Kyle Stowers could open the season at DH after a 107 wRC+ in 34 major league games last season and a 130 wRC+ in 95 games at Triple-A. He might not be good enough to hold off the next wave of young Orioles, but there’s plenty of playing time on offer in 2023 if he performs. He’s hitting .269 with seven strikeouts, five walks, and zero home runs. That’s probably good enough for him to get the gig.
Now let’s talk about the next wave of young Orioles.
Jordan Westburg is equipped with generous eligibility per Fantrax, where can be plugged in at second base, third base, and shortstop. I have always wondered why this happens. In Westburg’s case, it’s fair enough: he can and does play all those positions. He’s slashing .240/.286/.360 with eight strikeouts and one walk this spring, so he’s not pushing anyone off their spot just yet but shouldn’t spend too long in Triple-A if he replicates the 129 wRC+ he posted in 91 games there last year.
Connor Norby is hitting .292 with six strikeouts and zero walks. Feels like a race between Norby, Westburg and Joey Ortiz to claim the next big infield opportunity.
Joey Ortiz is slashing .250/.357/.500 with one strikeout and two walks. Samples don’t get much smaller or less significant, but if I have to pick one of these three today, it’s Ortiz.
Colton Cowser has two home runs and a .464 OBP in 19 at bats. He should be up early.
Heston Kjerstad looks amazing in camp. He was great in the fall league and has been great this spring, slashing .478/.500/.1000 with three home runs in 23 at bats. He just went off the board at pick 479 in the start-up dynasty I’m drafting now. Nice value play this winter. Ortiz is still on the board there, but that’ll change a few hours after this goes to post.
Grayson Rodriguez has stayed healthy while adding innings, so he’s set to start the season in the rotation.
DL Hall won’t be healthy in time to compete for a rotation spot. His best fit is probably the pen for now anyhow.
Triston Casas has solidified his lineup spot by slashing .357/.400/.643 with two home runs in 28 at bats. He’s been hitting leadoff a bit this spring, which bears watching as the team has declared Masataka Yoshida a middle-order bat. Yoshida has been with Japan’s WBC team since March 6, so any takeaways about his eventual role have to be written in pencil.
Enmanuel Valdez has hit leadoff a bit too. His .375 OBP and 8/7 K/BB ratio speak to the plate patience, and his batting average (.200) speaks to the contact risk.
Ceddanne Rafaela was optioned this week but led the team in at bats to that point. He hit .207 and only had singles. That’s not disqualifying by any means, but I’m less optimistic than most.
Jarren Duran has been playing for Mexico in the WBC. He’s got Adam Duvall and Raimel Tapia competing for time in center. They’ve got blahtoon written all over them, but I don’t be surprised if Duran becomes a post-hype asset.
Durbin Feltman has a 0.71 WHIP and eight strikeouts in seven innings. He was a hot relief name as a third round pick in 2018 and pitched well (0.90 WHIP) in Triple-A during the 2021 season before losing the plot completely last year (1.59 WHIP, 7.63 ERA). Worth tracking in leagues that use holds as a category.
Same goes for Bryan Mata, who was unscored upon in seven innings before getting optioned.
Anthony Volpe is slashing .321/.424/.679 with two home runs, three steals, six strikeouts and four walks. He looks like a big leaguer out there, as us old heads might say. Oswald Peraza hasn’t fared as well in his 17 at bats (.333 OBP), but it really shouldn’t come down to one or the other. Josh Donaldson slashed .222/.308/.374 in 132 games last season. If the Yankees play Donaldson as the everyday third baseman while pushing one of these two youngsters to the minors and DJ LeMahieu to the bench, they’re asking for trouble in an air-tight division. I have no doubt they’ll open the year with Donaldson, but I don’t think he’d get his job back if he got hurt.
If it’s not Volpe or Peraza who takes Donaldson’s job, it should be Andres Chaparro, who has a .400 on base percentage and three home runs in 26 at bats this spring. He hit 19 home runs in 64 games at Double-A last year and has posted solid plate skills throughout this career. Not often you find an underrated Yankees prospect, but Chaparro fits the bill partly because he’ll turn 24 in May and has typically been a half-step behind in the age-to-level curve even before the pandemic pause.
Yankees fans should be able to continue their 2022 game: Where’s Oswaldo? Cabrera should open the season in a corner outfield spot but will likely play all over the diamond throughout the season. He’s tied for the team lead in at bats with Volpe (28) and has two home runs. In something of a surprise, he was an elite defensive outfielder by the numbers last year and would lock in a nice long career if he can repeat that feat.
Clarke Schmidt steps into the opening created by Carlos Rodon’s injury and becomes a value for those who had him already. I’m not sure there’s much room left for profit. Schmidt works side to side and gets hit hard when he misses a spot, as his early 8.10 ERA can attest. That’s not to say I don’t want him, just that I think the value was probably siphoned off by the injury news and resulting runway for Schmidt.
Have to mention the Martian before we depart. Jasson Dominguez has been physically ready for the major league game for quite a while, and the experience piece is sliding into place this spring. Dominguez ended last season with five games in Double-A and should open there this season, but he’ll get promoted in a hurry if his spring heat carries over. He’s got four home runs and a .500 OBP in 21 at bats, which is quite good here on earth. It’s within the realm of possibilities that they’ll want him around for a playoff push this fall.
Kyle Manzardo exemplifies Tampa’s skill in player procurement. He was a pretty sure bet to hit in his draft season but fell to 63rd overall because he’s a 6’1” 205 lb first baseman without that shiny topside everyone wants at the top of a draft. All he’s done for Tampa is rake. When they let Ji-Man Choi go to Pittsburgh this winter, Manzardo was my first thought. He’s slashing .316/.409/.737 as I type this, and Roster Resource has Harold Ramirez as the team’s starting designated hitter. I’m not saying it’s a lock Manzardo gets his chance this season, but Tampa has been better at making opportunities for their youngsters than they get credit for, and Manzardo is the kind of guyzardo who’s been making his own opportunities for a long time.
Curtis Mead has two homers in his 22 at bats and might be a few ticks ahead of Manzardo on the Rays opportunity meter.
Vidal Brujan is still hitting .063. It’s just 14 at bats, but I am sad.
Oslevis Basabe is a problem for the Brujan hive and for opposing pitchers. He’s slashing .474/.524/.684 with two walks, two strikeouts, two steals and a homer.
Josh Lowe shortened his swing this offseason in an effort to make more contact. It’s going well enough so far.
Luis Patino has a chance to take the fifth starter’s job ahead of a struggling Yonny Chirinos. Taj Bradley is probably the best man for the job, but he’ll bide his time with Crash Davis in Durham.
Kevin Kelly comes to Tampa via Cleveland and is, predictably enough given the orgs, good at relief pitching. He allowed just one home run in 57.1 innings across two levels last year and seems to have a spot in this bullpen.
Ricky Tiedemann has a sore left shoulder, so it’s probably time to pump the brakes on him. Lotta young arms on 2023’s hit-list already. Tread lightly. Use the buddy system.
Addison Barger leads the team in at bats (29) and games played (12). He’s slashing .310/.375/.483 with one home run, and I’m starting to think we’ll see a lot of him this summer.
Otto Lopez is slashing .467/.529/.667 in 15 at bats and has the last bench spot in his sights.
Spencer Horwitz is hitting .357 in 14 at bats and could fill in at some point.
Orelvis Martinez has enjoyed a good spring, slashing .267/.389/.800 with two home runs. He needs a little more time after posting a .286 OBP in 118 Double-A games last year, but this could springboard him into a big season.
Nate Pearson has a 2.00 WHIP and 5.40 ERA in five innings.
Sorry this one is kind of short. Stuff’s pretty settled in Toronto. Nice problem to have.
Thanks for reading!