By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens
With just one week left in spring training, Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter has a daunting task in front of him. Finalizing the O’s 25-man roster will prove to be a big challenge, complicated by two Rule-5 draft picks this year. In December, the Orioles selected outfielders Aneury Tavarez (Boston Red Sox) and Anthony Santander (Cleveland Indians). Now, they must find a way to keep both men on the 25-man roster all season long, or be forced to send the young prospects back to their original teams.
Photo: Patrick Cavey
Last season, Tavarez was the MVP of the Portland Sea Dogs (Boston AA affiliate) and posted a .335 batting average while swiping 20 bases. Despite the fact that the only experience Tavarez has above the AA level is 15 at-bats for AAA Pawtucket last year, Aneury has had a very successful spring training and has potentially earned a spot on the 25-man roster.
In 24 games so far , the left-handed Tavarez is batting .283 (13-46, as of Friday night’s 5-5 tie with the Twins) with an on-base percentage of .365. He has knocked in five runs to go along with one home run and a team-leading seven stolen bases. Defense remains a major question mark for the 24-year-old prospect, but a lingering injury to newly acquired OF Seth Smith could open up a temporary slot for Tavarez. Aneury does possess a great ability to get on-base and move around the base paths, skill sets the Orioles’ major league team has been lacking the last few seasons. Tavarez is also a lefty who hit .313 against southpaws last season for Portland, a potential matchup nightmare for opposing managers.
The Orioles’ currently possess: Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Craig Gentry, Tavarez, Santander, Hyun Soo Kim, Seth Smith, Joey Rickard, and Pedro Alvarez in the outfield. Gentry seems to be a favorite to make the team due to his ability to play centerfield. The veteran could provide the occasional rest day for Adam Jones and be a wise choice for a late-game defensive substitution when the situation presents itself. Santander looks to be headed to the disabled list to begin the season and Alvarez could be destined for Bowie or Norfolk to get more at-bats and outfield innings. The odds seem stacked against Tavarez and an impressive spring training by Aneury is only making the situation more muddled.
I expect the Orioles to do whatever necessary to keep Tavarez on their roster, whether it's working out a deal with the Red Sox or relying on Buck Showalter’s amazing chess-like mentality when it comes to shuffling the roster, I have no doubt that Tavarez will prove to be a useful piece for the Baltimore Orioles, this season and beyond.