Tag Archive | "Chris Davis"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following Toronto series

Posted on 12 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles enjoying a day off after a series loss against Toronto, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles lineup scoring five runs in Wednesday’s win hardly qualifies as an offensive explosion, but that came after plating only seven runs in the first five games at Camden Yards and opponents twice taking no-hitters into the eighth inning. The bats have been colder than the weather.

2. Thirteen games isn’t a big sample, so how much can the offensive struggles be attributed to tough luck? The Orioles rank 23rd in batting average on balls in play (.280), but they lead the majors in strikeouts, are 25th in hard-contact percentage, and rank 27th in line-drive percentage. Discouraging signs.

3. Chris Davis collecting two hits on Wednesday was encouraging, but the thought of him trying to bunt on a 1-2 pitch in the eighth inning of a one-run game like he did Monday night would have been lunacy a few years ago. He looks so lost at the plate.

4. Coming off a career season, Jonathan Schoop figured to break out eventually, but his start had been brutal aside from a 7-for-13 series against Houston. Before his two-hit performance on Wednesday, Schoop had gone 3-for-40 with no extra-base hits against non-Astros opponents.

5. It’s a shame Dylan Bundy has received such poor run support early. From his sparkling 1.35 ERA and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings to a .283 opposing BABIP that’s actually higher than last year’s, everything about the start of his season beyond the empty win column has been Cy Young-like.

6. Kevin Gausman turned in a solid performance against Toronto, but his average fastball velocity this season is 92.3 miles per hour, virtually identical to Bundy’s (92.2). For someone who’s consistently averaged 95 mph and frequently reached the high 90s, that’s a potential red flag.

7. The bullpen pitched to an impressive 2.42 ERA over 26 innings in the New York series, but the group sports a 6.21 ERA against everyone else. Wednesday marked the first game in which the bullpen didn’t allow a run, but no one said it would be easy without Zach Britton.

8. Mark Trumbo’s setback that Buck Showalter wouldn’t call a setback isn’t good news, but Pedro Alvarez is currently sporting a .462 on-base percentage. Alvarez isn’t known for his consistency, but the Orioles could have an eventual problem since you don’t want either slugger playing defense regularly.

9. Chance Sisco has had trouble hitting breaking balls, but his throwing has been solid and he’s shown ability to drive the ball the other way. I expect Caleb Joseph to pick it up offensively, but Sisco will push for more playing time sooner than later if he keeps this up.

10. Andrew Cashner has posted a 2.50 ERA, his strikeout rate is up, and he’s missing more bats than he has in a couple years. A few young pitchers have also gravitated to him in the clubhouse, which is a perk as long as he’s getting the job done on the mound.

11. Acknowledging the circumstances that left the bullpen in poor shape at the start of the week, I still didn’t like the Orioles disrupting the start of Hunter Harvey’s season at Double-A Bowie. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about him not making an appearance this week.

12. The offense has been poor, the defense isn’t what it used to be, the bullpen has been inconsistent, and the starting rotation remains a sustantial concern despite having more upside than recent seasons. Beyond singling out Bundy or Manny Machado, what exactly is this club’s strength?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-2 win over Yankees

Posted on 06 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles snapping their five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The five runs plated in the seventh inning exceeded the club’s total in five of its first six games and came after the Orioles had only one baserunner in the previous five frames. It was a brutal opening week, but that was a good stop-the-bleeding win to begin the series.

2. After Orioles pitching surrendered an inexplicable 102 runs in 10 games at Yankee Stadium last season, Andrew Cashner set the tone with six strong innings as an Aaron Judge solo homer was the only blemish. It was the first quality start of the season from someone not named Dylan Bundy.

3. Cashner used five pitches effectively with his slider and changeup standing out in key spots. His declining strikeout rate was a major topic when he signed, but he’s struck out 10 in 11 innings. You’ll take that outing against the Yankees lineup any day of the week.

4. Adam Jones continued his hot start to the season with the big two-run homer off Masahiro Tanaka to give the Orioles the lead in the seventh. All three of his long balls in 2018 have given Baltimore a lead in the sixth inning or later.

5. Trey Mancini responded favorably to the leadoff spot with three hits, including a two-run single to right off Chad Green to extend the lead to 5-1. In a perfect world, you’d like to keep Mancini in more of a run-producing spot, but he’s the man for the job right now.

6. It was a cold night in the Bronx and Tanaka pitched well over the first six innings, but the Yankees starter still threw some hittable pitches that went unharmed until the seventh. Opposing pitchers continue to give Orioles hitters a heavy diet of off-speed and breaking stuff.

7. A bullpen that’s already carrying two Rule 5 picks and trying to survive without All-Star closer Zach Britton can hardly afford to have Mychal Givens struggling. The right-hander has now been scored upon in each of his last two outings to put further strain on the bullpen.

8. After cleaning up Givens’ mess in the seventh, Darren O’Day found trouble of his own an inning later by issuing a walk and hitting two batters before escaping unscathed. He sure seems to love pitching with the bases loaded, doesn’t he?

9. Brad Brach issued a walk before striking out Brandon Drury and Brett Gardner to collect the save. I do have reservations about Brach as a closer, but some of the reaction to his blown save on Opening Day was over the top. No current options are going to be Britton.

10. Chris Davis collected his second hit of the season in his final at-bat, but he looks lost at the plate right now. You expect him to strike out and to even be victimized by the shift, but he’s not making any hard contact, hitting a slew of weak grounders.

11. Colby Rasmus singled as part of the five-run seventh, but he’s looked as lost as Davis, striking out 11 times in 20 plate appearances. Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander did deliver an RBI double, but the Orioles need to start getting something from their veteran left-handed bats.

12. Before going hitless with two strikeouts, Manny Machado reiterated his desire to play shortstop beyond 2018 and took a dig at the New York media about the Aaron Judge tampering controversy. He’s not wrong, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea if he envisions wearing Yankee pinstripes.

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Davis out of Orioles leadoff spot after poor start

Posted on 05 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Chris Davis leadoff experiment has been scrapped just a week into the 2018 season.

Off to a 1-for-21 start at the plate, the first baseman was lowered to fifth in the batting order as the Orioles began a four-game set against the New York Yankees on Thursday. Davis was not in Wednesday’s lineup with left-hander Dallas Keuchel on the hill for Houston — third baseman Tim Beckham batted first instead — but left fielder Trey Mancini was leading off with right-hander Masahiro Tanaka starting the series opener for the Yankees.

Manager Buck Showalter said all along that he wasn’t committed to Davis hitting first for the long haul and had hoped it would spark a good start after his difficult 2017 campaign. The lefty slugger struck out four times in Tuesday’s loss to the Astros and struck out in his only at-bat as a pinch hitter on Wednesday to lower his batting average to .048.

Showalter went out of his way on Opening Day to mention that he’d used Mancini as his leadoff hitter in a few spring games, but the reviews weren’t favorable, leading him to go with Davis.

“I didn’t like Trey there. I tried [it],” Showalter said last Thursday. “You could tell Trey was a little uncomfortable with it. Anytime a player kind of embraces things [like] it’s as much his idea as somebody else, those usually get a good return.”

Mancini is 3-for-20 with a home run to begin the season.

Below is the new-look Baltimore lineup for Thursday evening:

LF Trey Mancini
SS Manny Machado
2B Jonathan Schoop
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
3B Tim Beckham
DH Colby Rasmus
RF Anthony Santander
C Chance Sisco

SP Andrew Cashner

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-0 loss to Minnesota

Posted on 01 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles dropping their first series of the season with a 7-0 loss to Minnesota, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. You know it’s been a sobering weekend when there’s a question over whether the pitching or offense was worse. The Orioles batted .117 against the Twins and allowed 13 runs over the final two games of the series. I suppose the answer to the debate is … yes.

2. Kevin Gausman giving up a home run on the first pitch of his season wasn’t an encouraging sign for his first half being different this time around. He followed that by giving up six runs and three homers in four innings. It was only one start, but a brutal one.

3. His average fastball velocity of 92.3 miles per hour was the lowest single-game average of his career, according to FanGraphs data. Gausman said he felt fine physically, but his average fastball velocity was 95.0 last season. That’s something to monitor.

4. Gausman absolutely needs to be able to succeed throwing to catchers not named Caleb Joseph, but he posted a 2.62 ERA with him (113 1/3 innings) last year and a 7.85 mark with others (73 1/3 innings). I would have stuck with that partnership at least to open this season.

5. No matter how unhappy you want to be with the Orioles bats, Jose Berrios deserves much credit. The 23-year-old was terrific in nearly pitching a “Maddux” before finishing with a three-hit shutout on 107 pitches. That’s quite a statement after a solid 2017 campaign.

6. Just imagine if Eddie Rosario hadn’t misplayed Chance Sisco’s fly to the left-field wall into a double in the third inning. The Twins could have taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning two days in a row and Berrios might have had a perfect game into the ninth.

7. It’s too soon for Buck Showalter to pull the plug on the Chris Davis leadoff experiment after committing to it in the first place, but an 0-for-12 start doesn’t bode well for his early-season confidence.

8. I dislike the unwritten rules of baseball as much as anyone, but I figured Sisco’s bunt single against the shift with one out in the ninth inning of a seven-run game wouldn’t go over well in the Minnesota dugout. That doesn’t make those complaints any less ridiculous though.

9. Minnesota starters combined to allow zero runs and five hits over 21 innings. For what it’s worth, Showalter was singing the praises of the Twins even before the series began.

10. Richard Bleier, Brad Brach, and Mychal Givens all had good outings. So, there’s something positive to take away from Sunday.

11. When you’re about to go on the road to face the defending World Series champions followed by the American League runner-ups, a series win would have been a nice confidence boost. Instead, there wasn’t much evidence of a pulse this weekend.

12. As ugly as the final two games of this series were, remember to exhale and allow the new season to breathe. Whatever your 2018 expectations were a week ago really shouldn’t be any different at this point.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-2 win on Opening Day

Posted on 29 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles recording their third straight Opening Day walk-off victory in a 3-2 win over Minnesota in 11 innings, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Two days shy of the 10th anniversary of his first game with the Orioles, Adam Jones provided another memory with his game-winning homer in the 11th, his first walk-off blast since 2012. He owns a .341 average with two homers, six doubles, a triple, and eight RBIs in 11 openers.

2. Manny Machado’s future has understandably been the focus for months, but Jones remains the heart and soul of the Orioles. Drafted a few months after the center fielder was acquired from Seattle in 2008, Caleb Joseph described what he’s meant to the organization perfectly:

3. Dylan Bundy didn’t receive the win, but his Opening Day start was exactly what the Orioles envisioned when they drafted him. He was up in the zone early as Minnesota made some loud outs, but he was superb as the game progressed, tossing seven shutout innings on 88 pitches.

4. Twelve of Bundy’s 15 swinging strikes came on his slider, which had terrific downward movement. All seven of his strikeouts came on that pitch. What a weapon.

5. Bundy’s best work came in the fifth inning after Byron Buxton stole second base with one out. That’s when a starter needs to bear down in a scoreless game, and he proceeded to strike out Jason Castro and Brian Dozier to end the threat.

6. The defense didn’t help and Robbie Grossman’s game-tying single was a bloop, but Brad Brach blowing the save doesn’t inspire confidence with Zach Britton’s return at least a couple months away. Going back to last year, Brach seems to fall into protect mode rather than attacking hitters in save situations.

7. Who would have predicted Joseph hitting the first triple and picking up the first RBIs of the season? He’s done a commendable job putting his historically-nightmarish 2016 season behind him.

8. The Orioles scoring two runs while striking out four times in the seventh inning felt very Oriole-like, didn’t it?

9. An 0-for-4 performance in the leadoff spot is nothing over which to fret, but two defensive miscues — including one that started the Twins’ ninth-inning rally — and nearly getting thrown out at second base on Machado’s ninth-inning single made for a forgettable day for Chris Davis.

10. Craig Gentry starting in right field over Colby Rasmus raised a few eyebrows, but watching him rob Eddie Rosario of a home run in the second inning made Buck Showalter look like a genius. That was a tremendous catch.

11. Jake Odorizzi did an excellent job changing speeds and the eye levels of Orioles hitters with his splitter, curve, and elevated fastballs on the inner half of the plate. The Twins starter and Bundy put on a good show.

12. The Orioles have won eight straight season openers under Showalter. It’s one of 162 games, but the manager always talks about wanting to send a big crowd home happy in hopes that they’ll come back, and that’s certainly been the case with the last three openers ending in walk-off wins.

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Davis leading off on Opening Day as Orioles finalize 25-man roster

Posted on 29 March 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After much speculation about the Opening Day lineup in recent days, first baseman Chris Davis will indeed begin the season as the Orioles leadoff hitter.

Prior to Wednesday’s workout, the veteran slugger welcomed the possibility of hitting in the top spot in the order before manager Buck Showalter officially penciled in his name there against Minnesota. Davis served in the leadoff spot a number of times toward the end of the Grapefruit League schedule, but that also served the purpose of giving him extra at-bats after he missed action with an elbow issue.

It’s certainly an unconventional move as Davis tries to rebound from a 2017 season in which he batted only .215 with a .309 on-base percentage. Prior to Thursday, the leadoff spot was the only position in the batting order in which he’d never hit in his major league career, but Davis does own a respectable .328 career on-base percentage and the Orioles lack ideal options for the job.

“It’s something that everybody felt like was a good way to start,” said Showalter, who isn’t committing to Davis as the long-term leadoff hitter. “Chris is a very important part of our club, potentially, and I hope this kind of helps us. Sometimes you’ve got to give a new toy, something that signifies a new start. We’ll see.”

Showalter went out of his way to mention left fielder Trey Mancini as another candidate he’d considered this spring, perhaps a hint that he was the manager’s initial preference for the role. Mancini finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting last season and was in the No. 5 spot in the order on Opening Day after hitting in the top spot a few times in spring games.

Third baseman Tim Beckham saw extensive time as Baltimore’s leadoff hitter last year after being acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline, but he was slotted into the sixth spot on Thursday and owns a career .310 on-base percentage.

“I didn’t like Trey there. I tried [that],” Showalter said. “You could tell Trey was a little uncomfortable with it. Anytime a player kind of embraces things [like] it’s as much his idea as somebody else, those usually get a good return.”

The Orioles finalized their 25-man roster Thursday morning by selecting the contracts of outfielder Colby Rasmus and Craig Gentry and infielders Danny Valencia and Pedro Alvarez. To make room for those four on the 40-man roster, pitchers Alex Asher, Stefan Crichton, Michael Kelly, and Jesus Liranzo were designated for assignment.

As expected, outfielder Mark Trumbo (right quadriceps strain) and right-handed pitcher Gabriel Ynoa (right shin stress reaction) were placed on the 10-day disabled list. Both moves are retroactive to March 26, and Showalter indicated Trumbo is “not too far away” from returning to action.

Closer Zach Britton remains on the 60-day DL as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.

Below are the Opening Day lineups:

MINNESOTA
2B Brian Dozier
1B Joe Mauer
3B Miguel Sano
LF Eddie Rosario
DH Logan Morrison
SS Eduardo Escobar
RF Max Kepler
CF Byron Buxton
C Jason Castro

SP Jake Odorizzi

BALTIMORE
1B Chris Davis
SS Manny Machado
2B Jonathan Schoop
CF Adam Jones
LF Trey Mancini
3B Tim Beckham
DH Pedro Alvarez
RF Craig Gentry
C Caleb Joseph

SP Dylan Bundy

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering 2018 season

Posted on 26 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles about to begin the 2018 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Alex Cobb signing not only added much-needed teeth to a rotation that finished last in the majors in starter ERA in 2017, but it brings real hope for another fun season if several variables break the right way. That optimism simply wasn’t there a week ago.

2. Cobb’s addition was also a meaningful sign of commitment beyond 2018, something that had been lacking all winter. That’s important when the contracts of your general manager, manager, and several key players are all expiring after this season. I’m intrigued to see what happens next.

3. Cobb and Andrew Cashner hardly make the Baltimore rotation one to fear around baseball, but adding two ground-ball pitchers with a history of keeping the ball in the park certainly makes sense playing at homer-friendly Camden Yards.

4. Anger over how the Orioles have mishandled the Manny Machado situation is completely justified, but don’t let that totally ruin your enjoyment from watching him this season. He’s happy to finally be playing shortstop, and I’m curious to see how that impacts his performance on a daily basis.

5. Dylan Bundy fetching positive results in his final spring outing eased some concerns, but his Grapefruit League numbers were also poor last year. It’s good to see him finally making an Opening Day start after the expectations that have followed him from the moment he was drafted seven years ago.

6. I’d be more worked up about Chris Davis possibly leading off if the Orioles actually had an ideal candidate for that job, but there’s no understating how important it is for Davis to rebound from 2017 to improve the club’s outlook — this year and beyond.

7. I had no problem re-signing Chris Tillman as a fifth starter candidate, but you just can’t stick with him long if he looks like the 2017 version, especially with only a $3 million salary. An 8.03 ERA with eight walks and four strikeouts in 12 1/3 spring innings isn’t encouraging.

8. A reasonable expectation of catching duties — assuming good health — would be Caleb Joseph catching 60 percent of games and Chance Sisco handling the other 40 percent with some occasional designated hitter duties. Of course, growth behind the plate from Sisco could change that ratio.

9. This Q&A was a good look into the psyche of Kevin Gausman as this could be the “now or never” season for him to put it all together or simply remain an average — and frustratingly inconsistent — starter. He posted a 2.62 ERA in 113 1/3 innings with Joseph catching last year.

10. Danny Valencia provides a potent bat against lefty pitching, but a 33-year-old who’s registered minus-34 defensive runs saved at third base in his career and has no meaningful experience up the middle isn’t an appropriate utility infielder. This isn’t a well-constructed bench going into the season.

11. Darren O’Day struck out 10 and allowed only one run in seven spring innings. The 35-year-old providing the durability and consistency he did from 2012-15 would make this bullpen that much better trying to endure Zach Britton’s absence.

12. I don’t see how carrying the out-of-options Mike Wright and two Rule 5 pitchers, Nestor Cortes and Pedro Araujo, will be tenable. Even assuming one of the three goes when Cobb is activated, does the upside justify the lack of flexibility? The irrational Rule 5 fascination lives on.

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Start of spring not encouraging for Davis, Trumbo turnarounds

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Luke Jones

We all know the starting rotation is the overwhelming reason why expectations remain low for the Orioles three weeks ahead of the start of the 2018 season.

But even if ownership were to suddenly loosen the purse strings — perhaps simply to last year’s payroll level — to sign Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb to upgrade the projected starting five, Baltimore would still need some substantial improvement from within to dramatically increase its chances to contend. The Orioles finished last in the majors in starter ERA, but their trademark over the last six years also declined last season.

Buck Showalter’s club still hit plenty of home runs, but not at the same impressive clip that’s made Baltimore the standard in that department over the last six years.

For the first time since 2011, the Orioles finished outside the top three in the American League in homers, ranking fifth with 232 after hitting a league-leading 253 the previous season. To be clear, they hit only nine fewer than the top-ranked New York Yankees, but a new major league record was set for home runs across baseball in the 2017 season and the average AL club hit 14 more than the previous year. And when you consider Welington Castillo and Trey Mancini provided upgrades in the home run department from 2016 starters Matt Wieters and Hyun Soo Kim at those respective positions, one could have expected the Orioles to at least match the previous season’s total rather than hit 21 fewer and be one of only four AL clubs to hit fewer homers in 2017 than the year before.

The reason that didn’t happen falls on the shoulders of Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, who combined to hit only 49 long balls. Trumbo nearly matched that total by himself with 47 the year before while Davis clubbed 47 in 2015 and a club-record 53 in 2013. No one could have reasonably expected the pair of high-priced sluggers to match those career highs in 2017, but the Orioles instead received one of the worst seasons of each veteran’s career.

Unfortunately, the start of spring hasn’t served as a harbinger of a rebound for either player. After going 2-for-13 with a homer and seven strikeouts in early Grapefruit League action, Davis remains sidelined with a sore right elbow that prompted an MRI several days ago to rule out any structural damage. Meanwhile, Thursday brought news that Trumbo would miss some time because of a sore quadriceps. We know better than to jump to conclusions based on spring training results or minor ailments, but both sluggers are already on the wrong side of 30 and don’t profile as the type of hitter who ages particularly well. Frankly, each could stand to benefit from as many reps as possible as well as some positive results this spring to help put last year behind them.

Entering the third season of the seven-year, $161 million contract signed two years ago, Davis is coming off his worst campaign since 2014 and will try to avoid seeing his home run total and on-base plus slugging percentage decline for the third straight year. Even more concerning is that Davis batted .215 while sporting a .301 batting average on balls in play, which was dramatically higher than his .242 BABIP in 2014 when he batted a brutal .196. That means he wasn’t even unlucky in the midst of struggling.

Most assumed at the time of Davis’ signing that his record-setting deal would be problematic in its latter stages after some productive seasons, but he was worth minus-0.1 wins above replacement (Baseball Reference) and struck out looking 12 more times than anyone else in the majors despite playing only 128 games last season. His .688 OPS after the All-Star break prompted Showalter to lower him in the order, and Davis’ defensive metrics at first base also declined to minus-five defensive runs saved after registering an above-average eight in 2016 and an above-average count in the two seasons before that.

In other words, without a meaningful rebound in 2018, his contract is already bordering on disastrous without having reached the halfway point of its duration. Turning 32 next week, Davis spoke at the start of spring about his need to be more aggressive early in counts and to not take as many strikes, but he’s missed valuable at-bats to test out his revamped mindset.

Making less and only being under contract through next season, Trumbo was worse than Davis in 2017 as he hit only 23 homers and posted a career-low .686 OPS in his second year with the Orioles. Some questioned the wisdom of re-signing him last winter after a career season at the plate that still registered only a 1.6 WAR because of his fielding deficiencies, but the organization deemed a three-year, $37.5 million contract to be a bargain after the rest of the market was largely disinterested in his services.

The Orioles wisely kept Trumbo out of the field last year to try to maximize his value at the plate, but the veteran responded unfavorably to the most extensive action of his career as a designated hitter and batted only .202 with a .600 OPS after the All-Star break. His .278 BABIP was identical to the previous season when he posted a career-best .850 OPS and was not terribly far behind his .286 career BABIP, making it difficult to chalk up too much of his performance to bad luck. Trumbo hit more grounders (43.3 percent to 39.5 percent) and fewer fly balls (40.6 percent to 43.1 percent) than in 2016, which certainly isn’t an encouraging development for a one-dimensional power hitter.

Perhaps more troublesome is the fact that Trumbo’s 2017 campaign came on the heels of his 2016 second half that was boosted by his 19 homers and still included a .214 average and a so-so .754 OPS. That’s a significant sample of below-average offense to follow his incredible first half in Baltimore that fetched him a 2016 All-Star invitation.

Trumbo is a cerebral individual who’s used new-age numbers such as launch angle to refine his approach, but he said at January’s FanFest that he may have been too consumed by those numbers last season in trying to adjust his swing. And though he wouldn’t use his increased DH role as an excuse for his poor performance, one could easily reason that a hitter not playing the field would be more inclined to obssess over his struggles at the plate between at-bats. Of course, Trumbo playing anywhere in the field other than maybe first base mostly negates what value he offers when swinging the bat well.

The attempt to simplify his approach hasn’t produced positive results so far this spring as he’s off to a 3-for-20 start with nine strikeouts in the Grapefruit League and will now miss at least a few days with the quad injury.

The recent signings of Pedro Alvarez and Danny Valencia provide depth and insurance for worst-case scenarios playing out with the incumbents, but it’s difficult not to wonder if a DH platoon of Alvarez and Valencia might be better than Trumbo at a fraction of the cost. That’s little more than buyer’s remorse at this point, however, as the remainder of his contract would be extremely difficult to move.

It would be unwise to write off Davis or Trumbo after both produced monster seasons in recent memory, but the problem is the Orioles are paying them lucrative money to be difference-makers and both are bigger question marks than answers at this point. That’s not encouraging, especially for an organization that’s been unwilling to use the necessary resources to try to significantly improve the starting rotation.

We all know the Orioles need to pitch much better more than anything else to succeed in 2018, but they would further boost their chances by recapturing their edge in the long-ball department.

That needs to begin with Davis and Trumbo bouncing back in a meaningful way from their nightmare seasons a year ago.

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Orioles make minor-league deal with Pedro Alvarez official

Posted on 26 February 2018 by Luke Jones

Despite registering only 34 plate appearances in the major leagues last season, slugger Pedro Alvarez has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Orioles for the second straight year.

The deal was made official Monday morning as Alvarez will attempt to make the 25-man roster after spending most of last season with Triple-A Norfolk. The 31-year-old corner infielder has abandoned his hopes of becoming an outfielder after the experiment didn’t work with the Tides last season.

Alvarez batted .239 with 26 home runs, 89 runs batted in, and a .737 on-base plus slugging percentage for Norfolk last season. He played sparingly upon being promoted to the major league roster last September, hitting one home run and batting .313 in 14 games. With Chris Davis entrenched at first base and Mark Trumbo expected to again be the regular designated hitter this season, Alvarez faces an uphill battle to make the club, but he could provide depth at Norfolk for the second straight year.

The former second overall pick of the 2008 draft posted an impressive .848 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handed pitching for the Orioles in 2016, but his career .613 OPS against lefties and defensive limitations have led to little interest for his services on the open market for three straight offseasons.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts counting down to spring training

Posted on 08 January 2018 by Luke Jones

With Orioles pitchers and catchers reporting to Sarasota for spring training in a little over a month, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It bears repeating how problematic it is having a general manager whose contract expires in less than a year navigating one of the more pivotal offseasons in club history. The lack of evidence of any direction or long-term thinking from ownership is maddening.

2. That hasn’t been helped by the overall inactivity of the market as MLB Network reported only 31 of 166 free agents had signed deals entering Monday. That sounds fishy, regardless of whether you believe it’s collusion or the effect of the luxury tax and next year’s free-agent class being better.

3. No one’s suggesting the Orioles should just give Manny Machado away, but this is what happens when you punt on the future for so long. This current process should have started from the moment they knew a long-term deal very likely wasn’t in the stars.

4. Speaking of long-term deals, signing Jonathan Schoop to one should be a top priority right now, but you wonder if watching the organization’s handling of his close friend leaves him more inclined to wait for free agency after 2019.

5. Kevin Gausman changing his jersey number to honor the late Roy Halladay is a touching gesture, and the Orioles hope the 27-year-old builds off his 3.41 ERA in the second half of 2017. Home runs remained an issue, but his strikeout and walk rates improved markedly after the All-Star break.

6. Part of that improvement should be credited to Caleb Joseph as pitchers posted a 4.23 ERA throwing to him compared to a 5.60 mark with the departed Welington Castillo. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the staff has usually fared better when Joseph has caught over the last several years.

7. Chris Davis was worth minus-0.2 wins above replacement in 2017, according to Baseball Reference. He’ll only be 32 and can still turn things around, but the seven-year, $161 million deal he signed two years ago is looking more disastrous than many feared it could be at the time.

8. Looking at 2017 batting average on balls in play and remembering the league average is just below .300, Machado is a no-brainer pick to rebound after a career-worst .265 mark. On the flip side, Trey Mancini’s .352 clip makes him a candidate for some regression in his second full season.

9. The club has high hopes for Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro, but the former’s 3.7 strikeouts per nine innings and .263 opposing BABIP are worrisome for projecting future success. Castro’s 5.2 per nine strikeout rate and .231 BABIP should also temper expectations about a possible move to the rotation.

10. Hunter Harvey is a bright spot for an organization still lacking pitching prospects, but you hope the Orioles aren’t so desperate for starting pitching that they potentially compromise the 23-year-old’s health and development. Unlike Dylan Bundy two years ago, Harvey has minor-league options remaining.

11. You’ll hear plenty about Nestor Cortes and other Rule 5 picks over the next few months, but this annual exercise that’s put numerous strains on the roster has netted a total of 1.7 WAR during the Dan Duquette era, according to Baseball Reference. Way too much effort for minimal value.

12. Maybe they’ll prove us wrong in the coming weeks, but the Orioles’ approach to this offseason with a slew of expiring contracts after 2018 feels like a basketball team running a Four Corners offense while trailing by 10 points. Where’s the urgency?

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