The Orioles set their Opening Day roster Thursday, announcing that they’ve designated right-handers Alec Asher, Stefan Crichton, Michael Kelly and Jesus Liranzo for assignment. Their 40-man spots will go to Pedro Alvarez, Colby Rasmus, Craig Gentry and Danny Valencia. Mark Trumbo and Gabriel Ynoa, meanwhile, will open the season on the 10-day DL. Right-hander Alex Cobb will open the year in Double-A as he ramps up after signing late in Spring Training.
Asher, 26, appeared in 24 games for the O’s last season, including six starts, totaling 60 innings of work with a 47-to-23 K/BB. While Asher showed that he can work out of both the rotation or bullpen in multi-inning stints, he struggled to a 5.25 ERA and yielded 10 homers in last year’s 60 frames with the O’s. Asher does sport a quality 3.75 ERA in 170 1/3 innings of Triple-A work, where he’s averaged 6.4 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. He has also has a minor league option remaining, so he could make sense for a team in need of some rotation depth.
Crichton, also 26, debuted with the Orioles last year, though he tossed just 12 1/3 innings in the Majors. In that brief sample, he yielded 11 runs on a whopping 26 hits and four walks with eight strikeouts and a 46 percent ground-ball rate. The former 23rd-rounder did average better than 94 mph on his heater in the bigs, though, and he logged a strong 3.02 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 0.38 HR/9 in 47 2/3 Triple-A innings. He has a pair of minor league options remaining.
The 25-year-old Kelly has never appeared in the big leagues, but he nonetheless scored a Major League contract from the O’s this past offseason on the heels of a strong Double-A showing with the Padres’ San Antonio affiliate in 2017. The former No. 48 overall pick worked to a 2.89 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 with a 44.2 percent ground-ball rate in 89 Double-A innings before being roughed up in his second go-around at the Triple-A level (albeit in an extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League setting).
Liranzo, 23, also comes without big league experience, but Baseball America ranked him 19th among Orioles farmhands this offseason. Liranzo isn’t lacking for velocity and has the upside of a quality bullpen piece, but he’s struggled with control throughout his pro career, including last season when he averaged six walks per nine innings pitched and posted an unsightly 4.85 ERA in 65 Double-A innings with the Orioles’ Bowie affiliate.
Each of Alvarez, Gentry and Valencia have been with the Orioles before. Alvarez’s stay with the team could be directly tied to Trumbo’s rehab, as each projects primarily as a DH. A brief experiment with Alvarez as an outfielder didn’t prove fruitful for the O’s last season, and they’re largely set at the infield corners as well. Gentry can back up at all three outfield spots and provide some speed off the bench, while Valencia provides a right-handed complement to Chris Davis as well as some insurance at third base and in the outfield corners.
As for Rasmus, it seems likely that he’ll receive fairly regular reps in right field after signing a minor league contract this winter. He showed well in a limited sample with the Rays last season before incurring an injury and ultimately stepping away from the game to be with his young family midway through the ’17 season.