By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
The “second half” of the season is set to kick off and currently the Baltimore Orioles are sitting in first place in the AL East. Looking into the final couple months of the season Brett and Barry go out on a limb and give their bold predictions for how the team/players will finish out the 2014 season.
1. Chris Davis will finish the season batting above .250
It has been a really rough season for the Orioles first basemen, as he has struggled adjusting to the new found attention received by opposing pitchers and defensive shifts. He has been hovering around the .200 “mendoza line” since returning from an oblique strain in May. Though we may never see the 2013 Chris Davis ever again, he should be able to bounce back with the extra rest of the All Star break and regain some of that form that terrorized the entire league. If Davis were to get on a hot streak, it is certainly not inconcievable to think he could raise his batting average 40-50 points, while knocking out another 15-20 home runs. In the end, he may finish the season looking like the 2012 version of himself and that could be good enough with a lineup that includes Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones.
2. Ubaldo Jimenez will finish the season with a winning record
Though Ubaldo Jimenez has been a monumental disappointment so far for the Orioles, he has shown flashes of being the front-end starter the Orioles signed in the off season. Getting the extra couple days rest with his 15 Day DL stint, right before the All-Star break, will give him the needed time to regroup mentally and physically. Already known as a second half pitcher, expect to see a much better version of Jimenez in the coming months, where he could finish with 8-2 record, putting him above .500 for the season.
3. The Orioles will trade Steve Lombardozzi and T.J. McFarland to the Phillies for A.J. Burnett
Many people were clamoring for the hometown Burnett before the Jimenez signing this off season and will finally get their wish. Lombardozzi has been mis-utilized by the Orioles and will be better suited in the NL, with opportunities in every game. While bringing in an arm like Burnett, who is on a one-year deal, one of the rotational pitchers will be sent to the bullpen, rendering McFarland expendable. The move would make sense, as Burnett is familiar with the division and can play for a contender, while the Phillies obtain two players that could fill specific roles in their rebuild efforts.
1) David Lough will stick with the Orioles for the duration of the 162 game season.
Since the Orioles have already played 95 games, what’s another 67 with David Lough? The struggles of the former Royal have been well documented, as the term “pinch running specialist” is the most fitting term for Lough’s resume. Something tells me that Buck Showalter will continue to keep Lough on the season, and a gut instinct tells me that he picks up his play in the second half. With a ton of games against the AL West, Lough might see a couple of starts on the road-trip. If he performs well at the plate, he could solidify a spot as a bench player for the long haul.
2) The September call-up that will make an impact on the Orioles’ playoff chances is NOT Dylan Bundy.
Despite his recent struggles at high-A Frederick, there is a very good chance that Bundy sees time in the major leagues come September. With a bullpen that will surely be overworked come mid-August, Bundy will be counted on to eat some innings, work on command of his secondary pitches, and learn the ropes as a reliever at the major league level. However, I do not expect Bundy’s performance to be overwhelmingly positive.
Two players to monitor for a September call-up splash: 1B Christian Walker and IF Steve Lombardozzi. Walker just received a promotion to Norfolk after a very successful stay in Bowie. With the Orioles trading away Brett Wallace, Walker will be the full-time first baseman, and if he continues to hit, could force his way onto the 40 man roster. With Chris Davis’ struggle to hit for average, Walker’s bat could be the biggest surprise of any contending team out there. If Lombardozzi is not traded to the Phillies, the Atholton grad could be a firecracker off of the bench. Switch-hitting abilities, versatility in the infield, and above-average speed could all equate to September playing time for a team that could be in a situation where they can afford to rest everyday starters from time to time.
3) Caleb Joseph’s play will make Matt Wieters a candidate to start the 2015 season as a first basemen.
I know, I know. Chris Davis is under contract for next season, and I just sung the praises of young Christian Walker. But hear me out. Given the workload that Wieters has had behind the plate in his career, and the Tommy John surgery that will keep him on the bench for the rest of the season, the time to think about a position change is now. Caleb Joseph has shown Orioles fans that he can catch at the major league level. His rapport with Kevin Gausman from their days in the minor leagues will be very helpful down the stretch. Chris Davis has not shied away from playing different positions through his tenure with the Orioles. If the Orioles choose not to re-sign Nick Markakis, or lose out to a team that overwhelms their offer, could Davis become the everyday right fielder? Could Wieters and Walker split first base duties, with Wieters serving as a backup catcher to Joseph and DH candidate against left-handed pitching?
Now we’ve got you thinking. You wanted bold, we gave you bold! Enjoy the second half, and enjoy the Brett & Barry Show.