Article Written By: Manny Alcala
2013 Record: 85-77 (3rd place in AL East)
Key additions: Jemile Weeks, Ryan Webb.
Key losses: Jim Johnson.
Most important players for 2014: Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy.
The Baltimore Orioles will be looking to get back in the postseason in 2014. After earning a wild card berth in 2012, the Orioles were contenders once again in 2013, but fell short of entering the playoffs. At moments they were much closer to another wild card berth than what the final standings showed, finishing 6.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers. Baltimore will now be looking to bounce back this season. They certainly have superb hitters and will need help from the starting pitchers to maintain their competition level in the AL east.
The Orioles haven’t done many major moves to their ball club, with most of their contracts being minor league contracts. Their biggest move this off-season has been the trade that sent their ex-closer Jim Johnson to the Athletics in exchange for second baseman Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later. Although at first this may seem like the orioles have a huge hole to cover with the loss of Johnson, in return they not only gained a second baseman, but also gained financial flexibility that could help this team make a move mid-season if they feel like it is needed.
So now that Johnson is gone, it appears that Baltimore will go with in-house pitchers to find their new closer. It is still to be determined who will be the closer or if the Orioles will use different pitchers in the 9th inning. The Orioles surely have candidates to fill that role, pitchers like Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day, and even newly acquired Ryan Webb will compete for the spot. Hunter and O’Day have shown that they can pitch in late inning situations as they have experience setting up games. Their transition to being a closer might come a little bit smoother for any of these two pitchers. I see Ryan Webb more as a set up/middle relief pitcher for now, but that could change as spring training is approaching. Webb had great numbers for the last place Miami Marlins last season and nobody really noticed his work. Now with the Orioles he should get more attention and I believe he will have slight chance to gain an important role with this team.
The Orioles have some sturdy power in their lineup. Between the key players I listed (Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy) they went on to hit 125 home runs combined last year. Fans are hoping that Davis can keep up his production as he accounted for most of the team’s home runs with 53, leading the MLB in that category. Manny Machado remains a big question after suffering a terrible knee injury late last season that tore his ligament in his left knee. Fans can only hope he returns to the form he was before this injury, leading his team in hits and playing amazing defense at third base. Expect consistency when you hear about Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy. Expect a minimum batting average of .280 with about 30 home runs for Jones. As for Hardy, expect 20+ home runs. His batting average has varied throughout his career, but somewhere around a .260 BA will be expected from J.J. Another pro to his game we can’t leave out is his defense, as he can save plenty of runs defensively when he’s not helping with his bat.
The Orioles will have a team to compete once again this season, but many things have to go right in order for them to make it to the postseason. If any of their big players has a down season or their pitching performs below average, Baltimore could be out of the playoff race sooner rather than later.