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2015 Orioles preview: Matt Wieters

Posted on 01 April 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a week away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez
March 28 – Ryan Flaherty
March 29 – Ubaldo Jimenez
March 30 – Everth Cabrera
March 31 – Bud Norris

C Matt Wieters

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Becomes a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .308/.339/.500, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 13 R, 0 SB, 112 PA

Why to be impressed: Before developing elbow tendinitis that will force him to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list, Wieters’ rehab from Tommy John surgery was going perfectly in trying to work his way back to pre-injury form. Though he’s always provided good offense for the catcher position, his .839 on-base plus slugging percentage in a small sample size last year suggested his shorter swing from the left side might have been a breakthrough.

Why to be concerned: The organization has been very quiet about Wieters since he was shut down after catching only one game in the Grapefruit League on March 17. Even if the tendinitis will only cost him a couple weeks in the regular season, there’s just no way of knowing what kind of defensive player Wieters will be after throwing out an impressive 33 percent of runners trying to steal before the surgery.

2015 outlook: Whenever Wieters is able to return, you’d expect him to receive much more rest than he did in the past when he’d catch 80 percent of the 162-game schedule. With such a long layoff, it’s tough to expect much more than the .704 OPS he produced in 2013. If he can be close to the same defensively, the Orioles will be happy, but anyone projecting what to expect from him in 2015 and beyond is purely guessing right now, making his upcoming free agency all the more intriguing.

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2015 Orioles preview: Bud Norris

Posted on 31 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a week away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez
March 28 – Ryan Flaherty
March 29 – Ubaldo Jimenez
March 30 – Everth Cabrera

RHP Bud Norris

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Becomes a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: 15-8, 3.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.6 K/IP, 20 HR, 165 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: The right-hander is coming off the best season of his career in which he finished second in the rotation with 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings, posted a career-best WHIP, and tossed 6 1/3 superb innings in the clinching Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Norris not only showed improved fastball velocity with some of the best stuff on the staff last year, but he provides some attitude in a group with many quiet personalities.

Why to be concerned: Norris has struggled this spring, posting a 9.26 ERA and walking nine batters in 11 2/3 innings as he enters his final season before free agency. His tendency to wear his emotions on his sleeve while on the mound can work against him at times as control has been an issue at various points in his career with a 3.5 walks per nine innings average. Norris experienced some back tightness earlier in the spring, which could be an underlying issue if his struggles carry into the regular season.

2015 outlook: Norris deserves the benefit of the doubt after such a strong season in 2014 and should continue to be a reliable member of the rotation this season. Even with the strong Baltimore defense playing behind him, he probably won’t match his career-best ERA from a year ago, but still keeping that mark below 4.00 will set him up for a nice payday in free agency next winter.

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Orioles officially tab Tillman as Opening Day starter

Posted on 31 March 2015 by Luke Jones

What was a foregone conclusion all winter became official Tuesday with the Orioles naming right-handed pitcher Chris Tillman as their Opening Day starter.

The 26-year-old will take the ball against the Tampa Bay Rays next Monday to become the first Orioles pitcher to start consecutive openers since Jeremy Guthrie in 2008 and 2009. Tillman went 13-6 with a 3.34 ERA in 34 starts spanning 207 1/3 innings last season to further solidify his standing as the staff ace.

His strong work also prompted manager Buck Showalter to start the 2013 All-Star selection in the opening game of the American League Division Series as well as Game 1 of the AL Championship Series last October. Tillman is just one of 12 pitchers in club history to start more than one season opener for the Orioles.

Showalter has already said that lefty Wei-Yin Chen and right-hander Miguel Gonzalez will receive starts in the opening series against the Rays.

Tillman will be opposed by Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer, who is replacing the injured Alex Cobb. Archer will be the first pitcher besides David Price or James Shields to start an opener for Tampa Bay since 2007.

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2015 Orioles preview: Everth Cabrera

Posted on 30 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a week away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez
March 28 – Ryan Flaherty
March 29 – Ubaldo Jimenez

INF Everth Cabrera

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Under contract through the 2016 season

Minor-league options remaining: One

2014 stats (with San Diego): .232/.272/.300, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 36 R, 18 SB, 391 PA

Why to be impressed: Before the Biogenesis scandal in 2013, Cabrera was in the midst of a superb season in which he posted a .736 on-base plus slugging percentage and was named to his first All-Star Game. Cabrera has stolen 99 bases in 300 games over the last three seasons, bringing some much-needed speed to the Baltimore roster for the 2015 season.

Why to be concerned: Beyond the 50-game suspension in 2013, Cabrera has dealt with a number of injuries and was limited to just 90 games a year ago. When he did play, the switch-hitting infielder posted an anemic .572 OPS and collected only 17 extra-base hits in 391 plate appearances. Manager Buck Showalter would like to see the veteran shortstop become a utility player, but he has all of 12 career games at second base and just one at third base.

2015 outlook: With J.J. Hardy expected to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list, Cabrera is now all but guaranteed to make the 25-man roster and should have an opportunity to see time at shortstop along with Ryan Flaherty. His speed and defense can be assets to the roster, but he will need to show he’s more like the player he was in 2013 than last year in order to stick on the roster once Hardy returns. If he’s healthy, a .640 OPS seems reasonable along with 15 stolen bases in a part-time role.

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Hardy likely to begin season on 15-day disabled list

Posted on 30 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It appears the Orioles will be without a second former All-Star selection for Opening Day as shortstop J.J. Hardy is likely to go to the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder injury.

A magnetic resonance angiogram Monday showed a subscapularis strain that is expected to keep the 32-year-old sidelined from baseball activities for 10 days, according to manager Buck Showalter. However, the injury is not expected to keep the three-time Gold Glove winner out for long as he could return shortly after his first day of eligibility on April 11.

The veteran infielder injured his left shoulder diving for a ground ball on Friday, but told reporters Monday morning that he was feeling much better and hoped to be ready for the season opener.

Hardy is the second starting position player who won’t be ready for the start of the year as it remains unclear when catcher Matt Wieters will be ready to return to action after he was shut down with right elbow tendinitis on March 18.

With Hardy unavailable for the start of the season, the Orioles will likely keep both Ryan Flaherty and Everth Cabrera on the 25-man roster as either would be an option to fill in at shortstop. It was previously believed that only one would have a spot on the roster to begin the season.

In 30 at-bats this spring, Hardy was hitting .233 with two doubles and three runs batted in.

 

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Projecting the 2015 Orioles roster to begin the season

Posted on 30 March 2015 by Luke Jones

(Edited: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday)

Only a couple 25-man roster spots remain up for grabs as the Orioles are a week away from Opening Day and the start of the 2015 season.

Manager Buck Showalter frequently warns against being fooled by a player’s performance in March, but a few individuals have made strong statements to help Baltimore defend its 2014 American League East title. As we’ve learned throughout the Showalter era, roster flexibility is a must, so it’s critical to remember which players have minor-league options that could impact their standing on the big-league roster at any given time.

Below is my final projection for how the 25-man roster comes together this week. The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number projected on the roster at that given position.

PITCHERS (12 with starting pitchers underlined)
IN: Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Wei-Yin Chen, Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez, Tommy Hunter, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bud Norris, Darren O’Day, Chris Tillman, Logan Verrett (Rule 5 pick), Wesley Wright
TRADED: Brian Matusz
DESIGNATED FOR ASSIGNMENT/OUTRIGHTED: Ryan Webb
OPTIONED: T.J. McFarland
SENT BACK TO ORIGINAL CLUB: Jason Garcia (Rule 5 pick)
Skinny: Since Showalter hinted at Gausman being used in relief last week, I’ll predict the Orioles send him to the bullpen, which is risky if you want him to be stretched out enough to move into the rotation if another starter falters. With Gausman in the pen, Webb will be designated for assignment and likely clear waivers because of his $2.75 million salary for 2015. Though they shouldn’t expect a big return, I’ll predict the Orioles finally pull the trigger on trading Matusz to clear payroll and to open another spot in the bullpen. As Rule 5 picks, Verrett and Garcia have created tough decisions as both have pitched well this spring. With Verrett being older and more polished, my guess is the Orioles will attempt to use him out of the bullpen if they can’t work out a trade with the New York Mets to keep him in the organization. However, it will be very difficult trying to carry him all year if the Orioles hope to use their trademark roster flexibility.

CATCHERS (2)
IN: Caleb Joseph, Ryan Lavarnway
DISABLED LIST: Matt Wieters
OPTIONED: Steve Clevenger (on roster for Opening Day only)
Skinny: Joseph will enter the season as the starting catcher with Wieters still on the mend from last year’s Tommy John surgery, but the battle for the backup job is down to Lavarnway and Clevenger after J.P. Arencibia was reassigned to minor-league camp on Monday. Clevenger would make more sense on the surface since he’s already on the 40-man roster, but my gut says the Orioles prefer Lavarnway’s defense and they’ll add him to the roster to back up Joseph until Wieters is ready to return.

INFIELDERS (6)
IN: Everth Cabrera, Chris Davis (suspended for Opening Day), Ryan Flaherty, Manny Machado, Jimmy Paredes, Jonathan Schoop
DISABLED LIST: J.J. Hardy
Skinny: The Orioles have mentioned on a number of occasions that the veteran Cabrera has a remaining option as they’ve attempted to make him a super utility player this spring, even putting him in the outfield. Before Hardy’s injury to his left shoulder, it would have made sense to give Cabrera a few weeks to play all over the diamond at Triple-A Norfolk to get more comfortable defensively after spending most of his career at shortstop. Either way, Flaherty’s status as the primary utility man appears to be in jeopardy with Cabrera bringing some much-needed speed to the table. Entering Monday with a 1.069 on-base plus slugging percentage, Paredes has hit his way onto the roster despite his defensive limitations.

(Editor’s note: Hardy’s test results Monday revealed he would begin the season on the disabled list, which moved Cabrera to the 25-man roster in his place.)

OUTFIELDERS (5)
IN: Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones, Steve Pearce, Travis Snider, Delmon Young
DISABLED LIST: David Lough
SENT TO TRIPLE-A NORFOLK: Nolan Reimold
Skinny: With Lough’s hamstring and back issues continuing to linger and the speedy outfielder on shaky roster footing anyway, it only makes sense for the Orioles to put him on the 15-day disabled list to begin the season as De Aza would be back up center field in a pinch. Entering Monday with a .413 on-base percentage this spring, Reimold has put himself back on the radar as a possible option in the outfield and will be one to watch closely at Norfolk in the coming weeks.

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2015 Orioles preview: Ubaldo Jimenez

Posted on 29 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just a week away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez
March 28 – Ryan Flaherty

RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

Opening Day age: 31

Contract status: Under contract through the 2017 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: 6-9, 4.81 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 8.3 K/IP, 14 HR, 125 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: Despite a disastrous first year in Baltimore, Jimenez has four seasons in which he’s posted an ERA below 4.00 in his major league career. His 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings last season was still the best mark among any Baltimore starters as Jimenez has an ability to miss bats that can be valuable if his control improves in 2015.

Why to be concerned: Even if Jimenez can improve on his horrific 5.5 walks per nine innings from a year ago, throwing strikes consistently has been a point of contention throughout his career as he’s averaged 4.2 free passes per nine innings. The right-hander is owed just under $39 million for the next three years, which means he’ll likely have a long leash again this season as he did in 2014.

2015 outlook: Mechanical adjustments have led to improvement this spring as Jimenez has allowed only two walks in his last 19 spring innings with all of that work coming in road games against the opposition’s best lineups. Jimenez will be better than he was last year, but his history of command issues are likely to surface again, keeping his ERA in the 4.50 range and the Orioles looking to replace him in the rotation for the stretch run.

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2015 Orioles preview: Ryan Flaherty

Posted on 28 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over a week away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young
March 27 – Miguel Gonzalez

UTI Ryan Flaherty

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Under club control through the 2017 season

Minor-league options remaining: Three

2014 stats: .221/.288/.356, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 33 R, 1 SB, 312 PA

Why to be impressed: Flaherty has played six different positions for the Orioles over the last three years and brings above-average defense to more than one spot. He eventually emerged as the primary third baseman when Manny Machado went down for the season last August and responded by posting an .804 on-base plus slugging percentage in September and hit a respectable .286 with a homer and four runs batted in in the 2014 postseason.

Why to be concerned: The former Rule 5 pick posted a .644 OPS last season and has never taken a significant step forward with the bat despite flashing power and ability from time to time. Considering Flaherty’s strikeout rate of 21.8 is below average, his decline in home run power last season was disappointing to see.

2015 outlook: Flaherty has never shown enough consistency at the plate to warrant an everyday job, but his versatility around the diamond is underrated for a club like the Orioles that prides itself in playing great defense. The left-handed hitter will have some nice stretches here and there, but he’s settled into being a .220 hitter who will hit the occasional homer and play nice defense off the bench. The addition of veteran Everth Cabrera could compromise Flaherty’s status on the 25-man roster if he doesn’t show a little more with the bat when given opportunities.

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Hardy to undergo MRA on left shoulder

Posted on 28 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is set to undergo an magnetic resonance angiography exam on his sore left shoulder Monday and will not play in any spring games before then.

The 32-year-old jammed his shoulder diving for a ball on Friday and took an anti-inflammatory after it felt worse Saturday morning. Hardy underwent labrum surgery on the same shoulder in 2004, which will obviously show up in the MRA exam that involves injecting dye into the area.

Should Hardy need to miss extended time, the Orioles would likely look at the combination of utility infielder Ryan Flaherty and newcomer Everth Cabrera to handle shortstop duties.

Hindered with a back injury for much of the 2014 season, Hardy hit only nine home runs, his lowest total in his four seasons with the Orioles. In 33 Grapefruit League plate appearances, Hardy is hitting .233 with two doubles and three runs batted in.

 

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2015 Orioles preview: Miguel Gonzalez

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright
March 26 – Delmon Young

RHP Miguel Gonzalez

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Under club control through the 2017 season

Minor-league options remaining: One

2014 stats: 10-9, 3.23 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.3 K/IP, 25 HR, 159 innings

Why to be impressed: Gonzalez continued to exceed expectations to a dramatic degree in 2014 as he posted the best ERA of anyone in the rotation despite the disruption of a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk in August because of a crowded rotation. He posted a miniscule 2.09 ERA over the final three months of the season, which included the first complete-game shutout of his career in early September.

Why to be concerned: As mentioned above, sabermetricians aren’t a fan of Gonzalez, whose 4.89 FIP (fielding independent pitching) indicates how much he might benefit from his defense — and perhaps some good fortune. The right-hander allowed a career-high 1.4 homers per nine innings, and his tendency to frequently give up fly balls benefited from Camden Yards playing much more like a pitchers’ park in 2014, something you wouldn’t expect to continue this year.

2015 outlook: It remains unclear whether a crowded rotation might force Gonzalez to the bullpen or Norfolk for periods of the 2015 season, but he’s been a dependable contributor for three straight reasons and epitomizes what the Orioles have been about for the last three years. It would be difficult for Gonzalez to match his ERA from a year ago, but I won’t bet against him posting another season of 150-plus innings with an ERA of 3.75 or better. Simply put, he’s smart and one heck of a competitor on the mound.

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