Baltimore OriolesOur expert from ScoutPRO.com,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.
Baltimore Orioles Team Projection
Last year, the Orioles had their 2nd straight winning season (85-77), but they failed to make the playoffs. Chris Davis had an incredible year, hitting .286 with 53 HR's and 138 RBI's. He was the key reason why Baltimore led the majors in HR's (212), but they scored 108 less runs than the Boston Red Sox. Their starting pitching started to show some promise in 2012, but it faded to 10th in the AL in ERA (4.20) and ranked 4th in the AL East. As powerful as their offense was, their pitchers allowed a major league high 202 HR's. During the offseason, they lost OF Nate McLouth, OF Michael Morse, and 2B Brian Roberts from the offensive side and lost SP Scott Feldman and SP Tsuyoshi Wada from the pitching staff. They also made two trades, sending closer Jim Johnson to Oakland for IF Jemile Weeks and minor league C David Freitas, and part time IF Danny Valencia to the Royals for OF David Lough. Baltimore's team has improved the most in February by signing P Ubaldo Jimenez and OF Nelson Cruz. The middle of the batting order now has more depth and the starting staff looks better, but it is a step down from the tops team in the AL East. Lastly, the bullpen is in transition with the closing job still up for grabs.
1. OF Nick Markakis
Heading into 2013, Markakis had some injury risk due to a neck issue in March. His poor 2012 and his injury risk lead to him being discounted on draft day. Nick ended up playing 160 games, but his results were less than inspiring. His power continues to decline (5.7 % HR/FB rate - career low) and he has only attempted 5 steals in the past 2 seasons after showing moderate speed earlier in his career. His doubles production has declined steadily since 2008 (48, 45, 45, 31, 28, and 24). If you pair this with his lack of HR's, we may have a player that was once on the juice. Markakis is one of the toughest hitters in the majors to strikeout (10.9% K rate), but he is only around the major league average in walks. He had about equal success from both sides of the plate, so he should continue to be a full time player in 2014. With McClouth out of the picture, Markakis is probably one of the Orioles top choices to bat leadoff. Ideally, Nick is a #2 hitter for Baltimore. Markakis is a major player with talent. He has underlying speed and his power may return in his contract season. I expect him to be an asset in runs and BA. With 25 combined HR's and SB's, he will have value only in 15 team leagues or in an AL only league. Worthy flyer at the right price.
2. 3B Manny Machado
Overall, Machado had a very successful rookie campaign, but his season ended on a disastrous note when he suffered a torn MCL on September 23rd while running to 1st base. He had surgery in mid October and his time frame to return to the field is 4 to 6 months, which gives him an outside shot of being ready for the start of the season. Last season, his HR production was only mediocre, but his 51 doubles point to upside in power down the road. He hit over .300 in 4 months, but under .200 in 2 months during the 2nd half of the season (July - .196 and September - .194). Manny had 38 of his doubles in the first 3 months of the year. He was a slightly better hitter against lefties (.292), but only had 3 HR's in 212 at bats. Overall, his GB rate (47.1%) is too high to predict a huge bump in HR's. Machado is an intriguing talent that will have a ton more value when he qualifies at SS later in his career. His major knee injury is a concern heading into 2014. Even with a bump in HR's to the low 20's and possibly 80+ RBI, he won't have a huge edge over the 3rd base talent in the league. His injury could invite some batting average downside and I expect him to offer little or no speed this season. Upside player, but he may take a slight step backwards this year. Don't overpay.
3. 1B Chris Davis
Davis was beyond impressive last season. He has a huge K rate (29.6% - slight improvement from 2012 - 30.1%), but avoided any prolonged slumps in power. He had a massive first 3 months of the year (.332 with 31 HR's and 80 RBI) with an improved K rate (26.6%), but his success did a take a huge step back over the 2nd half of the year (.238 with 21 HR's and 58 RBI - 32.6% K rate). Chris owned RH pitching (.316 with 40 HR's and 93 RBI), but his approach at the plate was much less against lefties (5.9% walk rate and 30.9% K rate). Davis had a massive jump in his FB rate (45.7% - 37.5% in 2012 and 36.8% in 2011), which led to a major league high HR/FB rate (29.6%). We know two things for sure with Davis. He has plus power with a high K rate. His 53 HR's will make him a very high draft selection in 2014. To me, he is the new version of Ryan Howard with a stronger FB rate. He has 40 HR power with upside, but his batting average should regress this season. Interesting start to a fantasy team, but he will force a fantasy player to chase batting average for the rest of the draft.
4. OF Adam Jones
When it really comes down to it, Jones had almost the identical season in 2013 as he did in 2012. His only change in his stat line was his RBI total. His bump in RBI was due to Chris Davis. Last year, Adam had 57 more RBI chances, which was a big reason for his jump in production. Jones hit .300 against RH pitching with 26 HR's and 85 RBI, but he only walked 8 times (1.7% walk rate - ouch). Adam's HR/FB rate (19.9%) has improved in each of his last 3 seasons, but his FB rate (32%) has declined over the same period. Jones is a free swinger with 30+ HR power. His batting average has been a slight asset in 4 straight years and he will offer double digit speed. His resume is strong enough where he can be trusted as a #2 hitter on a fantasy team, but a fantasy player has to be aware that his upside may be limited. His swing suggests batting average risk, especially if he tried to hit more fly balls.
5. C Matt Wieters
The catcher lovers in fantasy baseball took another beating by drafting Wieters in 2013. His power and RBI production were solid, but it fell short of expectations. His batting average has been a complete disaster, considering his minor league resume. His RBI rate suggests upside if he can get more chances. His K rate (18%) is just above the league average, but his walk rate (7.4%) took a couple of steps backwards in 2013 after showing growth in 2012 (10.1%). Matt had a spike in FB rate (43.9% - career high), but his HR/FB rate (11.6%) was his lowest in his last 3 seasons. It appeared Matt tried to hit more HR's, but it resulted in more easy outs. Wieters will start this year at age 27 and this may be the year he makes the huge step forward in batting average. I see 30+ HR's with a huge uptick in batting average in the near future. Difference maker talent at the catcher position.
6. OF Nelson Cruz
Cruz continues to be a plus run producer (19% RBI rate - 17% during his career). Last year, he missed 50 games due to his connection with the Biogenesis scandal in Miami. Sensing a declining opportunity for a full time job, Nelson signed a 1-year, $8 million contract in late February with the Orioles. His K rate (23.9%) was his highest since 2007, while his walk rate (7.7%) showed more upside earlier in his career. Last year, he was on a pace for the best season of his career (.277 with 22 HR's and 69 RBI's before the All Star break), showing similar power against both RH (22 HR's and 59 RBI's in 309 at bats) and LH (5 HR's and 17 RBI's in 104 at bats) pitching. Additionally, his success was almost identical at home (.266 with 13 HR's and 35 RBI's) as it was on the road (.267 with 14 HR's and 41 RBI's). Cruz is a FB hitter (43%) with a plus HR/FB rate (21.3% in 2013 - 16.6% career). He has some injury history, but the Orioles will try to keep him healthy by playing him at DH a high % of the time. Solid 20/80 option with upside and some speed, even with less juice.
7. SS J.J. Hardy
Hardy continues to be a solid power source from the shortstop position. His K rate (11.3%) made a nice step forward, but his lack of walks (5.9%) led to him being dropped in the batting order in 2013. Last year, he spent most of the season hitting 6th or 7th in the Orioles lineup after hitting almost exclusively 2nd in 2012. This was the reason for his drop in run production. Hardy has been a very good player for Baltimore over the last 3 seasons (87 HR's and 224 RBI). His batting average has been a negative over the past 5 seasons, but his low K rate suggests that he has more to offer in this area. J.J. is a solid backend shortstop with power. He has no real upside in any other area other than maybe RBI.
8. OF Delmon Young
The Orioles signed Delmon to a minor league contact in mid January. He has lost weight over the winter and I see him as the favorite to win the most playing time at DH. Young is a career .282 hitter with 100 HR's, 520 RBI's, and 34 SB's in 3,692 at bats. However, he has never turned into the elite player he was expected to be as a top prospect. Delmon has a possible 20/80 skill set with 550 at bats.
9. OF Ryan Flaherty
The Orioles starting roster will have a couple of additions via free agency before the start of spring training. For now, I'm going to slide Flaherty into the last OF slot. He may see time at the start of the year at 3B if Machado isn't ready for the start of the season or he may even land the starting 2B job. Flaherty has an extremely weak major league resume over the past 2 seasons, but he has shown some power (16 HR's in 419 at bats). His minor league resume suggests he has 20 HR power if he could ever get 500 at bats in the majors. His K rate (24%) is well above the major league average in his short career and he barely takes any walks (5.7%). 15 of his 16 major league HR's have been against RH pitching, so he has no edge getting some at bats against LH pitching. Flaherty has no value on draft day. A fantasy can't ignore his power upside, but his resume suggests he is going to be a bench player in the near future.
10. 2B Jonathan Schoop
Schoop is the future 2nd baseman for the Orioles. He missed half of the 2013 season with a stress fracture in his lower back. He showed upside in the minors in 2011 (.290 with 13 HR's, 71 RBI, and 12 SB's), but injuries over the last 2 seasons have limited his at bats and production. His K rate (15.3%) is respectable in the minors, but he doesn't take many walks (7.8%). Schoop has talent, but needs to prove he can handle major league pitching. He will compete with Jemile Weeks and Ryan Flaherty for the starting 2B job. Possible upside down the road, but he appears to need more time to develop before he can make a fantasy impact.
11. DH Jemile Weeks
Oakland gave Weeks 850 major league at bats over 2 seasons (.260 with 4 HR's, 56 RBI, and 38 SB's). He proved he wasn't worthy of being a regular hitter in the majors, which resulted in him spending almost all of last season at AAA. His low upside led to him being traded to Orioles in the offseason. Weeks is a career .282 hitter in the minors with no power and limited upside in speed. He did play well in the majors in 2011, so his skill set may be enough for him to earn the starting 2B job out of spring training for Baltimore. Low upside player with no real short of keeping a major league job all season.
12. C David Freitas
Possible backup catcher with a decent walk rate and power, but his K rate may keep him in AAA.
13. 2B Cord Phelps
He is the 4th option to compete for the starting 2B job for Baltimore. He has struggled in his limited major league at bats with the Indians over the last 3 seasons (.159 with 2 HR's and 11 RBI in 113 at bats). Phelps has 39 HR's over the last 3 seasons at AAA.
14. 3B Michael Almanzar
The Orioles selected Almanzar in this year's RULE 5 draft. Last year, he hit .268 at AA with 16 HR's and 81 RBI. His progress has improved at a snail's pace in his minor league career, so it would be tough to believe he has enough talent to earn a backup job out of spring training.
15. OF Nolan Reimold
He is the most likely candidate for the starting left field job. He struggled with a neck injury last season, which led to him needing surgery last July to fuse two vertebrae in his neck. He is expected to be ready for spring training. Reimold has had a couple of nice runs in the majors since 2009, but injuries have hurt his long term success. Double digit power with some speed if his neck is no longer an issue.
16. OF David Lough
He may emerge as the starting LF for the Orioles. Was acquired by the Orioles in the offseason. Last year, he hit .286 for the Royals in 315 at bats with 5 HR's, 33 RBI, and 5 SB's. Lough has a decent minor league resume, but he spent 4 seasons at AAA. I see him as a part time player with double digit power and speed if he ever secured full time at bats.
17. OF Steve Pearce
He will compete for a bench role with the Orioles. Pearce has no chance of earning a major league starting job and could be the first man thrown overboard if Baltimore adds more depth through free agency.