Three Early Cuts to Watch
Entering tonight’s contest against the New York Yankees, the Baltimore Orioles have either optioned or reassigned 11 players to minor league camp. While most of the players among those 11 were either non-roster invitees or younger prospects who figure to be at least a year away from Baltimore, a few in that group could have an impact in the majors this year.
Over the course camp, I will discuss the players who are cut from the O’s roster and highlight them based on their proximity to the majors. Among the first two rounds of cuts are three players who could very easily crack the Orioles’ roster this year, and potentially stick in the majors for the long term.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here).
Optioned to Double-A Bowie on Tuesday, Garcia first joined the Orioles last year as a Rule 5 selection. By virtue of his Rule 5 status, Garcia received time in the major league bullpen last season after recovering from an injury, though he posted mixed results, including a 4.25 ERA and a 5.2 BB/9 rate over 29 2/3 innings pitched.
Long term, the hard-throwing right-hander profiles as a reliever, and he could return to the majors sooner rather than later. While that is predicated upon him making some strides, primarily with his control, Garcia is a logical fit if the Orioles need bullpen help over the course of the season. The Orioles could opt to treat Garcia the same way they used Mychal Givens last year, and give him an extended look over the final months of this season in anticipation of a full-time role in 2017.
Jones, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday, is one of those players whose been on the cusp of the majors for a few seasons, but has yet to clear the last hurdle. This might finally be the year that the southpaw gets a look, for a few reasons.
Firstly, he was added to the 40-man roster in November, making him a player the Orioles could promote quickly when they need a spot starter. Furthermore, his performance trends have been positive over the last few seasons. Jones had a 2.94 ERA with a stingy 1.7 BB/9 rate over 150 innings at Norfolk last year, and followed that with a solid five-start stint in the Dominican Winter League. Given how unsteady the Orioles rotation looks heading into this season, Jones might finding an opening before too long.
Much like Jones, Tolliver is a left-hander who could crack the major league roster at some point, though his experience in the minors limits him to a relief role. Since being drafted in 2009, Tolliver has intrigued observers as a reliever who can pick up strike outs and, when his three-pitch repertoire is clicking, generate ground balls.
What has held Tolliver back to this point is his control problems, which were evident last year when he posted a 4.4 BB/9 rate at Bowie. (For more on Tolliver, see on our own Reggie Yinger’s scouting report). If he could command his fastball more consistently, Tolliver would be able to pair it with a solid changeup, giving him an arsenal of two pitches that could get him to Baltimore. Optimally, however, his slider will come along as well, making him an effective late-inning option. Tolliver finds himself in a very similar position as Garcia. Both pitchers have upsides that are very evident and could contribute in the majors soon, but will first need to show that they can consistently locate their pitches.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues.