Thursday, February 25, 2021

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2021 Orioles spring preview: Non-roster invitees and notable camp reserves

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

As Orioles pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota for the official start of spring training this week, below is a look at the non-roster invitees and notable camp reserves trying to make a favorable impression:

NON-ROSTER INVITEES

LHP Fernando Abad
Opening Day age: 35
Service time: 6.119
2019 stats (San Francisco): 4.15 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9, 13 innings
Skinny: Hoping to rejuvenate his career, Abad was on the mound during Manny Machado’s bat-throwing incident in 2014 and spent the abbreviated 2020 season at the New York Yankees’ alternate training site.

C Nick Ciuffo
Opening Day age: 26
Service time: 0.034
2019 stats (Tampa Bay): .167/.167/.167, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB, 6 PA
Skinny: Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2013, Ciuffo has logged just 50 plate appearances in the majors and owns a career .637 OPS over seven minor-league seasons.

C Taylor Davis
Opening Day age: 31
Service time: 0.099
2019 stats (Chicago Cubs): .167/.250/.333, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 0 SB, 20 PA
Skinny: The veteran backstop spent the 2020 season at the alternate training site in Bowie after logging 39 major league plate appearances with the Cubs from 2017-19.

RHP Marcos Diplan
Opening Day age: 24
Service time: none
2019 stats (Double A): 4.85 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9, 68 2/3 innings
Skinny: Beginning his second spring camp with the Orioles, the Dominican native has averaged just over a strikeout per inning in the minors, but he’s also averaged nearly five walks per nine innings.

RHP Thomas Eshelman
Opening Day age: 26
Service time: 1.028
2020 stats: 3.89 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 4.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.8 HR/9, 34 2/3 innings
Skinny: The peripheral numbers suggest Eshelman was pretty fortunate last season, but the uncertainty of moving from an abbreviated 2020 back to a full 162 games will make depth options like him more important than ever as the Orioles won’t want to lean too hard on their pitching prospects in 2021.

RHP Conner Greene
Opening Day age: 25
Service time: none
2019 stats (Triple A/Double A): 5.13 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, 112 1/3 innings
Skinny: If nothing else, Greene has a famous friend who could also offer some organizational depth

RHP Matt Harvey
Opening Day age: 32
Service time: 7.127
2020 stats (Kansas City): 11.57 ERA, 2.74 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 4.6 HR/9, 11 2/3 innings
Skinny: Once the “Dark Knight of Gotham” and a 2015 postseason hero for the New York Mets, Harvey hasn’t been the same since being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016, posting a combined 6.09 ERA with four different teams over the last four seasons.

RHP Felix Hernandez
Opening Day age: 34
Service time: 14.060
2019 stats (Seattle): 6.40 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 2.1 HR/9, 71 2/3 innings
Skinny: The former Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star pitcher saw his ERA grow every year from 2014-19, but the Orioles hope the positive signs Hernandez showed with Atlanta last spring will carry over for him to be a veteran presence in an inexperienced starting rotation.

LHP Wade LeBlanc
Opening Day age: 36
Service time: 7.131
2020 stats: 8.06 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 5.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 2.4 HR/9, 22 1/3 innings
Skinny: After a season-ending elbow injury limited him to just six starts with Baltimore last summer, LeBlanc will try to prove he’s healthy enough to compete and eat innings for a rebuilding club.

UTI Stevie Wilkerson
Opening Day age: 29
Service time: 1.093
2019 stats: .225/.286/.383, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 41 R, 3 SB, 361 PA
Skinny: Wilkerson missed the 2020 season with a broken finger, but his positional versatility — and mop-up pitching acumen — should leave him in the running to contribute at some point in 2021.

C Austin Wynns
Opening Day age: 30
Service time: 1.016
2019 stats: .214/.247/.271, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 8 R, 0 SB, 74 PA
Skinny: A good defensive catcher who’s logged 70 career games with the Orioles, Wynns remains an organizational depth piece, but he’s never shown enough consistency with the bat to warrant more than a fringe No. 3 role.

NOTABLE CAMP RESERVES

C Brett Cumberland
Opening Day age: 25
Service time: none
2019 stats (Double A/Single A): .257/.404/.415, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 28 R, 0 SB, 230 PA
Skinny: Acquired from Atlanta in the Kevin Gausman trade in 2018, the switch-hitting catcher owns a career .376 on-base percentage over four minor-league seasons, making him interesting even as all eyes remain on top prospect Adley Rutschman. 

SS/2B Adam Hall
Opening Day age: 21
Service time: none
2019 stats (Single A): .298/.385/.395, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 78 R, 33 SB, 534 PA
Skinny: The absence of a 2020 season was a bummer after Hall’s impressive campaign with Delmarva, but his speed and on-base ability are interesting traits with the Orioles not having as many infield prospects in their system as they’d prefer.

SS Gunnar Henderson
Opening Day age: 19
Service time: none
2019 stats (Gulf Coast League): .259/.331/.370, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 21 R, 2 SB, 121 PA
Skinny: Having spent the 2020 season at the alternate training site in Bowie, the 2019 second-round pick is a rising prospect with above-average power and arm strength, giving him as much upside as virtually anyone in the Baltimore system.

RHP Mickey Jannis
Opening Day age: 33
Service time: none
2019 stats (Triple A/Double A): 4.15 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, 125 2/3 innings
Skinny: How can you not root for a knuckleball pitcher who has never appeared in the majors and still hasn’t given up more than a decade after being drafted?

OF Heston Kjerstad
Opening Day age: 22
Service time: none
2020 first-round pick from University of Arkansas
Skinny: Mike Elias recently revealed Kjerstad is still working his way back to full baseball strength from a bout of myocarditis that sidelined him for the club’s fall instructional camp and will delay his start to major league camp, but the talented prospect is said to be “doing really well” now.

RHP Evan Phillips
Opening Day age: 26
Service time: 1.083
2020 stats: 5.02 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 12.6 K/9, 6.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, 14 1/3 innings
Skinny: Phillips has averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings in parts of three seasons with the Orioles, but an unseemly walk rate continues to hold him back and jeopardize his standing in the organization.

1B Ryan Ripken
Opening Day age: 27
Service time: none
2019 stats (Double A/Single A): .276/.312/.409, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 24 R, 0 SB, 295 PA
Skinny: The son of the legendary Cal Ripken is far from a prospect at this point, but he’s been an organizational hand since 2017.

LHP Josh Rogers
Opening Day age: 26
Service time: 0.143
2019 stats: 8.79 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 3.1 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 4.4 HR/9, 14 1/3 innings
Skinny: Part of the Zack Britton trade, Rogers hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July of 2019, but the previous regime liked his deception and pitchability when he was in the Yankees’ farm system.

C Adley Rutschman
Opening Day age: 23
Service time: none
2019 stats (Single A/Gulf Coast League): .254/.351/.423, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 19 R, 1 SB, 154 PA
Skinny: The canceled minor league season likely bought the Orioles some time in delaying Rutschman’s promotion to the big leagues, but one of the top prospects in baseball spent last summer working at the alternate training site in Bowie and could prove to be ready for the majors in 2021 — even if he isn’t promoted.

SS/2B Terrin Vavra
Opening Day age: 23
Service time: none
2019 stats (Single A): .318/.409/.489, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 79 R, 18 SB, 453 PA
Skinny: Part of the Mychal Givens trade last August, Vavra was named the MVP of the South Atlantic League in 2019 and shows a promising bat, but where he’ll ultimately play remains a fair question as he tries to climb the system. 

SS Jordan Westburg
Opening Day age: 22
Service time: none
2020 first-round pick from Mississippi State
Skinny: The 6-foot-3, 200-pound infielder made a good impression at the club’s instructional camp last fall, so it will be interesting to see how quickly he advances through the minor-league ranks.

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