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It's official, the Orioles have announced their non-roster invitees to spring training. If you're planning on heading down to Florida, or merely just tracking the team during pre-season, there are plenty of new names to know. ITW broke down many of the signings in this article, but here is an updated breakdown of the current NRI's:
RHP Jose Acevedo
Once a promising young pitcher, Acevedo has found it tough to get going in the two hitter's havens he has called home (Cincinnati and Colorado). It certainly hasn't helped that he is a pronounced flyball pitcher. The Orioles are hopeful that the 29 year old will succeed in relief, where his average-across-the-board stuff might play up a notch.
RHP Rob Bell
Another one time top prospect, the 30 year old Rob Bell has played in both the major leagues and the minor leagues during part of every season since he was 23 years old. That is, until 2006, when he posted a 4.25 ERA in 142 International League innings. Bell works off an average fastball, mixing in a curveball, changeup and split-fastball to keep hitters off balance. Although once very promising, Bell is destined to provide pitching depth at Triple-A Norfolk.
RHP Francis Beltran
Beltran, 27, will be spending his second year recovering from Tommy John surgery with the Orioles. He was able to demonstrate that he still had his mid-90's heat at the tail end of last year, although the command of his slider and splitter were not there yet. Beltran has considerable upside and could pay off immediately if his command returns.
OF Roger Cedeno
We talked about the 32 year old Cedeno earlier, but the feisty outfielder deserves another look. Cedeno comes with some baggage, but he was making eight figures before GM's were throwing that kind of money away on the likes of Juan Pierre. He can play centerfield in an emergency and has loads of speed, which might make him attractive as a reserve. The Orioles will almost certainly send him to Triple-A Norfolk at first, however, to get him some consistent at bats after taking a season off.
Although 2006 was not among them, the 30 year old Cervenak has had some decent years in the minor leagues. The problem has always been that he's extremely old for the levels he plays at. Sometimes a player like this gets an opportunity and turns it into a David Newhan-like three year career. More likely, he'll be reassigned after spring training.
RHP Fredy Deza
After seven years in the organization, the Orioles are giving Deza an invitation to spring training as a courtesy as much as anything else. Although he has a fastball that can sit in the low-90's and a solid slider, the 24 year old has struggled before even being exposed to Double-A hitters. Though he can induce a fair amount of groundballs, the Dominican right-hander's chances of making the major league team out of spring training are about as good as yours or mine.
RHP Cory Doyne
The 25 year old throws a heavy fastball that can touch 95 MPH, plus a solid breaking ball. He's been able to rack up an impressive amount of strikeouts in the minors, which shows that he has some upside. Unfortunately, he rarely has any idea where the ball is going.
LF Jason Dubois
Dubois will turn 28 years old next season and he has little defensive value. What he does provide is legitimate power from the right side, though he has yet to turn that into any production at the major league level. The one-time prospect has now fallen behind journeyman Jon Knott on the O's depth chart, but he is the same type of player. Orioles' fans should be encouraged that the Orioles have opted to actively search for the next Marcus Thames or Luke Scott, instead of trading something of value for a player type that typically has a very short shelf life.
RHP Steve Green
Green, 29, has limited upside as a ROOGY type, since he is vulnerable to lefties. Part of that is his lack of a changeup, but his marginal command seems to completely fall apart against them as well. Green does, however, do a good job at keeping the ball on the ground.
Among the most popular minor league free agents this off-season, House is a former top prospect in the Pirates organization. He's been on the operating table several times and, despite his athleticism, is a below average defender. Nevertheless, this is a guy who hit .412/.445/.675 in 114 Triple-A at bats last year. The Orioles would be wise to carve out a 3rd catcher/bat-off-the-bench role for the right-handed slugger.
OF/1B Jon Knott
As mentioned in the Jason Dubois comment, Knotts' inclusion on this list certainly represents some creativity and initiative on the part of the front office. Frankly, it wouldn't be surprising to see the lefty-masher handle the easy end of a platoon at LF or 1B this season. As was evident when he spoke to ITW earlier this off-season, all Knott wants is a chance.
RHP Jon Leicester
The 28 year old Leicester (pronounced Lester) is perhaps the least talked about player with a real chance to make the 2007 Orioles. He was a strong contributor to the 2004 Chicago Cubs bullpen and has fallen victim to injuries since. Healthy, Leicester throws a fastball that can touch the high-90's, as well as a solid slider and splitter. He is especially lethal against fellow righties.
Montanez will be 25 this upcoming season and has yet to fulfill his potential as the 3rd overall pick in the 2000 draft. He still has plus athleticism and the upside to be a valuable utility player. Montanez will most likely start the season at Triple-A Norfolk, but his versatility will make him an attractive option should injuries hit the major league team. He's also extremely bright and, although he wouldn't admit it to us, rumor has it that Montanez has wisely invested his $2.7 million draft bonus.
RHP Victor Moreno
Moreno showed brief promise a couple years back and even earned a selection by the Oakland Athletics in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft before the 2005 season. After the season he just had in the Pacific Coast League, it's becoming clear that he has pictures of someone in the warehouse doing something they shouldn't. That, or the Orioles insist on having a Moreno present at every spring training… and Orber was unavailable this year.
1B Brandon Sing
One bad year and Sing went from one of the better prospects in the Chicago Cubs organization to his first foray into minor league free agency. Despite this, Sing will only be 26 years old next season and his power is quite legitimate. Some observers are convinced that Sing's off year is directly related to an eye problem that cropped up in spring training. He'll certainly start the year in the minors, but a hot start could get him a strong look if the Orioles fall out of contention.
3B/1B Terry Tiffee
Tiffee was once well regarded in the Minnesota Twins organization, but he hit like Luis Matos in Triple-A last season. Going on 28 years old, that's not an encouraging trend. He offers some versatility as a corner infielder, which could get him a look during Melvin Mora's annual mid-summer vacation.
LHP Chris Waters
Waters , 26, is a success story just for making it back to professional baseball after a torn labrum. He is very unlikely to make the Orioles in 2007, but the fact that he got an invitation to spring training is testament to how much the warehouse is intrigued by him. He profiles as a similar pitcher to, and should play a similar role as, Eric DuBose.
OF Ruddy Yan
One of the fastest players in organized baseball, Yan can do little else to help a major league team. In fact, for all his speed and versatility, Yan is no more than average in the outfield. He has also played every position in the infield, but his inconsistencies keep him from being used heavily there. If he sees time in an Orioles uniform, it will be a mistake.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com>