Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Five young players the Ravens need more from in 2016

Posted on 11 February 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are coming off their worst season of the John Harbaugh era, and most offseason discussion has centered around the draft and how active general manager Ozzie Newsome can be in free agency.

There’s no disputing the need for more high-impact talent, but improvement from within will go a long way in determining how quickly the Ravens can return to contention after a 5-11 campaign. With limited salary cap space and only so many holes that can be filled through the draft, Baltimore needs young players already on the roster to make a difference this coming fall with some experience and another offseason under their belts.

Below is a look at five young players the Ravens need more from in order to bounce back from their disappointing 2015 campaign:

1. WR Breshad Perriman

Who else could it be in the top spot? The Ravens put all their eggs in one basket trying to replace Torrey Smith with their 2015 first-round pick before he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first full day of training camp and left the offense without any speed. General manager Ozzie Newsome said he had a smile on his face watching the 6-foot-2 Perriman practice before the injury, and the Baltimore offense will desperately need his speed for a passing attack that struggled to push the ball down the field in 2015. The Ravens will wisely look for additional help at the position this offseason, but Perriman will be the biggest key in making the passing game more explosive and less reliant on a 37-year-old Steve Smith and emerging possession receiver Kamar Aiken.

2. LB Za’Darius Smith

The 2015 fourth-round pick’s 3 1/2 sacks over the final three games of 2015 are something to build on from what was mostly a quiet rookie season. In fairness, the Ravens expected a smaller role for the 275-pound linebacker, but the season-ending Achilles injury to Terrell Suggs in the opener made Smith the primary backup to Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw. Denver showed again in Super Bowl 50 how important it is to have disruptive pass rushers, but how much longer can the Ravens expect Suggs and Dumervil to perform at a high level? Even if Newsome is lucky enough to come away with an impact edge rusher like Joey Bosa or Noah Spence in this spring’s draft, Smith needs to take a big step forward if the Ravens want to boost a pass rush that was too inconsistent in 2015.

3. DT Carl Davis

Many have discussed the second-half improvement of the pass defense, but the Ravens gave up more than 100 yards rushing in each of their final five games after surrendering that amount just twice in their first 11 contests. Brandon Williams played at a Pro Bowl-level and Timmy Jernigan improved after a slow start, but the Ravens needed more contributions from Davis after he began the season looking like one of the steals of the draft. The Iowa product played well early and started three games, but he appeared to wear down and was a non-factor in the second half of the season, seeing just 17 defensive snaps over the final six games. Baltimore doesn’t need Davis to be Haloti Ngata, but his emergence as a run-stopping force next to Williams would allow the Ravens to keep Jernigan fresh for pass-rushing situations.

4. S Terrence Brooks

It’s never good for a player to show up on a list like this two years in a row, but the 2014 third-round pick is just one of many safeties the Ravens have added over the last few years to try to bring stability to the spot once occupied by future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Brooks made an impressive recovery from the serious knee surgery suffered in the final month of his rookie year, but he saw just 67 defensive snaps in 2015. Kendrick Lewis remains under contract and Lardarius Webb is an option if the Ravens adjust his $9.5 million cap figure for 2016, but Brooks has the athleticism to be more of a playmaker at the position than anyone else on the current roster. Unfortunately, coaches haven’t trusted him from a mental standpoint, so it appears this could be the make-or-break year for the Florida State product.

5. RB Buck Allen

Allen’s inclusion is more about circumstance than his rookie season in which he accumulated 867 total yards of offense, most coming after the season-ending injury to veteran Justin Forsett in Week 11. The Ravens have plenty of depth at running back, but Forsett will be 31, Lorenzo Taliaferro hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season, and local product Terrance West has been with three teams in two years. Allen caught an impressive 45 passes, but his 3.8 yards per carry average leaves you wondering whether he can be a feature back in the NFL. The Ravens need more of a home-run hitter in the backfield, and the 2015 fourth-rounder figures to have the best chance to be that guy. Ray Rice averaged 4.2 yards per carry as a rookie before making the Pro Bowl a year later. Can Allen make a jump anywhere close to that?

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Orioles add veteran reliever Thayer on minor-league deal

Posted on 10 February 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran relief pitcher Dale Thayer on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old right-hander will receive an invitation to major league spring training, bringing the total number of pitchers in this year’s camp to 30.

Most recently with the San Diego Padres, Thayer pitched to a 4.06 ERA in 37 2/3 innings in 2015, but he holds a 3.47 career mark in seven major league seasons. From 2012-2014, he pitched to a 3.02 ERA and averaged just under 63 innings per year as an effective member of the Padres bullpen.

Of course, Thayer enters a crowded bullpen picture that already includes two 2015 All-Star selections — closer Zach Britton and primary setup man Darren O’Day — as well as Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Brian Matusz, Chaz Roe, Dylan Bundy, and T.J. McFarland. He will be competing for a roster spot with other non-roster invitees with major league experience such as lefty Jeff Beliveau and right-hander Todd Redmond.

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Could Orioles be planning free-agent repeat of 2014?

Posted on 10 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Spring training is only a week away, but the Orioles appear far from finished building their 2016 roster.

With multiple reports indicating movement toward striking a three-year deal with veteran starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, the Orioles are also reportedly interested in free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler. Both free agents rejected qualifying offers from their previous clubs at the start of the offseason and would require forfeiting a draft pick to sign, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Baltimore could be willing to sign each using a strategy we witnessed two years ago.

In February of 2014, the Orioles forfeited the 17th overall pick of that June’s draft to sign Jimenez, a move that received mixed reaction and hasn’t worked out in the first two seasons of a four-year, $50 million contract. However, the Jimenez signing prompted Duquette to ink outfielder Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal that only required the club to surrender its second-round pick (55th overall) since the first-round choice had already been relinquished. Needless to say, that deal worked extremely well as the slugger hit 40 home runs to help the Orioles win the American League East that season.

If the Orioles were to forfeit the 14th overall pick to sign Gallardo, they would only need to part with the current 29th overall selection awarded to them for losing Wei-Yin Chen in order to sign Fowler. Though that would be a bigger sacrifice than the pick given up to sign Cruz two years ago, the switch-hitting Fowler owns a .363 career-on-base percentage and would fill an obvious need at a corner outfield spot.

In 2015, Fowler hit .250 with a career-high 17 homers, 20 stolen bases, and a .346 OBP to help the Chicago Cubs to the National League Championship Series. His addition would also allow manager Buck Showalter to lower Manny Machado to more of a run-producing spot in the batting order.

Even if the thought of parting with their first-round pick to sign Gallardo to a pricey three-year deal isn’t appealing, the Orioles could recoup some of that value by adding Fowler for a lesser pick to improve a shaky corner outfield situation currently flanking All-Star center fielder Adam Jones.

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Orioles reportedly closing in on free-agent starter Gallardo

Posted on 10 February 2016 by Luke Jones

After stating a desire to improve their rotation and subsequently losing their best starter from 2015 this winter, the Orioles appear on the verge of finally making a significant pitching addition.

According to multiple reports, Baltimore is moving closer to a three-year deal with free agent Yovani Gallardo to sure up a rotation that finished 14th in the American League in ERA last season. Turning 30 later this month, Gallardo carries a 3.66 career ERA over nine major league seasons and has made at least 30 starts in seven straight years.

The right-hander was reportedly seeking a three-year, $40 million deal a month ago, but the possibility of an opt-out clause has also been discussed.

The sides have been linked as a potential fit for much of the offseason, but Texas made a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Gallardo in early November, meaning the Orioles would forfeit the 14th overall pick in June’s draft to sign him. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has expressed hesitancy to surrender the pick at several points this offseason, but the free-agent departure of Wei-Yin Chen left a huge void in an already-suspect rotation and the Orioles passed on a variety of options who weren’t given qualifying offers.

The Orioles currently have six picks over the first 100 spots in the 2016 amateur draft.

Beyond surrendering a pick, signing Gallardo would come with additional risk as his average fastball velocity has dipped from 92.6 miles per hour in 2011 to 90.5 last season. His strikeout rate has also decreased in three straight seasons and fell to a career-low 5.9 per nine innings in 2015 after averaging more than a strikeout per frame in his first six seasons in the big leagues.

However, his strong ground-ball rate hovering around 50 percent over the last few years would be attractive when he’d be starting half of his games at homer-happy Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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Potential rotation option for Orioles finds work elsewhere

Posted on 09 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Still uncomfortably thin in their starting rotation, the Orioles watched another veteran free-agent option find a home elsewhere on Tuesday.

The Chicago White Sox agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with right-handed pitcher Mat Latos as the 28-year-old will try to rebuild his value after a disastrous 2015 campaign. The Orioles had reportedly shown some interest in the longtime National League pitcher this offseason, but free agent Yovani Gallardo has been linked to the club more frequently.

Though considered by many to be a handful from an attitude standpoint, Latos owns a career 3.51 ERA in seven major league seasons and is only a year removed from a 3.25 mark in 2014. A lingering knee problem contributed to the worst season of his career in 2015 as Latos posted a 4.95 ERA split among Miami, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Los Angeles Angels.

His low base salary with the White Sox could lead one to believe Latos isn’t fully healthy and may not have even passed the Orioles’ rigorous physical exam. Of course, a one-year pillow contract pitching at Oriole Park at Camden Yards may not have been too appealing for a pitcher competing in a new league in 2016, either.

If those weren’t major factors, you have to wonder why the Orioles wouldn’t have shown more interest in a still-young starting pitcher who owns a strong track record and comes at a very low cost. Of course, this signing makes a marriage between the Orioles and Gallardo even more logical with the start of spring training less than two weeks away.

The current contenders for the No. 5 spot in the Baltimore starting rotation include Vance Worley, Odrisamer Despaigne, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson.

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Orioles increase ticket prices for 2016 season

Posted on 09 February 2016 by WNST Staff

The Orioles announced an increase in both season and individual ticket prices for the 2016 season on Tuesday.

Season tickets will go up $3 to $10 per ticket based on the type of plan, location of the seat, and the opponent. Individual tickets will rise $3 to $7.

The club sent out season-ticket invoices via email, which were accompanied by a letter from executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette explaining the price increase. Tickets for individual games are not yet on sale.

With the club projected to have a payroll north of $130 million — the highest in team history — most expected ticket prices to be raised for just the third time in the last 12 years. First baseman Chris Davis was signed to a seven-year, $161 million contract in January, shattering the previous club record for the richest deal awarded to a player.

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Harvey, Mancini among 17 non-roster Orioles invited to spring training

Posted on 08 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey and 2015 Orioles minor league player of the year Trey Mancini were among the 17 non-roster players officially invited to major league spring training on Monday.

The list includes a total of seven pitchers — four lefties and three right-handers — as well as three catchers, four infielders, and three outfielders. Of course, the list below does not include players on the 40-man roster, who are automaticallly invited to spring training.

Orioles pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota on Feb. 18 with the first full-squad workout set to take place at the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Feb. 24.

PITCHERS (7)

RHP Pedro Beato
Skinny: Originally a first-round pick of the Orioles in 2006, the 29-year-old bounced around the majors in 93 1/3 career innings before posting a 2.65 ERA pitching in relief for Triple-A Norfolk a year ago.

LHP Jeff Beliveau
Skinny: Signed to a minor-league deal in December, the 29-year-old southpaw has a 4.00 ERA in 45 career major league innings with the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay.

LHP Cesar Cabral
Skinny: He received a cup of coffee with Baltimore in early June, but Cabral posted an underwhelming 4.95 ERA in 40 innings for Norfolk in 2015.

RHP Hunter Harvey
Skinny: The health of the 2013 first-round pick will be a big story of the spring after Harvey, 21, missed the entire 2015 minor-league season with a broken fibula and lingering forearm and elbow issues.

LHP Andy Oliver
Skinny: After pitching briefly for Detroit in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the 28-year-old has bounced around the minors and was picked up by the Orioles last July and posted a 3.72 ERA for Norfolk.

RHP Todd Redmond
Skinny: The 30-year-old veteran posted a 4.13 ERA for Toronto over the last three seasons and is now in his second stint with the Orioles organization.

LHP Ashur Tolliver
Skinny: A fifth-round pick of the 2009 draft, Tolliver, 28, has overcome some injuries and used a three-quarters throwing motion to post a crisp 2.91 ERA for Double-A Bowie in 2015.

CATCHERS (3)

Jonah Heim
Skinny: The 2013 fourth-round pick saw his 2015 season with Single-A Delmarva derailed by a Lisfranc injury in his foot, limiting him to just 164 plate appearances in his third professional season.

Audry Perez
Skinny: Acquired from Colorado in late March, the 27-year-old posted a .582 on-base plus slugging percentage for Norfolk in 282 plate appearances last season.

Chance Sisco
Skinny: Rated the Orioles’ No. 3 prospect by Baseball America, Sisco had an .809 OPS at Single-A Frederick before being moved to Bowie where he produced a .729 OPS in 84 plate appearances in 2015.

INFIELDERS (4)

Paul Janish
Skinny: The slick-fielding infielder hit .286 in 35 at-bats for the Orioles last season, but he carries a career .574 OPS in seven major league seasons and is off the 40-man roster.

Trey Mancini
Skinny: The 23-year-old took off in 2015 by hitting a combined .341 with 21 home runs, 89 RBIs, and a .938 OPS between Frederick and Bowie to land himself firmly on the organization’s radar for the future.

Ozzie Martinez
Skinny: The starting shortstop at Bowie hit only .252 with a .613 OPS, but the 27-year-old plays good defense and provided veteran leadership for the Baysox in 2015.

Steve Tolleson
Skinny: Having already spent time with the Orioles in 2012, the 32-year-old utility man signed a minor-league deal in November and appeared in 128 games for Toronto over the last two years.

OUTFIELDERS (3)

Xavier Avery
Skinny: The 2008 second-round pick has been with a number of organizations since being traded by the Orioles three years ago and signed a minor-league deal to return in November.

L.J. Hoes
Skinny: Reacquired in November, the 25-year-old was outrighted to Norfolk but still figures to compete for a roster spot despite an underwhelming .617 OPS in parts of four major league seasons.

Alfredo Marte
Skinny: After seeing limited action with Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels in the last three years, Marte, 26, inked a minor-league deal in November and had an .850 OPS with Triple-A Salt Lake in 2015.

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Delmon Young arrested for allegedly choking, threatening to kill valet

Posted on 08 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Former Orioles outfielder Delmon Young was arrested for battery after allegedly choking and threatening to kill a valet attendant in Miami on Sunday night.

According to Andy Slater of WINZ and other reports, Young allegedly grabbed the attendant by the neck and began choking him after he was denied entrance into a club that was closed. The 30-year-old was later arrested at his residence in Miami.

Young allegedly told the victim, “Stupid Cuban, open the (expletive) door. I’m gonna (expletive) kill you, you Latin piece of (expletive).”

Police said that Young answered the door of his residence wearing no clothes below the waist and was unsteady on his feet while initially denying any knowledge of the incident. Young allegedly told one of the officers on the scene, “I’ll slap you in the face with money, you (expletive) Cuban.”

This is not the first time in which Young has been in trouble with the law as he was arrested in New York for aggravated harassment as a hate crime for making an anti-Semitic remark in 2012. He was suspended by Major League Baseball and ordered to undergo counseling after pleading guilty to that charge.

Released by the Orioles last July, Young spent two seasons in Baltimore and was the hero of Game 2 of the 2014 American League Division Series for hitting a game-winning three-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning, providing one of the most exciting moments in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Young has not signed with another club since being let go by the Orioles.

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Ravens-related thoughts on Super Bowl 50

Posted on 08 February 2016 by Luke Jones

You couldn’t help but notice parallels between Peyton Manning’s improbable run to a win in Super Bowl 50 and Ray Lewis finishing his “last ride” with a championship in New Orleans three years ago.

The future Hall of Famers both missed substantial time with injuries in the regular season before returning in time for the playoffs. Each made important contributions on the playoff path to the Super Bowl as Lewis averaged just under 15 tackles per game in the first three rounds of the 2012 postseason and Manning threw for 222 yards against Pittsburgh — overcoming a number of dropped passes — and had two touchdown passes against New England in the AFC championship game.

But as much as we might have enjoyed seeing two of the greatest players in NFL history go out on top, it was apparent that each needed to retire after watching them play in the Super Bowl. While we remember Joe Flacco earning Super Bowl XLVII MVP honors, we try to forget Lewis looking slow and hopeless covering San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis or chasing after 49ers running back Frank Gore in that game.

Like the great Ravens linebacker against the 49ers, Manning had little to do with Denver winning its third Super Bowl title as the Broncos defense suffocated Carolina on Sunday night. Perhaps the 39-year-old Manning was owed one by the football gods after playing with some less-than-stellar defenses over the years in the same way that Lewis had some of his best years wasted by ineptitude on the other side of the ball.

If you’re a Ravens fan struggling to be happy for the quarterback who twice broke Baltimore’s heart in the playoffs — including the 2006 postseason defeat that was the most devastating home loss in franchise history — don’t forget his touching gesture in the playoffs three years ago. More than an hour after the Ravens had defeated the Broncos in an epic double-overtime contest in the divisional round, Manning and his family waited in the Baltimore locker room to congratulate Lewis personally.

Despite dealing with one of the most disappointing losses of his storied career, Manning still wanted to offer his respect to Lewis after the last of their many entertaining chess matches over the years.

It doesn’t matter if Manning — or Lewis — was no longer the same player when tasting championship glory for a final time. Seeing one of the all-time greats exit that way is special and rare.

Let’s just hope Manning actually retires now as most people expect.

Miller time

Four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Von Miller already had a résumé impressive enough to land a lucrative contract this offseason, but the Super Bowl 50 MVP took his performance to another level in the postseason.

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, the 26-year-old had a combined five sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception in the AFC championship game and Super Bowl. That’s the kind of timing that Flacco can appreciate after the Ravens quarterback threw for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the 2012 postseason to fetch a six-year, $120.6 million contract a few weeks later.

ESPN has already reported that Denver will use the franchise tag if a long-term deal isn’t reached, meaning Ravens fans should stop dreaming about Miller reuniting with Elvis Dumervil in Baltimore.

Kubiak turns to dark side

Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak did a masterful job of handling a difficult quarterback situation this season.

Leading 16-10 and facing a third-and-9 from his own 26 with less than six minutes remaining, the Broncos head coach didn’t allow Manning to even attempt a pass and ran the ball with C.J. Anderson before punting. It was both the right decision and a clear sign that Manning needs to retire.

Possessing a championship defense, the offensive-minded Kubiak turned to the “dark side” in a way reminiscent of how Brian Billick handled the 2000 Ravens by deferring to his defense and being conservative. The difference is that it was much easier to do such a thing with Trent Dilfer than with one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

Stewart shines

Darian Stewart was a nondescript performer in his lone year with the Ravens, but the Denver safety stood out in the Super Bowl.

He collected three tackles, a sack, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble when he put his helmet right on the ball to knock it away from Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert. It wasn’t just a one-game aberration, either, after Pro Football Focus graded Stewart 14th among NFL safeties during the 2015 season.

It really makes you wonder where that player was in Baltimore a year ago.

False start

After Panthers left tackle Michael Oher committed a false start late in the second quarter, you couldn’t help but be amused by the social-media reaction of Ravens fans who had seen that act often in Baltimore.

The 2009 first-round pick deserves much credit for working hard to get his career back on track in Carolina, but Super Bowl 50 was a forgettable performance for him and the rest of the Panthers offensive line.

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Denver’s path reminds Ravens of NFL’s slim margin for error

Posted on 07 February 2016 by Luke Jones

As Denver prepared for Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, it was difficult not to think back to the Ravens’ season-opening 19-13 loss to the Broncos last September and remember the high expectations entering 2015.

An interception returned for a touchdown by Denver cornerback Aqib Talib was the difference as the Ravens owned the lead late in the third quarter before a Joe Flacco pass intended for Steve Smith was returned 51 yards in the other direction. Perhaps the season plays out differently if John Harbaugh’s team holds on to steal a difficult road win to kick off 2015 on a high note.

Some have pointed to that narrow Week 1 defeat as reason why Baltimore isn’t far from again being a contender despite its worst season since 2007. And, yes, there was some symmetry in the Super Bowl champions having 12 of their 16 regular-season games decided by a single possession while the Ravens saw 14 of their 16 contests decided by eight or fewer points this season.

But that’s life in the NFL as only six teams — Carolina, New England, Arizona, and Cincinnati on the plus side and San Francisco and Cleveland on the negative side — owned a scoring margin of more than eight points points per game in either direction in 2015. Most games are decided in the fourth quarter and are close.

Excruciatingly close.

And that margin of victory — or defeat — is typically decided by the game-changing players on either side of the ball. For all the discussion about Peyton Manning’s decline, the Broncos still have a plethora of playmakers on both sides of the ball, ranging from outside linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and cornerbacks Chris Harris and Talib to receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Those are the types of players that separate the winning teams from the losing ones in an otherwise fairly even talent pool from team to team. Denver’s plus-59 point differential during the regular season ranked just sixth in the AFC and 10th in the NFL, but Gary Kubiak’s team figured out ways to win close games while the Ravens consistently fell short in crunch time in 2015.

For years, Baltimore had a number of dynamic players, but most have either departed or have aged too much since Super Bowl XLVII three years ago. The well-documented list of injuries in 2015 merely amplified what was already a flawed roster.

Great players were on display for Denver in Santa Clara on Sunday night.

It will be up to general manager Ozzie Newsome this offseason to find at least a couple game-changers to close that narrow but all-important gap between winning and losing teams.

Otherwise, the Ravens will probably find themselves watching playoff games from their couches again next January.

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