Baltimore OriolesOur expert from ScoutPRO.com,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.
Baltimore Orioles Team Projection
The Orioles bashed their way to the top of the standings in 2014 by hitting a major league high 211 HR's thanks to career years by Nelson Cruz (40/108) and journey man Steve Pearce (.293 with 21 HR's and 49 RBI in 338 at bats). Baltimore finished last in the majors in stolen bases (44) with a surprising 3rd best ERA (3.43) in the AL. The bar to repeat will be a lot of tougher with OF Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis no longer on the roster. Their success this season will be driven by the health of C Matt Wieters and 3B Manny Machado. As of early January, OF Delmon Young was the only free agent resigned. They claimed C/1B Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Red Sox. RP Wesley Wright was added for lefty bullpen depth. Overall, Baltimore probably lacks elite starting pitching with a questionable bullpen. Their offense has enough talent to overcome some of their shortfalls on the pitching side especially if 1B Chris Davis regains his top 2013 form. In the last 3 seasons the Orioles have won 274 games (91.3 per season) with 2 playoff berths. This team has some upside talent, but the key to their success with fall on the pitching side. I expected them to continue their winning ways with some ups and downs in 2015.
1. OF Alejandro De Aza
De Aza ended up being a bust in 2014 as his K rate (22.5 %) continued to move in the wrong direction. His fantasy supporters were pumping their fists 3 games into the 2014 season when he hit 3 HR's with 4 RBI in 11 at bats. His quest for the almighty HR was most likely his downfall as he struck out 48 times in his 179 at bats in April and May, which led to a measly .173 batting average with no HR's and 13 RBI over 168 at bats. Alejandro struggled through a minor knee issue mid summer. He was traded to the Orioles in late August. Over the last 4 months, De Aza hit .299 with 4 HR's, 22 RBI, and 11 SB's. After hitting .302 against lefties in 2013, Alejandro lost his approach against LH pitching in 2014 (.138 with a 27.4 % K rate). His walk rate (6.7 %) was a career low. His LD rate (26.6 %) was a career high, but his FB rate (31.5 %) limited his upside in power. Over the last 3 seasons, De Aza has gotten stronger, which is the key reason his GB rate (41.8 %) is in a neutral area. This season Alejandro will start somewhere in the Orioles lineup, but he isn't a lock to bat lead off or see full time at bats if he can't regain his previous form against lefties. His approach at the plate isn't strong enough to be a top of the order hitter over the long haul. Mid tier player with playing time concern and low upside in power and speed. Possible 15/20 season with batting average risk.
2. 3B Manny Machado
Machado is a young player with high upside, but he has been snake bit by a couple of injuries over the past 2 years. His major knee injury in late September of 2013 led to him missing the first month of the 2014 season. When he returned, Manny struggled to find his rhythm in May (.220 with 2 HR's and 5 RBI in 109 at bats). Machado looked very good in June and July (.289 with 9 HR's and 22 RBI) before developing a slight back issue in late July. In August, Manny suffered a sprained right knee, which ended up needing surgery in late August. The off season reports have been positive and it looks like he has a very good chance of being ready for opening day. Last year he showed slight growth in his walk rate (5.7 % - still well be below league average). His K rate (19.2 %) was a step back from his 2013 season (15.9 %), most likely due to the after affects of his knee surgery. Most of his success last year was against RH pitching (.294 with 10 HR's and 26 RBI in 231 at bats). Machado is still a GB hitter (47.4 % in his career - 48.6 % in 2014), which limits his upside in power. Anytime a player has an injury that requires surgery, it has to take away some of his upside. Manny is an exciting young player with 20 HR power down the road. He could even gain SS eligibility in the future. I think he has a better chance for success in 2015 than 2014 due to the timing of his surgery. If he plays well, he has 20/80 upside with some positive batting average. I don't think he'll be edge at 3B this year, but he should be more than serviceable at the right price point.
3. 1B Chris Davis
Last year Davis was unable to repeat his 2013 success. His K rate (33.0 % - 29.6 % in 2013) was a career high. His loss of the winning thought process led to a huge drop in his contact batting average (.318 - over .400 in the previous 2 seasons). His HR/FB rate (22.6 %) was about a 25 % decrease from 2013 (29.6 %). Chris suffered an oblique injury in late April, which led to him missing about 3 weeks. Over May, June, July, and August, Davis has 22 HR's and 55 RBI in 335 at bats, which would have projected to 38 HR's and 96 RBI with equal at bats to his 2013 season. Chris struggled with both RH (.199 with 17 HR's and 46 RBI in 301 at bats) and LH (.188 with 9 HR's and 26 RBI in 149 at bats). His season was cut short when he was suspended for 25 games for taking amphetamines. This will force him to miss the first 8 games of the 2014 season (4.9 %). In the early drafts season, Davis has an ADP of 75. This is a much more attractive area than 2014. With power fading in the majors, Chris is one of the few commodities in baseball with 40+ power. His batting average risk is a real problem. With a 3B qualification in 2015, his value should rise as he will offer the most power at the position. I believe his struggles last year were more mental and he shouldn't lose at bats against lefties. I'd draft him with a .240/40/100 skill set and hope for more upside in batting average.
4. OF Adam Jones
Jones is coming off 4 straight solid seasons. He appears to be a borderline first round draft pick for the 2nd straight season, but is he really one of the top 15 players in the game? Maybe the bar in major league baseball has been lowered. The top 20 % in batting average in the NFBC in 2014 was .2674. In a way, Adam is probably a .300 when compared to the steroid ERA when a fantasy player needed a batting average over .280 to be in the top 20 %. Jones has only been slightly above league average as a run producer in his career (16 % - league average 14 % in 2014). His walk rate (2.8 %) was a career low and it is one of the worst in the league. His K rate (19.5 %) was just about his career average, which is slightly above the major league average (18.5 %). His speed took a step backwards, which was more a result of team philosophy as Baltimore was last in the majors in steals (44). Jones did show growth against LH pitching (.344 with 9 HR's and 20 RBI in 154 at bats). His success against righties did decline from 2013 (.261 with 20 HR's and 76 RBI in 490 at bats). Last year he only had 8 walks in 514 plate appearances against RH pitching (1.55 % - 1.7 % in 2013). Last year Jones struggled to find his stroke out of the gate (1 HR in 123 at bats - 28 HR's over his last 521 at bats). His HR/FB rate (15.8 %) was his lowest since 2010. Adam is a rock solid major league hitter with a free swinging approach. His growth against LH pitching may lead to him having his best season in his major league career. His batting average has some downside risk, but his resume is long enough where we can trust him to be an asset in this area. I see 40/120 upside this season if Baltimore can get enough runners on base in front of him.
5. C Matt Wieters
Wieters missed most of the 2014 season with an elbow injury that required TJ surgery in June. The time table for him to return would be 9 months, which gives him an outside shot at being ready for the start of the season. I would imagine the Orioles would like to have his bat in the starting lineup so he could be used primarily as a DH in April as he is eased into action behind the plate. Over his last 2+ season, Matt has been an above average run producer (17.6 %). He has upside in RBI production if he can work his way into regular at bats at DH when he isn't behind the plate. Over a small sample size in 2014, his K rate (17.0 %) improved over the previous 2 seasons while his walk rate (5.4 %) was a career low. His HR/FB rate (13.5 %) has been about the same over the last 4 seasons with a rising FB rate (42.5 % in 2014 - 43.9 % in 2013 - 39.4 % in his career). It's tough buying any player in baseball coming off a major injury and it usually makes sense to wait a year before investing, but the catching pool doesn't set the bar that high so his price point should make him a solid value play this year. His batting average has upside with more power in the tank.
6. OF Steve Pearce
Pearce gave the Orioles great at bats last year considering his career path. He played at a high level in May and June (.336 with 9 HR's and 25 RBI over 140 at bats). After July 4th, he only hit .173 over the next month or so with 1 HR and 2 RBI over 81 at bats. Steve caught his 2nd wind on August 17th when he started a 11 game hitting streak (15/45 with 5 HR's and 6 RBI). Over the last 6 weeks of the year, he hit .323 with 10 HR's and 18 RBI. Pearce was a better hitter against LH pitching (.327 with 9 HR's and 18 RBI in 98 at bats) while holding his own against righties (.279 with 12 HR's and 31 RBI in 240 at bats). Steve is a career .255 hitter in the majors with an above average walk rate (9.8 %) and 20.0 % K rate. Pearce flashed his upside in the minors in 2007 when he hit .333 with 31 HR's, 113 RBI, and 14 SB's. Tricky resume, but based on the offseason changes for Baltimore, he may get a legit shot at full time at bats in RF with Nick Markakis moving onto the Braves. His 2014 stats and his minor league resume suggest his success may be repeatable. Tough to invest a high draft pick as he isn't a lock to get full time at bats plus Baltimore may add another bat. Possible 20/80 upside with some speed.
7. SS J.J. Hardy
After 3 straight years with 20+ HR's, Hardy saw a spike downward as his K rate (18.3 %) matched his career worst. His HR/FB rate (5.6) was a career low by a wide margin (10.8 % in his career - 12.4 % in 2013). J.J. battled a hamstring injury April, a sprained left thumb in early August, and a minor back injury in early September. Baltimore had enough confidence in his upside to extend his contract by 3 years so they feel last year with an outlier. Hardy was worthless against lefties last year (.226 with 3 HR's and 10 RBI in 133 at bats) with a weak SLG % against RH pitching (.381). Overall, J.J.'s only asset is power, which helps his RBI total. His runs have no real upside without batting higher in the batting order and his batting average isn't really an asset. Not ideal with some risk, but he could help a sharp fantasy owner with the right team structure if he is discounted
8. OF Delmon Young
It's hard to believe that it has been about a decade since I first started chasing Delmon around. He is a career .283 hitter with power that never developed (107 in 3934 career at bats - 1 HR every 37 at bats). Young is career .302 hitter against LH pitching with 37 HR's in 1153 at bats. Last year he hit over .300 in 4 different months, but Delmon only managed over 37 at bats in one month (73 in August). His semi success should have pointed to more upside, but his free swinging style (3.9 % walk rate) tends to wear on a manager's patients. His GB rate (50.3 in 2014 - 47.2 % in his career) indicates no breakthrough in HR's even with a career high HR/FB rate (13.0 %). In 2014, Young had his lowest GB rate (28.3 %) since 2008. Delmon has some talent, but he hasn't unlocked the keys in the last 4 years. Young signed a $2.25 million contract in late December. He will compete for at bats in LF and DH.
9. 2B Jonathan Schoop
The Orioles gave Schoop plenty of at bats in the majors in 2014. Other than his 16 HR's, there weren't many signs that he is ready to make a higher step forward in 2015. His walk rate (2.7 %) was atrocious with a high K rate (25.4 %). His RBI rate (10 %) was below leadoff status. Jonathan had a SLG % of .277 against LH pitching (2 HR's and 6 RBI in 130 at bats - 28.6 % K rate). Last year he hit under .244 in every month of the season. Schoop hit .268 in his minor league career with 46 HR's and 249 RBI in 1766 at bats. His minor league walk rate (7.8 %) and K rate (15.4 %) points to more upside when he has more experience. Jonathan hit almost half of his ball in play on the ground last year (49.2 %) with a weak LD rate (13.9 %). Basically, he was overmatched at the plate. He has talent and upside, but he still needs more seasoning. I'd love to say he has upside this year, but I fear he has a higher chance of spending time at AAA. The power is for real, but he is going to come up empty way too many times to make an impact in 2015. Trend carefully...
10. 2B Christian Walker
Walker has been a quick riser in the Orioles system over the last 2 seasons. He has played at 4 levels during that span with even 18 at bats in the majors last year. Christian had most of his success at AA last year when he hit .301 with 20 HR's and 77 RBI in 366 at bats. At AAA, he hit .259 with 6 HR's and 19 RBI in 166 at bats. His minor league K rate (18.8 %) is only average and it showed some down side risk when he was called up to AAA (26.1 %). His walk rate (8.8 %) projects to be only major league average. Overall, Walker isn't touted as an elite prospect. His biggest asset is his bat, but his power is suspect with not great skills in the field. May get some hype in spring training after his step forward in the minors last year, but he has work to do. Only a backend flyer.
11. C Caleb Joseph
Caleb Joseph gave the Orioles some power at catcher after losing Wieters last season. He finished with 9 HR's and 28 RBI in 246 at bats, but Caleb only hit .207 with a 25.1 % K rate. Joseph hit .268 in his minor league career with 74 HR's and 349 RBI in 2327 at bats. Decent backup with double digit power upside with 300 at bats. He should see more time behind the plate early in the year with Wieters coming off his elbow injury.
12. IF Ryan Flaherty
Ryan Flaherty will be the jack of all trades for the Orioles in 2015. He qualifies at 2B, SS, and 3B in league with 20 games minimum. Over the past 2 season, Ryan has 17 HR's with 59 RBI over 583 at bats for Baltimore., but he is only hitting .222. Last year he only hit .230 against righties and .174 against lefties. Possible short term filler in deep leagues and he may steal at bats from Schoop if he struggled out of the gate.
13. IF Jimmy Paredes
Jimmy Paredes was acquired last summer from the Royals. He flashed some upside in 2011 at age 22 for the Astros (.286 with 2 HR's and 18 RBI in168 at bats), but his high K rate (27.8 %) has led to limited major league exposure over the last 3 seasons. Jimmy is a career .289 hitter in the minors with 52 HR's, 335 RBI, and 187 SB's in 2803 at bats. He'll provide speed off the bench if he wins a backup job out of spring training.
14. OF David Lough
David Lough ended up having no fantasy value for Baltimore in 2014. He hit .247 with 4 HR's, 16 RBI, and 8 SB's in 174 at bats. David is a career .297 hitter in the minors with 65 HR's, 344 RBI, and 96 SB's with 4 seasons of experience at AAA. This year he start the year as a backup OF with an outside shot at more at bats if Pearce and Young struggle.