Tuesday, March 22, 2011

O's opening day roster battles

Yesterday Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun analyzed the chances of various Orioles making the team's opening day roster.

In my opinion, here are the three biggest roster battles/questions:

Backup catcher: Jake Fox vs. Craig Tatum

Connolly: "Tatum is better defensively, but he has a minor league option remaining. The club could take three catchers, but some in the organization think that's a waste of roster space since the backup won't play much in April behind Wieters."

I'm not a fan of carrying three catchers unless it's absolutely necessary, and in this case it's not. Connolly notes that Tatum still has an option left, which gives Fox the advantage. Also, Fox has been on fire at the plate in spring training, so it basically comes down to whether the O's want better offense (Fox) or better defense (Tatum) at the backup catcher position.

Fox's career numbers: .236/.285/.423
Tatum's career numbers: .236/.312/.280

Fox gets the advantage because of his power, but neither is particularly efficient at getting on base. I'd be shocked if Fox didn't make the roster, at least as a reward for his strong spring -- not that that's the best way to make decisions.

Fifth starter: Chris Tillman vs. Zach Britton

Connolly: "Britton has impressed, but barring injury, he'll probably start in the minors and receive a call up after April 20, which would guarantee he doesn't get full service time for 2011, meaning he would be under club control through 2017."

I thought that the O's needed to keep Britton in the minors until after June 1 to avoid Super Two status and keep him under team control for an extra season. If that's the case, the O's definitely need to keep Britton down. Because of scheduling quirks in April, the O's really only need a fifth starter for part of the month. Justin Duchscherer probably won't be healthy enough, and I also don't think Tillman has a whole lot left to prove at the Triple-A level. Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Brad Bergesen seem like the four starters who will begin the season in the rotation, and when the O's need him, Tillman should be the fifth.

Fourth outfielder: Felix Pie vs. Nolan Reimold

Connolly: "Pie is in a battl[e] with Reimold to be the fourth outfielder. Reimold has minor league options remaining (Pie doesn't) and has outplayed Pie, but his development might be better served playing every day at Triple-A Norfolk. So Pie is close to a lock."

Like Connolly says, the fact that Reimold has an option left gives Pie the advantage -- the O's wouldn't want to risk losing Pie to another team for nothing. However, Derrek Lee's health situation may also affect this position battle, because if Lee starts the season on the disabled list, the O's may choose to start Luke Scott at first and keep both Pie and Reimold on the roster. At the end of the day, though, unless Pie plays terribly and the O's lose complete confidence in him, he should win the battle over Reimold.

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