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Baltimore Orioles 2013 Preview

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones

The Orioles underwent the biggest turnaround in the Majors last year, winning 93 games and making the ALDS after winning just 69 games the previous year. The Os spent the offseason getting younger, letting veterans like Mark Reynolds, Joe Saunders, Jim Thome, Randy Wolf, Nick Johnson, Bill Hall, and Endy Chavez all walk away in free agency while only signing Jair Jurrjens.

Baltimore showed they can compete with the likes of the Yankees and Rays in 2012 but Buck Showalter‘s club faces a tough 2013 with teams like the Blue Jays and Red Sox looking to get back in the mix of the AL East. Let’s take a look at what this scrappy team is shaping into for the upcoming season.

Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters

Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters hits a three run homerun scoring Brian Roberts and Chris Davis during the bottom of the first inning of a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Ed Smith Stadium. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

2012 Team Rankings:

Wins: 93

Runs: 15th Overall

Batting Average: 20th Overall

ERA: 14th Overall

WHIP: 16th Overall

Catchers: Matt Wieters, Taylor Teagarden – Grade: B+ 

Wieters has put together a couple of nice 20+ home run seasons and is definitely looking like the top prospect he was billed as in 2009. Last season he batted .249 with a .764 OPS, 23 HR, 83 RBI, 67 R, and 27 2B and I expect similar numbers in 2013.

Teagarden only played 22 games last season which isn’t surprising since he’s only played 64 games in the last three seasons. He batted .158 last season which tells you all you need to know about why he’s played in so few games.

First Base: Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit – Grade: B

Davis had a career season in his first full year in Baltimore batting .270 with an .827 OPS, 33 HR, 85 RBI, and 75 R. It was the first time we’ve seen him play more than 113 games and it is right in line with what he was projected to do when he came up with Texas. He will try to establish himself as an elite power first baseman this season but his strikeouts (169 in 2012) could get in the way.

Betemit has really been around and is now playing with his eighth different team. He probably never gets the credit or the playing time he deserves but he’s a very valuable utility man who can play all over the field. Last year he batted .261 with a .744 OPS, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 41 R, and 19 2B in just 341 at-bats. You can do a lot worse than a guy off the bench with 7.5-8.5 AB/RBI.

Second Base: Brian Roberts, Alexi Casilla, Ryan Flaherty – Grade: C-

It’s cute that the Orioles have Brian Roberts listed atop their depth chart considering he’s played 115 games over the last three seasons and is now 35 years old. In those 115 games he is batting .244 with a .648 OPS, seven homers, 39 RBI, 19 SB, 48 R, and 21 2B which puts him about on par with what Wilson Betemit can do in one season but with more steals. Projecting Roberts for 2013 is pointless because he won’t be there.

The Os grabbed Alexi Casilla, the real everyday starting second baseman, off waivers from the Twins but I’m sure Minnesota was fine seeing him go. Last season was his first with over 100 games but was equally as disappointing offensively as any other as he bated .241 with a .603 OPS, 30 RBI, 33 R, 17 2B, and 21 SB in 299 at-bats. He’s got a very good glove but that’s about it.

Flaherty is a very interesting looking prospect and a former Cubs first round pick. Last season he saw his first 77 Major League games and batted just .216 with six homers, 19 RBI, and 15 R while striking out 43 times (walking just six times). After consistently hitting 30+ doubles per year in the minors he hit just two in 153 at-bats in the Majors. I think he can develop into a very solid infielder and with only Roberts and Casilla ahead of him he should get plenty of playing time.

Shortstop: J.J. Hardy, Ryan Flaherty – Grade: B-

Though his seasons can be wildly inconsistent, there are few shortstops that can give you both good pop and a great glove. Last season Hardy only batted .238 (down from .269 the previous two seasons) and saw his OPS drop from .801 to .671 but still put up 22 HR, 68 RBI, 85 R, and 30 2B. A 20+ HR and 70+ RBI season seems about right in 2013.

Third Base: Manny Machado, Danny Valencia, Wilson Betemit – Grade: C-

The 20-year-old Machado was the sixth top prospect in the country last season and looked solid in his first 51 Major League games. He batted .262 with a .739 OPS, seven homers, 26 RBI, 24 R, eight doubles, and three triples. He could definitely put up double-digit homers, steals, and 30+ doubles per season if he can start at third for a full season.

Valencia had a rough 2012 which saw him bat just .188 with three homers and 21 RBI and get sent down by both the Twins and later the Red Sox. Despite all that, Valencia looked very solid in his first full season in 2011 when he batted .246 with a .677 OPS, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 63 R, and 28 2B. Which Valencia the Orioles acquired remains to be seen.

Outfield: Adam Jones, Nate McLouth, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold – Grade: C+ to B-  

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones before a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Jones continues to improve dramatically every season and had a stellar 2012. Jones saw career highs in batting average (.287), OPS (.839), homers (32), steals (16), doubles (39), and runs (103). The beautiful thing is despite being in the majors since 2008, he is still just 26 and can get even better.

Back in 2008 and 2009 we saw a Nate McClouth that can hit 20+ homers and drive in close to 100 RBI. I have no idea what happened to that Nate McClouth since the present-day version is averaging 258 at-bats per year, a .221 BA, .665 OPS, six homers, 20 RBI, and 35 runs over his last three seasons. He definitely played better after he was traded to Baltimore last season (batting .268 with 18 RBI, 35 R, and 12 SB in 209 at-bats) so perhaps the 31-year-old can resurrect his career with the Os.

Markakis missed nearly two months last season with a wrist and later a thumb injury. Nonetheless he batted .298 with an .834 OPS, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 59 R, and 28 2B in 420 at-bats. He is down right now with a disk herniation in his neck, however, and may miss the start of the season and possibly more. The injury is similar to the one Nolan Reimold required surgery on last season.

Back in 2008, Reimold was a top 100 prospect after hitting 25 homers and driving in 84 in the minors. Too bad he’s only played 142 games over the last three seasons so we’ve never really seen it. His numbers in that 142 games make for a solid season – .247 BA, .763 OPS, 21 HR, 69 RBI, 59 R, and 21 2B. He’s had some tough injuries and is coming off of neck surgery so we’ll see if this is finally the season we see him play over 90 games.

Starting Rotation: Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Jair Jurrjens, Jake Arrieta, Steve Johnson – Grade: B-

Chen had a very good rookie season after coming over from Japan where he was 36-30 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over four seasons. In his first American action he went 12-11 with a 4.03 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. His hit numbers (8.7 H/9) and home runs allowed (1.4 HR/9) are concerning but at 27 he has plenty of time to develop.

After mostly struggling in Tampa and Colorado, Hammel had a great first season with the Os despite only starting 20 games. The 30-year-old went 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 8.6 SO/9. It’s hard to expect those numbers again from a guy with a career 4.78 ERA and 1.44 WHIP but those are largely numbers from Colorado which is a horrible place to pitch and an even more horrible system to pitch in.

The Red Sox made a horrible move releasing Miguel Gonzalez before he played a single game for them. The Os snatched him up and saw the 28-year-old go 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. He’s not a big strikeout pitcher (just 6.6 SO/9 compared to 3.0 BB/9) and his home run totals could be lower (1.1 HR/9) but he looked very impressive for a guy dismissed by both the Angels and the Sox.

Tillman is a former top 25 prospect who finally hit some of that potential last season. After going 7-15 with a 5.58 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in 36 starts from 2009 to 2011, the 24-year-old went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and just 6.9 H/9. The only concerning part of last year’s line is the 1.3 HR/9 but it looks like he’s definitely moving in the right direction.

Britton is another former top 30 prospect who looked okay in his first year (11-11, 4.61 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, just 12 HR allowed) but struggled last year as he went 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 9.1 H/9 and a whopping 4.8 BB/9. He was also coming off of a serious shoulder injury that kept him out more than half the season so perhaps a healthy Britton can get back on track.

Arrieta is yet another top 100 prospect but one that has been getting progressively worse. He put up a 4.66 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 2010, a 5.05 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 2011, and a 6.20 ERA and 1.37 WHIP last year. Yes, his WHIP is improving while his home run totals have swelled to 1.4 HR/9 over the last two seasons. There is definitely promise there but he gets beat around way too much and there simply isn’t enough space to keep him in the rotation.

In his career, Jurrjens is actually a pretty good looking pitcher with a 53-37 record, 3.62 ERA, and 1.32 WHIP. That’s why it was a bit surprising the Braves let him go after he put up a 6.89 ERA and 1.86 WHIP in just 10 starts. He can be wildly inconsistent and doesn’t have great stuff but if he can keep the ball in the park he is a worthwhile starter.

Although Johnson has a career 4.17 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in eight minor league seasons, he looked very impressive in his first Major League action and I’m pushing for him to make a dark horse run at the last rotation spot (though it’s unlikely). In four starts and eight relief appearances he went 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.8 SO/9, and just 5.4 H/9. The walks (4.2 BB/9) are of concern but everything else looks great.

Bullpen: Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Troy Patton, Brian Matusz, Luis Ayala, Whoever doesn’t win a rotation spot – Grade: A-

Without a whole lot of fanfare, Johnson led the league with 51 saves last year (with just three blown opportunities). Over his last two seasons he has appeared in 140 games and pitched 160 innings while putting up a 2.59 ERA and 1.07 WHIP and is looking like an excellent choice for the ninth inning.

Strop has been very impressive since coming over to the Orioles from Texas. He put up a 2.44 ERA and 1.34 WHIP last season and while his walk totals are ridiculous (5.0 BB/9) he has allowed just four homers in his 106 inning career and allows a solid 7.1 H/9 to balance it all out.

Darren O’Day and Luis Ayala are both very reliable veterans with ERAs in the low-2.00s last year while Patton is a good looking up-and-comer who also put up a 2.43 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 2012. Brian Matusz has proven time and time again that he is a terrible starter, putting up a 5.42 ERA and a .874 OPS against (which is basically an All-Star level OPS). He looked like a completely different pitcher when put in the bullpen, putting up a 1.35 ERA, .114 BAA, and a much more reasonable .352 OPS against as the Orioles’ lefty specialist.

Team Grade: B

Fearless Prediction: 87-75, 4th in AL East

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