Tuesday, March 27, 2012

After latest cuts, O's roster down to 33 players

With the beginning of the MLB season rapidly approaching, the Orioles made another round of cuts on their way to reaching the 25-player roster limit. Via Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, the latest round included eight demotions:
Infielder Matt Antonelli and pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken were optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, with outfielder Scott Beerer, catcher John Hester, infielder Steve Tolleson and pitchers Armando Galarraga and Dontrelle Willis reassigned to Minor League camp.

The moves -- which bring the spring roster to 33 -- puts two of the team's three players in contention for a utility/bench role in Minors camp, leaving only Rule 5 Draft pick Ryan Flaherty. Still, manager Buck Showalter wasn't ready to anoint Flaherty with a spot, even with Tolleson and Antonelli both sent to Minors camp.
Ghiroli also notes that Bergesen and Berken will transition from relievers to starters, though they were both essentially long relievers anyway. They also both came up in the Orioles farm system as starters, and neither ended up being particularly effective in the majors. At 26 and 28 years old, respectively, they'll only be summoned if someone in the rotation struggles mightily or gets hurt -- both real possibilities with this group of starters.

Flaherty, who turns 26 in July, is a former first-round pick by the Chicago Cubs. He posted his best numbers in Double-A last season, hitting .305/.384/.523 with 14 home runs in 83 games. He was then promoted to Triple-A, where he struggled to adjust, posting a .237/.277/.399 line in 49 games. Still, the O's thought enough of him to select him in the Rule 5 Draft, though that also means they must keep him on the major-league roster for the entire season if they want to keep him beyond this year. Because of that, Flaherty may very well make the team; then again, it's not like the O's are loaded with promising, young hitters who are even close to being major-league ready.

When the O's selected Flaherty last December, MASN's Steve Melewski talked to Baseball America writer  Ben Badler, who seemed to be intrigued by the pick. Badler said:
"He's got a solid approach to hitting. You can fool him some, but the power is plus raw power and he has a solid handle on the strike zone. He's played second, third and corner outfield. He may not excel at second or third but he can handle it capably and could move around some.


"He struggled some at Triple-A, but every level before that he hit pretty well. He's a little older than you might see for a prospect at his level, but that is probably why he was (available) in the Rule 5. He probably has as good a chance as anyone taken in that draft to stick with his team."
Badler had more to say, so check out Melewski's entire post for more thoughts on Flaherty.

Flaherty, or someone else, has a real shot to get some decent playing time this season. Robert Andino should see most of the regular playing time at second base if Brian Roberts is never able to recover from concussion issues, so third base may be Flaherty or another infielder's best shot at playing. Mark Reynolds is currently penciled in that spot, but he may be on the trading block. Reynolds also is one of the worst defensive third basemen in the majors, which is also a problem.