Manny Machado Key to Baltimore Orioles Succeeding in 2014
Key additions: Signed OF Delmon Young, RHP Alfredo Aceves, OF Quintin Berry; Traded for 2B Jemile Weeks
Quick winter recap: It was a quiet winter in Baltimore with trading away Johnson for Weeks being the biggest headline. There’s hope on the horizon though as the Orioles are rumored to be with the Texas Rangers as the top suitor for Korean ace Suk-min Yoon, who would be a nice rotation addition. The minor league signings could be key if any of them turn out, but only Aceves seems to have a chance to make an impact out of the bunch.
Farm system outlook: While Dylan Bundy recovers from Tommy John surgery, Kevin Gausman will vie for a spot in the Baltimore rotation after a stint with the club in 2013. He was called up too early, simple as that, but still has the makeup and repertoire to be a force in the rotation for years to come. While he hasn’t gotten a non-roster invite yet (only two have), Eduardo Rodriguez looks as if he’ll head to the Baltimore rotation before Bundy is back and second baseman Jonathan Schoop will get a look in spring as well.
Most intriguing player: Manny Machado. For the past two years, Machado has been on the verge of a superstar breakout. He’s a natural shortstop playing third base and is already one of the best defensive hot corners in the game. His hitting was far better in 2013 than in a short stint in 2012. When he comes back healthy after left knee surgery, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes him to get back to form.
Due for a better year: Matt Wieters. He’s not going to be a star at the plate who hits 25-30 home runs with a .300 average. We know that much about Wieters after 657 games. His WAR dropped from 4.6 in 2011 to 3.9 in 2012 to 2.4 in 2013, due in large part last year to career lows in average (.235), OBP (.287) and walk rate (7.4). It’s fairly easy to project his WAR goes back up into the 3.0 range and one would assume he does that by taking more walks and being more patient.
Due for a worse year: Chris Davis. Crush is probably the no-brainer and popular pick to have a stat regression. His in-season performance was no fluke, but as a forward-looking player it was probably a fluke. Davis hit 20 more home runs than his previous career-high, more than tripled his career WAR total with a 6.8 and added about 40 points to his career OBP. Not saying he can’t hit 50 home runs again, but it is rare that lightning strikes twice.
2014 outlook: Not many teams win 85 games and finish that low in the division, but welcome to the AL East. Baltimore’s biggest and most damaging hole is the pitching staff, and the New York Yankees going on another spending spree might widen the gap between the two 85-win teams from 2013. The Orioles will need as close to a repeat from Davis as they can get with a healthy Machado along with the typical seasons from Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy.
Prediction: 82-80 (Fourth in AL East)