The Non-Roster Invitees of the Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles invited 20 non-roster players to camp, and a few of the most interesting names on the team’s list are profiled here.
Alfredo Aceves: Aceves is both a talented and versatile pitcher, with a notable record of success at the major league level. So, why is he a non-roster invite? Because, he very well may be crazy. Aceves’s tenure in Boston did not end well, having multiple altercations with both teammates and management and consistently displaying his immaturity. In 2012, he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team after being upset upon being removed as the closer. In 2013, having been irked that his pitching session was delayed by thirty minutes, Aceves lobbed his pitches to the plate, drawing the ire of his manager and coaches. If he can keep his act together, he has an excellent chance to make this roster.
Quintin Berry: In 2012, Berry led the Detroit Tigers in stolen bases (with 21) over 66 regular season starts for a very good team that eventually lost to the Giants in the World Series. Looking back, that season appears to be the aberration as Berry had been a minor league journeyman for most of career. After playing four seasons in the minor league system for the Phillies, Berry had stints in the minor leagues with the Padres, Mets, Reds, and Tigers. After what some viewed as a breakout 2012 season, Berry was beaten out for the final spot on the 2013 roster by the likes of Don Kelly (who batted .186 the prior year), Andy Dirks, and Matt Tuiasosopo. Berry was eventually released by the Tigers after posting a hideous .168/.278/.234/.512 line at Triple-A. However, Berry resurfaced with the Red Sox as a base-stealing specialist over the last month of the season and the playoffs (stealing six bases without getting caught).
Given his speed and his reputation for being an above average defender, Berry has a legitimate chance to make the roster out of spring training as a fourth-outfielder/pinch runner. This is especially true since Nate McLouth, the team’s stolen base leader from the prior year (with 30), signed with Nationals in the offseason. Ultimately, the competition for fourth outfielder/pinch hitter role may come down to Berry and fellow non-roster invitee Julio Borbon, who was drafted from the Cubs in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. Borbon, who has an uninspiring career OPS of .666 in 863 major league plate appearances, has a 75% success rate on stolen base attempts in the majors and minors (167 out of 223). The combination of Berry’s stolen base success rate of 81% (315 out of 387) and the fact that Borbon, having been selected in the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft, can be stashed in the minors gives Berry the leg up in this competition.
Alex Gonzalez: (No, not this Alex Gonzalez.) Gonzalez is the former Florida Marlins shortstop known for his defensive abilities, and who was traded for Yunel Escobar when Bobby Cox grew tired of Escobar’s lazy play. Gonzalez only played in 41 games last season with the Brewers before being released due to his poor performance. However, in addition to shortstop, he also logged time last season at first base and third base, which can actually be viewed in two ways. Either the position flexibility will help his chances of obtaining a bench role, or the team will realize that Gonzalez was playing at the corners because he is no longer adept at shortstop. Gonzalez does not appear to have a great shot at making the opening day roster.
Chris Marrero: Marrero is talented enough to be on a major league roster but, just like with his prior team (the Nationals), it appears that he will once again be squeezed out. Marrero was a first-round pick out of high school in 2006 and put up some terrific numbers in the Nationals minor league system (2010, Double-A: .294/.350/450/.800 with 18 home runs; 2011, Triple-A: .300/.375/.449/.825 with 14 home runs). The 6’3”, 230 pound first-baseman certainly looks the part, but he has never been afforded a legitimate opportunity in the majors. Indeed, having played in only 39 games, his major league statistics can largely be ignored. Couple the fact that he was blocked at first base in Washington by Adam LaRoche with the fact that he struggled with injuries last season, and Marrero has all the earmarks of a non-roster invitee.
Nonetheless, when he signed with the Orioles in December, the fit seemed appropriate. The only back-up/right-handed first baseman on the roster was Steve Pearce, and the production the Orioles received out of the DH spot the prior seasons was horrid (2012: .240/.323/.407/.730, 2013: .234/.289/.415/.704). It appeared that Marrero would have a legitimate opportunity to win the designated hitter job, having only to compete with the perpetually injured Nolan Reimold, the talented but unproven Henry Urrutia, the aforementioned Pearce (who was part of the DH contingent last season in Baltimore),and fellow non-roster invitee Delmon Young. However, the Orioles just signed Nelson Cruz to serve as the team’s primary DH. Since Marrero last played the outfield in High-A ball in 2007, barring injury, there simply does not appear to be any way for Marrero to make this team out of spring training. (Too bad he can’t play second base, because he would only be competing against the likes of Jemile Weeks, Alexi Casilla, and Ryan Flaherty.)
Delmon Young: Although it feels like he has been around forever, Young is actually only 28 years old. Under normal circumstances, one would expect Young – who was once considered a “can’t miss prospect” – to be in his offensive prime. Instead, Young finds himself fighting for a roster spot as a non-roster invitee. Why? Well, from a baseball perspective, Young has really never been that good. Young’s 2010 season and 2012 American League Championship Series (where he won MVP) have been highlights of an otherwise disappointing career for the former number one overall draft pick. He is a total liability defensively, has never met a pitch he did not want to swing at, and has had only one year where his WAR was above 1.0 – in 2010, when his WAR was 1.6. He is probably most well-known for serving a 50-game suspension after throwing a bat at an umpire while in the minor leagues and for being arrested after using an anti-Semitic slur in New York City in 2012. Despite his glaring shortcomings, Young was actually poised to make this team as the right-handed DH until Nelson Cruz was signed a few days ago. Unless he has an impressive spring training, it is likely that the Orioles release Young rather than attempting to keep him in the minors.