All of the team's non-flashy acquisitions and current players are proving why the team didn't need to make any headline grabbing deals.  

Last year the Orioles thrived by using a lot of depth, bringing up who they needed at the time, from a pool of way more than 25 players. They played the hot hand, and gave many players opportunities. How did it work out? They were a game away from making the ALCS. There's no success in MLB without depth.

We've all heard the adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The Orioles brought back all of their key players from last season except overpriced 1B Mark Reynolds. The return from injury of power hitting OF/DH Nolan Reimold and table setting leadoff man Brian Roberts will add run production to last year's Wild Card winning squad. The Orioles exciting core players keep proving why this successful, confident young team didn't need to add any major parts to their equation.

Baltimore's front office is currently looking to make yet another small splash. One of the biggest needs the organization has is catching depth. They basically have 3 worthy catchers in the whole organization. Adding depth to this specialized position will greatly improve the organization, even if it doesn't light up the news tickers.  

Reliever Luis Ayala is the player the Orioles are reportedly shopping around. It's nothing against Ayala, he's just the odd man out and has trade value. They're offering him because they have other pitchers they want to keep on the roster, all of which can pitch more innings per outing than him, and can also be inserted into the starting rotation as needed. Arrieta, Johnson, and Matusz have all earned roster spots, but only one of them can be the fifth starter, so the others could be used out of the bullpen, as they each were at times last season. McFarland has a huge upside and is worth keeping in the organization, but needs Ayala's spot on the 40 and 25 man rosters, or Baltimore will lose the Rule 5 draft pick back to Cleveland.

A team's value is the sum and cohesion of its parts. Assembling a talented team of young players eager to to make their mark, giving them a chance to do so, and keeping a reserve of unselfish contributors waiting in the wings is what worked for the Orioles in 2012, leading to their first winning record and playoff appearance in a decade and a half. It's also what has the team so confident heading into the 2013 season, and what has made so many players work so hard just to make the team.

How's slapping together a bunch of high-priced superstars working out for the Yankees so far this year???

Copyright 2013 Denim McDemus

Monday, March 18, 2013

Outfield Aplenty

With just two weeks left in MLB Spring Training, many invitees to the Baltimore Orioles camp are continuing to impress the coaching staff, making their roster decisions quite difficult, a good problem for any team to have. Some of these guys REALLY want to make this exciting young ball club. Depth will be a huge advantage for the Orioles this season.

The outfield is the most clogged position this season. With Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nate McLouth penciled in to start, and Nolan Reimold the most likely DH, who would you keep as your backup outfielder?

Lew Ford: .483avg/2HR/6RBI
Conor Jackson: .378/3/6
Steve Pearce: .393/4/12
LJ Hoes: .320/0/3
Chris Dickerson: .308/1/2
Trayvon Robinson: .286/1/5
Jason Pridie: .267/2/8

It's mind boggling that they can only keep one of those pleasant surprises on the MLB roster, isn't it?  Honestly, I'd keep 2 of them, and make Nolan Reimold prove himself at AAA Norfolk, both that he's back to form, and that he can stay healthy, especially considering his anemic Spring Training statistics.

Ford and Pearce were around last year, so that may give them an edge. Pearce can also play 1B. Jackson played 1B briefly. Hoes has already been sent down to AAA. To me it really comes down to Ford, Pearce, or Jackson. I couldn't in good conscious send any of those three down after their Spring Training efforts.

Soon enough, Reimold or Brian Roberts will get hurt like usual, and another deserving player will take their roster spot, unless Buck Showalter continues his baffling love affair with Ryan Flaherty.

Copyright 2013 Denim McDemus

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Promise of Spring

Obviously, you have to take Spring Training for what it is, but it's exciting to me that the Royals (13-1) and Orioles (10-3) have the two best records in baseball right now.

This time of year, most of the people getting playing time are the ones fighting for roster spots, so while not a definite foreshadowing of Regular Season victories, Spring Training success does bode well for organizational depth. For upstart young teams like the Orioles and Royals, organizational depth is key, as evidenced by Baltimore's improbable run last year, using a pool of way more than 25 players.

Orioles camp is stacked with talent this year, giving them the enviable "problem" of not having enough roster spots for every deserving player, an issue they hadn't had for decades. With several bench spots up for grabs, many invitees have been really stepping up their games.

Some pleasant surprises have been:
OF Conor Jackson, OF Lew Ford, 1B/OF Steve Pearce, C Luis Exposito, 2B Alexi Casilla, OF Jason Pridie, OF Trayvon Robinson, P Mike Belfiore, and top pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Top positional prospect, 3B Jonathan Schoop, has put up impressive numbers playing for The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

I do not envy the difficult decisions Manager Buck Showalter and Executive VP Dan Duquette will be forced to make in the last days of Spring Training. But as they showed last year, players who start out the season in the minors will still be given opportunities to contribute to the big league ballclub, which is why so many under-appreciated players migrated to their squad this year.

Here's what the 25 man roster is shaping up to be (although some spots have yet to be won):

C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
2B Brian Roberts
3B Manny Machado
SS JJ Hardy
LF Nate McLouth
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
DH Nolan Reimold/Wilson Betemit

Louis Exposito/Taylor Teagarden
Conor Jackson/Steve Pearce/Lew Ford
Alexi Casilla/Ryan Flaherty

Jason Hammel
Wei-Yin Chen
Chris Tillman
Miguel Gonzalez
Steve Johnson

Jim Johnson
Pedro Strop
Louis Ayala
Darren O'Day
Tommy Hunter
Brian Matusz
Troy Patton
Jake Arrieta/Jair Jurrjens

I always enjoy following Spring Training and look forward to the MLB regular season every year, but last year's excitement and success coupled with the many potential-filled players at this year's camp have me counting down the days until April 2nd.

Copyright 2013 Denim McDemus