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Orioles101′s Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Preview Part Seven: Corner Infielders

February 15th, 2014 at 7:30 AM
By Josh Michael

The first official day of Baltimore Orioles Spring Training is in the books as pitchers and catchers had their first workout on Friday, and the position players will be reporting on Tuesday. Today, we continue on with our Orioles Spring Training Preview as we turn our focus to the corner infielders.

'Chris Davis' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Unlike the middle infielders, there is not much battling going down on the corners. Chris Davis and Manny Machado are the clear cut starters and there is no comparison as Machado reeled off his first Gold Glove in 2013 and Davis was a finalist in his first full season at first. Oh yeah, they are both pretty darn good at the plate as well.

Davis' 2013 performance needs no introduction, but the Silver Slugger award winner finished third in American League MVP voting after hitting a MLB high 53 home runs and driving in a MLB high 138 RBI. He also hit .286 with 42 doubles and a .370 on base percentage. Defensively he finished the season with a .996 fielding percentage and committed just six errors in 1,420 chances.

Machado was a human highlight reel in 2013 and seemed to make a phenomenal play almost nightly en route to winning the AL Gold Glove at third. He was also pretty darn good with the bat in his first full big league season as he hit .283 with 14 homers, 51 doubles, and 71 RBI.

'Manny Machado' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/The big question with Machado is whether or not he will be ready to go come Opening Day as he is recovering from knee surgery that he had this offseason after that gruesome injury in Tampa Bay to end his season. In addition to whether or not he will be ready, the fact that he has gone an entire winter without doing any baseball activities cannot be a good thing, and will likely be the reason he is not in the lineup on Opening Day. If he is not ready, then the question becomes, who will start at third?

The first name that gets mentioned is Ryan Flaherty, who is felt to be the leading candidate to be the starting second baseman, as Flaherty has played some third base for the Orioles in the past and the move would allow either Alexi Casilla or Jemile Weeks to play at second base. Flaherty can play a decent third base defensively and looks to become more of a contributor at the plate this season.

If not Flaherty, then who? Well Casilla could also play third if needed, but Rule-5 pick Michael Almanzar is another option for the Orioles. Being a Rule-5 draft choice, Almanzar must remain on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Boston Red Sox, and his odds of remaining in Baltimore increase greatly if Machado has to start the season on the DL. He has never played in the big leagues and boasts a career .250 batting average in six Minor League seasons with 49 homers and 304 RBI.

There are others who will see some time at the corner infield positions, which include Steve Pearce and Steve Clevenger, who both can play first base in a pinch, and Almanzar has also put in a little time at first base as well.

Chris Marrero will be in camp as well after agreeing to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite this winter. Marrero was once considered a highly regarded prospect in the Washington Nationals system, but has yet to reach the potential placed on him when he was drafted. He is likely set to be the first baseman for AAA Norfolk to start the season, but if he gets his bat going and other struggle, it is possible that Baltimore could see him get called up to serve as a right handed DH.

Again, the corner infield is much less exciting in terms of competition as opposed to the middle infield, but that is a good thing because it means there are two solidified players on the corners. Davis and Machado may be the best corner infield combo in the league today, and their 2014 performances are going to go a long way in determining the success of the team as a whole.


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Tags: Alexi Casilla, Baltimore, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Chris Davis, Chris Marrero, Manny Machado, Michael Almanzar, MLB, Ryan Flaherty, Steve Clevenger, Steve Pearce

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