Predicting Baltimore Orioles’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup

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Predicting The Baltimore Orioles' 2014 Opening Day Lineup

Orioles
Bob DeChiara - USA Today Sports

2014 is a big season for the Orioles as their window for contention continues to close. They made some key moves this offseason to increase their chances of competing in the AL East, but they're going to need solid performances up and down the lineup in order to get back to the playoffs. Several question marks enter this lineup, while there are also several "sure things" that figure to have big seasons again this year in Baltimore.

Playing in a division with the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees, the Orioles will have to be able to put runs on the board in order to compete. They are capable of doing this based on their current team. However, they're also capable of underachieving if several key players don't step up this season. Going into Spring Training, most of their starting lineup seems like a pretty sure bet other than in a spot or two. That certainty can be good in Spring Training because it allows each individual player to focus on development rather than competition.

A lack of competition can also be detrimental because it can cause players to relax. The players on this roster need to be pushed in order to maximize their potential as individuals and as a team. That being said, the camaraderie that this team has established with one another over the last couple of years is second to none. Many of the players that will be featured in the lineup this season have been through all of the ups and downs that the franchise has experienced in the last four or five years, and that should make them more hungry to win.

Only time will tell just how prepared the team will be, but with a couple of key additions and most pieces returning from a season ago, Baltimore's time to win is right now. People on the team and within the organization seem to realize that and now it just comes down to who produces and who doesn't. Baltimore is going to need every one of these projected starters to step up in some way at various points in the season in order to be playing in October.

Jacob Kornhauser is a baseball writer for RantSports.com. "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your Google+ network.

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1. OF Nick Markakis

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Joy R. Absalon - USA Today Sports

Markakis is a franchise mainstay as he has played his entire eight-year career in Baltimore. It must be rewarding being part of the buildup to contention where the Orioles find themselves now. Markakis is a tone-setter at the top of the lineup as he finds ways to get on base. He doesn't have great speed, but the Orioles will rely more on the hit-and-run anyway.

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2. 3B Manny Machado

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Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

Recovering from left knee surgery, the young Machado is expected to be cleared by Opening Day. If he is, he will slide right into the No. 2 spot in the order. He has the perfect combination of contact, speed and power that fits well into the spot right behind leadoff. As long as his recovery from his knee injury last season goes well, Machado should be an All-Star caliber player in 2014.

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3. OF Adam Jones

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Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

Jones had his most productive season as a pro last season as he displayed power and speed while still batting over .280. He hit 33 home runs and drove in 108 and finished 13th in the AL MVP race. He fits better than power hitter Chris Davis in the No. 3 hole because he's not as much of a pure power hitter.

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4. 1B Chris Davis

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Chris Davis - Nick Turchiaro - USA Today Sports

Next to possibly Miguel Cabrera, Davis was the most productive hitter in the AL last season. He had power to all fields and whacked plenty of doubles to go with his insane 53 home runs. His .634 slugging percentage is unreal, and sliding to the cleanup spot in the order should get him even more RBI opportunities this season.

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5. OF Nelson Cruz

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Joy R. Absalon - USA Today Sports

Cruz is a great addition to the Orioles' roster. While missing a third of last season, Cruz still managed to hit 27 home runs and provides great protection for Davis, so pitchers will have to throw to him more often. Adding him to the lineup give the Orioles one of the more potent middle lineups in all of baseball.

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6. SS J.J. Hardy

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Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

One of the more underrated players in baseball, all Hardy does is keep hitting. After being written off by the Brewers, Hardy has resurrected his career in Baltimore. He hit 25 more home runs last season and is the fourth straight power threat in an increasingly stacked Oriole lineup.

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7. C Matt Wieters

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Jonathan Dyer - USA Today Sports

Once a top prospect, Wieters has come into his own over the past couple of seasons. He's hit at least 22 home runs in each of his last three seasons and he figures to only improve in 2014. By sliding him into the No. 7 slot in the lineup, he can see more fastballs and be more productive than if he were higher in the order.

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8. DH Nolan Reimold

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Rob Grabowski - USA Today Sports

Reimold has never had sustained playing time at the major league level, but it seems like 2014 could be his chance. Since the Orioles already have plenty of power threats in the lineup, they don't necessarily need one in their DH. All they need is for Reimold to battle and help in wearing the opposing pitcher down by giving them solid at-bats on a regular basis.

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9. 2B Jemile Weeks

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Robert Stanton - USA Today Sports

Rickie's little brother is a pretty solid young player in his own right and by hitting him in the No. 9 hole, the Orioles can roll over their lineup nicely. He's never going to hit for a very high average, but when he does hit, he provides a speed threat for when the top of the lineup comes up. That's a valuable weapon to have.

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