Tuesday, March 26, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles

2012 Record – 93-69 (82-80 Pythagorean Record)

Key Additions:

Key Departures:
LP – Joe Saunders
OF – Endy Chavez
DH – Jim Thome
DH – Nick Johnson
LP – Randy Wolf

Key New Addition: None
            The Orioles didn’t bring in a single significant addition in the off-season.  They brought in some bench pieces in Valencia & Casilla, and they brought in Jair Jurrjens to bolster their rotation (though he’s predictably not made the rotation, because he’s terrible).  Essentially Dan Duquette has decided to stand pat, and not be fooled by what happened last year, and overspend on free agents. 

To make up for this hole in this preview I’ll talk about two key prospects, since that’s where their reinforcements will be coming from.

Spring Training Battles: Back End of the Rotation
            Coming into the season, the only real spot that was up for grabs coming into the season was the back end of the rotation, where Jair Jurrjens was competing with Jake Arrieta & Miguel Gonzalez. Luckily they have made the correct decisions, because he’s an utterly atrocious pitcher.  There’s just no way any pitcher with a career line drive rate at 20% can be good long term at all.  Essentially in order for the Orioles to be competitive this year, they just need people to tread water til the likes of Dylan Bundy & Kevin Gausman are ready to step in and produce.  The likes of Arrieta & Gonzalez can do that much more capably than Jurrjens can.

Burning Question: How Much Will the Bullpen Regress?
            Last year, the Orioles had one of the luckiest seasons in history.  They went 29-9 in one run games, and won 16 consecutive extra inning games (which are both more a reflection of luck than anything else).  This is largely credited to them having stupendous production from their bullpen.  While I’m still very positive on many of the relievers, such as Darren O’Day (who like many submariners, get no respect), Brian Matusz (who had terrific success after transitioning to the bullpen), and Pedro Strop (who looked great in the World Baseball Classic). 
However, I’m very concerned about closer Jim Johnson.  Unlike most quality closers, he is a groundball pitcher, and therefore more vulnerable to BABIP fluctuations than a strikeout pitcher is.  Regardless of the talent, involved there’s zero chance they have the same luck this season.  This is why, despite me believing the team is improved from last season, they will likely have a worse record.

Key Prospect(s):
Dylan Bundy - SP
            Undoubtedly, Dylan Bundy is the best pitching prospect in baseball.  Amazingly, last season he raced all the way from Delmarva in the Sally League, up to the major leagues.  During his time in “A” ball he pitched 30 innings, and didn’t allow a single run, and only allowed 7 total base runners. As he moved up to High A, and AA, the quality production followed, all the way to the majors.
            The question now, is how long the Orioles wait to call up Bundy.  Thus far in spring training he’s been highly erratic, despite a sparkling ERA (1.13), he’s walked more than he struck out.  I’d expect that by June Bundy will be in Orioles orange, and hoping to power the team into the playoffs.

Jonathan Schoop - IF
            While Bundy is the best prospect the team has, and he’s followed shortly by last year’s 3rd overall pick Kevin Gausmann.  However, the prospect with potentially the clearest path to the playing time might be Honkballing infielder Jonathan Schoop.  Since we can assume second baseman Brian Roberts will be injured like he has been for many consecutive years now, that Schoop will get the call to patch over that hole.  

Projected Roster
2B – Brian Roberts
CF – Adam Jones
1B – Chris Davis
SS – JJ Hardy
LF – Nate McLouth

IF – Alexi Casilla
OF – Steve Pearce
3B – Wilson Betemit (Out 6/8 Weeks)

RP – Jason Hammel
LP – Wei-Yin Chen
RP – Miguel Gonzalez
RP – Jake Arrieta

RP – Jim Johnson
RP – Pedro Strop
LP – Troy Patton
RP – Darren O’Day
LP – Brian Matusz
RP – Luis Ayala
RP – Tommy Hunter

Projected Record – 81 Wins -81 Losses (4th in the AL East)

*Note, these projections were done before Spring Training started, thus our projections don’t have the Yankees injuries factored in.

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