Five Players to Watch: 2013 Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones

The Baltimore Orioles are heading into the 2013 season coming off of their first playoff appearance in 15 years. It was a surprising run made possible by a remarkable ability to win close games and one of the league’s best bullpens. The Orioles will field a very similar team this season as they did last season. Getting back to the postseason will not be easy in a tough American League East but strong performances from several players like these could help get them back into the playoff hunt.

Jason Hammel – Hammel effectively became the ace of the Baltimore staff last year after being acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rockies the previous offseason. He posted an 8-6 record with a 3.43 ERA in 20 starts, but missed significant time due to surgery on his right knee. He also delivered two solid starts against the New York Yankees in Games one and five of the AL Divisional Series, going 5.2 innings and giving up two runs in each outing. The Orioles lost both games, but he gave them chances to win. Hammel will set the pace for the rotation this year, but will still have to prove himself. In the previous six seasons with the Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays, he was just 34-45 with a 4.99 ERA.

Jim Johnson – Johnson emerged as a late-game stud last year as the anchor to the Orioles’ stellar bullpen. He led all of baseball with 51 saves, while blowing only three. He made his first career All-Star team, finished seventh in the Cy Young Award voting, and even picked up some MVP votes. He was a huge part of the reason the Orioles were 74-0 in the regular season when leading after seven innings. Unless Baltimore starts scoring more runs this season and blowing games open, Johnson will be called on to protect many more slim leads.

Adam Jones – The center fielder has become the face of the Orioles franchise and seems to have reached a full comfort level in the Majors. Last season he played in all 162 games for first time in his career, hitting .287/.334/.505 with 32 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He also finished sixth in MVP voting and earned his second Gold Glove. He has proven himself to be a very dangerous hitter in the middle of the Baltimore lineup and will be back there once again. At just 27-years-old, it should only get better from here.

Manny Machado – Machado heads into this season as the Orioles’ probable starting third baseman for the first time. The 20-year-old broke into the Majors in August of last season in spectacular fashion with two hits in his debut then adding two home runs the following night. He finished the year playing in 51 games, hitting .262 with seven homers. The former third-overall pick has been compared to Alex Rodriguez and if he provides anything close to that kind of production, he will be a huge part of the Baltimore offense.

Brian Roberts – It’s tough to tell what Roberts will be able to bring to the Orioles this year, if anything at all. He has managed to play in only 115 games over the last three seasons due to a number of nagging injuries. Before 2010, though, he was one of Baltimore’s best and most popular players. He had always hit well and was consistently near the top of the league in doubles, on-base percentage, and stolen bases. If he is healthy enough, he will likely be the starting second baseman and has the potential to be a key contributor again, but both Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla will be competing for playing time as well.

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Tony Consiglio
Tony Consiglio is a lifelong baseball fan and has worked for television and radio stations throughout New England. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');