The 2012 Baltimore Orioles seem to have more roster questions than answers. It has been well-documented that their pitching staff is a little unsettled, but there are plenty of positional battles as well. The spring training competition sounds like something out of an Abbott and Costello skit: "Who's on first. What's on second. I Don't Know's on third." Here's a look at the Orioles' competition at first base, second base and third base.
First base is Chris Davis's job to lose.
Buck Showalter may have texted Mark Reynolds over the offseason to let him know that he would be playing third base, but nothing is set is stone. Here are the 1B contenders:
1. Chris Davis
Davis is the most likely winner of the first-base competition. It's his natural position, and perhaps for the first time of his career he will remain healthy and get an opportunity to play every day.
2. Mark Reynolds
As stated above, it looks like Reynolds is heading back to the hot corner, but nothing in Baltimore is finalized at this point. If Reynolds continues to struggle defensively but continues to hit the ball out of the park (Reynolds lead the O's with 37 home runs last season), he may be moved back to first base, where he appeared to be a little bit more comfortable.
3. Nick Johnson
Johnson is something of a dark horse in this competition. When healthy, Johnson is a very productive hitter and more than adequate fielder. If Davis struggles and Johnson can stay off the trainer's table, Dan Duquette will look like a genius. These, of course, are big "ifs".
A healthy Brian Roberts would be a huge boost for the O's.
Many had written off Roberts during the offseason and wondered if he would ever play again. Having dealt with strange concussion issues, Roberts might finally be on the mend. This would be a huge boost for the Orioles for a variety of reasons. Not only would they get their All-Star second baseman back, they would also have their leadoff man back. He is also the longest-tenured Oriole, and his leadership would be more than welcomed. If he is healthy, there is no doubt he'll be J.J. Hardy's double-play partner on Opening Day.
2. Robert Andino
If Roberts is again a no-go, Andino would probably be the favorite to be the starting second baseman. Andino was solid at the plate in 2011, hitting .263 with five home runs while also swiping 13 bases. If Roberts is healthy, Andino could be a trade trip heading into the season.
3. Ryan Flaherty
Flaherty was selected in the 2011 Rule 5 draft from the Chicago Cubs. He is currently ranked as the Orioles' No. 7 prospect, which is either a compliment to Flaherty or a testament to the lack of talent in the O's minor league system. Flaherty has shown promise as a hitter; in three minor league seasons he had a cumulative .278 batting average, 57 home runs and 267 RBIs. His versatility makes him an option at almost any position. In the minors he played every infield position except for catcher, and he even played some left field. If nothing else, the Vanderbilt product could stick as an utility player.
His bat will keep Reynolds in the line-up, but how long will his glove keep him at third?
1. Mark Reynolds
In a perfect world Reynolds would hit his 30-plus home runs as a designated hitter and keep his 25-plus errors away from the hot corner. Unless someone really impresses in spring training, that perfect world will only exist in fairy tales. Hopefully the Virginia native will channel his inner Brooks Robinson and the O's will live happily ever after.
2. Matt Antonelli
Antonelli could also be listed in the second-base competition, but he was brought in to play third base, particularly when it was believed that Reynolds was destined to play first base this season. Antonelli is yet another utility player candidate should he not be able to crack the starting lineup. His on-base percentage was a major reason for his addition.
3. Wilson Betemit
Betemit was brought in mostly to be the everyday designated hitter. His primary position is at third base, but he is not exactly a gold glove material, either. A strong showing in spring training could launch him to the top of the depth charts at third base, but he is a bit of a dark horse in this competition. Look for him to be a major contributor to the Orioles' lineup as a switch-hitting designated hitter with a high on-base percentage.
Although it is not set in stone, Orioles fans are likely to see Chris Davis at first base, Brian Roberts returning to second base and Mark Reynolds manning the hot corner.