With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.
RP Brad Brach
Opening Day age: 31
Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season
2017 stats: 4-5, 18 saves, 3.18 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 7 HR, 68 innings
Why to be impressed: In addition to recording a career-high 18 saves, the right-hander posted an ERA of 3.18 or better for the fourth straight year as he’s been one of the more consistent middle relievers in baseball. Brach pitched 68 or more innings for the third straight year, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted with both Zach Britton and Darren O’Day having missed significant time recently.
Why to be concerned: Brach’s strikeout rate and velocity dipped while his walk rate (4.55 per nine innings) increased after the break, factors to monitor early in 2018. He also registered the lowest strand rate of his four years in Baltimore and saw his ERA balloon in the second half for the second straight year, making one wonder if the 158 1/3 combined innings he pitched in 2015 and 2016 caught up to him.
2018 outlook: Set to become a free agent at the end of the season, Brach should benefit filling in once again for the injured Britton as the closer and could boost his trade value as well as his appeal on the open market. He’s built up quite a track record of durability and reliability over the last four years, but last year’s second half should be a reminder for Buck Showalter not to push Brach too hard early on.
Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: 4-3, 19 saves, 3.06 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 6 HR, 63 innings