Restoring the rosters: No. 26 – Baltimore

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This is part of a series articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
Sure, there are just four teams below them here, but the Orioles’ list now is a lot stronger than it would have been a couple of years ago, and if I do a similar set of rankings in 2011, there’s a good chance they’ll rank somewhere in the middle of the pack or perhaps higher.
Erik Bedard
Brad Bergesen
John Maine
David Hernandez
Brian Matusz
Jim Johnson
Arthur Rhodes
Chris Ray
Koji Uehara
Kevin Hart
D.J. Carrasco
Garrett Olson
A year ago, the rotation would have been Bedard, Maine, Olson, Hart and Josh Towers. Now there’s actual legitimate depth. Bergesen is a strong Rookie of the Year candidate, and Hernandez has a 3.81 ERA in 10 starts since debuting. Matusz gets the last spot over Uehara and Chris Tillman.
There may not be a legitimate closer here, but because the youngsters can slide into the rotation, the bullpen has a lot more depth with Uehara and Hart. Carrasco and Olson get the last spots over Tillman, Hayden Penn, Radhames Liz and John Parrish.
2B Brian Roberts
RF Nick Markakis
CF Jayson Werth
C Matt Wieters
DH Nolan Reimold
LF Willie Harris
SS Jerry Hairston Jr.
3B Mike Fontenot
1B Brandon Snyder
OF David Dellucci
OF Jeff Fiorentino
C Gregg Zaun
INF Augie Ojeda
Werth’s presence may surprise a few. He was a first-round pick as a catcher in 1997. The Orioles, though, soured on him when they figured out he was a long shot to last behind the plate, and they traded him to the Blue Jays for John Bale after 2000.
The lineup is decent, though the Orioles’ utter inability to develop a legitimate corner infielder is a problem. Fontenot belongs at second, not third, and first base came down to Snyder, who is hitting .275/.332/.376 in 178 at-bats since moving up to Triple-A, or Calvin Pickering.
There also weren’t many options at DH, so Reimold moves there and Harris improves the outfield defense. DHing Dellucci and playing Reimold in left was the other possibility.
The bottom of the lineup would look better if there were any possible platoonmates for Harris or Fontenot. However, Dellucci and Fiorentino are also left-handed hitters and Ojeda, a switch-hitter, is awful against southpaws.
The Orioles still have more young pitching on the way, and while the position player talent in the system doesn’t measure up, key players like Wieters, Markakis and Reimold should only improve. In two years time, Matusz and Tillman may be the aces of the staff. The organization is in better position now than at any point within the last 10 to 15 years, and it shows here.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.