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2015 Orioles preview: Kevin Gausman

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2015 Orioles preview: Kevin Gausman

Posted on 17 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over three 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

RHP Kevin Gausman

Opening Day age: 24

Contract status: Under club control through the 2020 season

Minor-league options remaining: One

2014 stats: 7-7, 3.57 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.0 K/IP, 7 HR, 113 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: Despite having less than a full year of major league service time under his belt, Gausman was one of the Orioles’ most consistent starting pitchers in the second half of 2014 and led the rotation with a 3.41 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). The right-hander allowed only seven home runs in 20 starts after allowing eight in 65 2/3 fewer innings in 2013.

Why to be concerned: Gausman has a remaining minor-league option, which could push him to Triple-A Norfolk as the Orioles try to see if Ubaldo Jimenez can start the 2015 season on the right foot. The 2012 first-round pick has shown plenty of resilience, but you do wonder if the shuffling back and forth between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk could hinder his development, especially as he tries to refine his slider to go along with a high-90s fastball and split-changeup.

2015 outlook: The sky is the limit for Gausman as he has the best chance of any of the Baltimore starters to take a gigantic leap forward in 2015. His performance out of the bullpen in the postseason displayed his impressive poise at a young age, and the reports on his slider during spring training indicate some progress. If the Orioles allow Gausman to remain in the majors, he could easily establish himself as the club’s second-best starter behind Tillman with an ERA below 3.50.

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2015 Orioles preview: Travis Snider

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2015 Orioles preview: Travis Snider

Posted on 16 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over three 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

OF Travis Snider

Opening Day age: 27

Contract status: Under club control through the 2016 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .264/.338/.438, 13 HR, 38 RBI, 37 R, 1 SB, 359 PA

Why to be impressed: After years of trying to find his way in the majors, the former first-round pick exploded in the second half of last season, posting an .880 on-base plus slugging percentage to help Pittsburgh to its second straight playoff appearance. Much has been made about the departure of Nick Markakis, but Snider’s .438 slugging percentage last year was much higher than the veteran’s .386 mark.

Why to be concerned: Snider has experienced more failure than success in his major league career and even his breakout 2014 campaign included an underwhelming .660 OPS in the first half. The former Toronto Blue Jays prospect is traditionally a slow starter with a .677 career OPS before the All-Star break, so he’ll need to play good defense to remain in good graces if history repeats itself this year.

2015 outlook: With other outfield options in the mix such as Alejandro De Aza, Steve Pearce, David Lough, and Delmon Young, Snider will need to make the most of his opportunities to become a fixture in the lineup. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette hopes Snider experienced his breakthrough in the second half of 2014, but it’s too difficult to know what to expect from a young player who’s had such highs and lows. The Orioles hope he can match or be an upgrade to Markakis’ production for a fraction of the price, but Snider could also fizzle out yet again after showing positive signs last year.

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Orioles make four roster moves on Monday

Posted on 16 March 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Monday that they have optioned infielder Christian Walker to Triple-A Norfolk and right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy to Double-A Bowie. Right-handed pitcher Hunter Harvey has been reassigned to minor-league camp. Left-handed pitcher Mark Hendrickson has been released.

With these moves, the Orioles now have 45 players at major league spring training, including nine non-roster invitees.

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Orioles musings on starting rotation and more

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Orioles musings on starting rotation and more

Posted on 16 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The debate has continued all winter and spring over what Orioles manager Buck Showalter will do with his starting rotation in 2015.

Ubaldo Jimenez has done little to quell concerns — an 11.05 ERA and five walks in 7 1/3 innings in the Grapefruit League — but his place on the roster is secure with just under $39 million going into his bank account over the next three years. Even if Showalter makes the right baseball decision by sending Jimenez to the bullpen and including both Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman in his rotation — they both have minor-league options remaining — there’s another question that we should be asking.

Who’s next after that?

The Orioles were one of 10 teams in the majors last season to have at least four starters make 25 or more starts, but it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to get away with simply stashing Jimenez in the bullpen all season without any worries. Last season, only two clubs had five starters make 25 or more starts — Washington and Kansas City — and just 36 teams have accomplished that feat since 2000 with 23 of them making the postseason.

Even considering Jimenez’s struggles, Baltimore was fortunate to use only seven starting pitchers last season with lefty long reliever T.J. McFarland making one spot start. In their previous five years, the Orioles used an average of just under 12 starting pitchers per season. Of course, that time frame includes some poor clubs with rotations in a state of flux, but even the 2013 Boston Red Sox used 11 starting pitchers on their way to a World Series title, showing that it’s not a rule that only affects poor clubs.

This is why executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is so reluctant to trade away any of his starting pitchers as the odds suggest the Orioles will need to look beyond those first six for help at various points in 2015 due to health concerns or poor performance. In fact, there’s a 65 percent likelihood they will have two starting pitchers ailing at the same time, per FanGraphs.

So while we continue to monitor Jimenez’s progress — or lack thereof — and wonder what it means for Gonzalez and Gausman over the next few weeks, we should probably be paying more attention to how the likes of T.J. McFarland, Mike Wright, Dylan Bundy, Steve Johnson, Tyler Wilson, Tim Berry, and even the 20-year-old Hunter Harvey are performing this spring. The odds suggest we’ll see some combination of them take the hill at some point in 2015 for at least a start or two.

Wieters taking off training wheels

Matt Wieters is set to crouch behind the plate for the first time in Grapefruit League action on Tuesday, which represents his biggest test yet after catching several times in controlled settings where runners were instructed not to steal.

It will be the first time Wieters is allowed to “cut it loose” in a live-game setting as he’s essentially completed his throwing progression and rehabilitation. The early indications from Sarasota have been positive with the Orioles timing Wieters’ throws in recent days, but seeing how he responds in a regular game will go a long way in determining whether he’s behind the plate for the April 6 opener.

This timetable will give Wieters more than two weeks of spring games in which he could catch to gauge his progress before the club makes a decision on his status for the start of the season. He’d also like to get himself on track at the plate as he’s hitless in 20 Grapefruit League at-bats.

Who’s in right?

Upon being acquired in late January, Travis Snider was considered by many to be the favorite to replace Nick Markakis as the regular right fielder, but you wouldn’t know it based on how the spring has gone.

That isn’t to say Snider won’t have a meaningful role with the Orioles this season, but the former Pittsburgh and Toronto outfielder hasn’t started in right since an intrasquad game played on March 1. Since then, he’s started six games in left field and once as the designated hitter, making you wonder if Showalter views him as a better option at the other corner outfield position.

Snider collected three hits in Sunday’s loss to the Pirates and is 7-for-22 this spring.

Over the last 10 days or so, it’s been a steady trend of Steve Pearce and Chris Davis alternating between first base and right field, which isn’t shocking considering Showalter has regularly complimented Pearce’s work at first base and Davis’ ability to play the outfield since the end of last season. Both figure to be in the lineup nearly every day, but where each will be playing in April could be interesting.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget that Showalter is prone to using many different alignments based on the matchup any given night, so we can’t read too much into there trends with more than two weeks of spring games remaining.

Spring woes

The Orioles entered Monday holding a 3-11 record, the worst mark of any club in the Grapefruit League or the Cactus League.

This has led some to ask whether this is cause for concern for a club that lost Markakis, Nelson Cruz, and Andrew Miller and didn’t make a big-name acquisition over the winter. The Orioles have managed just 39 runs in those 14 games.

There are obvious question marks with the Orioles — just like any major league club — but I just can’t put much stock into anything we’re seeing this spring when players are simply preparing for the season and many hurlers are using games as times to experiment with certain pitches. When you look at the daily box scores, you’ll see there are too many players involved in these games who won’t be with the club once the season starts.

Beyond unique cases like Jimenez and individuals coming back from serious injuries like Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado, what happens in Florida is of little consequence in terms of projecting what will happen over a 162-game marathon. I’ll take the last seven seasons of evidence from Adam Jones over his current .174 average in 23 spring at-bats to determine what to expect from him in 2015.

Showalter always says you can’t be fooled by what you see in March — good or bad. And I believe him.

 

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2015 Orioles preview: Jonathan Schoop

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2015 Orioles preview: Jonathan Schoop

Posted on 15 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over three 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

2B Jonathan Schoop

Opening Day age: 23

Contract status: Under club control through the 2019 season

Minor-league options remaining: Two

2014 stats: .209/.244/.354, 16 HR, 45 RBI, 48 R, 2 SB, 481 PA

Why to be impressed: The Curacao native is the best example of how much manager Buck Showalter values defense as Schoop ranked fourth among major league second basemen in runs saved in 2014 and consistently remained in the lineup despite a .598 OPS. His 16 homers reflect how much raw power he possesses despite just 289 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level.

Why to be concerned: Schoop walked only 13 times in 481 plate appearances, a lower walk percentage than even Adam Jones. His defense will help keep him in the starting lineup, but the Orioles simply need more production from Schoop at the plate to help offset the offseason losses of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in the everyday lineup.

2015 outlook: His minor-league résumé suggests Schoop can be more patient at the plate than he was in his rookie season, but his low walk total will continue to limit his overall ceiling. Schoop hitting 15 to 20 homers wouldn’t appear to be out of the question and if he can elevate his OPS into the .675 range, he will establish himself as a starting second baseman in the American League moving forward, especially if he continues to play above-average defense.

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Orioles cut Navarro, Tuiasosopo from major league camp

Posted on 15 March 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Sunday that they have optioned infielder Rey Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk and reassigned outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo to minor league camp.

With these moves, the Orioles now have 49 players at Major League Spring Training, including 11 non-roster invitees.

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2015 Orioles preview: Wei-Yin Chen

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2015 Orioles preview: Wei-Yin Chen

Posted on 14 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over three 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

LHP Wei-Yin Chen

Opening Day age: 29

Contract status: Becomes a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: Three

2014 stats: 16-6, 3.54 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.6 K/IP, 23 HR, 185 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: The Taiwanese lefty has been the model of consistency since arriving in Baltimore in 2012 and turned in his finest season yet in 2014 with a career-best ERA and WHIP and ranked 11th in the American League with a 3.89 strikeout to walk ratio. He is the only Baltimore starter to make at least 23 starts in each of the last three seasons.

Why to be concerned: Though the strikeout has never been a major part of his makeup, Chen’s strikeout rate per nine innings pitched has dipped gradually from 7.2 in 2012 to 6.6 last season. Averaging just under six innings per start in each of the last two years, Chen doesn’t pitch as deep into games as you’d like from an otherwise consistent starter taking the hill every five days.

2015 outlook: Chen is working on a new grip for his changeup as he prepares for his final season before hitting the free-agent market next winter. He often runs out of gas quickly when trying to retire hitters the third time through the order, but his excellent command and consistency make him a good bet to post an ERA of 3.80 or better and to continue to be a mainstay in the starting rotation.

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2015 Orioles preview: Chris Davis

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2015 Orioles preview: Chris Davis

Posted on 13 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over three 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

1B Chris Davis

Opening Day age: 29

Contract status: Becomes a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .196/.300/.404, 26 HR, 72 RBI, 65 R, 2 SB, 525 PA

Why to be impressed: Despite an awful campaign in which he hit only .196, Davis remained a patient hitter, drawing walks in 11.8 percent of his plate appearances compared to 10.7 percent a year earlier. His 26 homers still ranked third on the club despite Davis only playing 127 games.

Why to be concerned: Davis admitted this winter that the oblique injury he suffered last April lingered all year, but no player in baseball was a bigger victim of the shift as Davis saw it in 95.2 percent of his plate appearances and sported a .121 average on grounders and short liners against the shift compared to a .333 mark with no shift, per The Bill James Handbook. Davis was abysmal against off-speed pitching in 2014, but it’s fair to wonder if that was a byproduct of the injury and trying to cheat against fastballs after he feasted on off-speed pitching in 2013 and handled it adequately in 2012.

2015 outlook: His .242 batting average on balls in play from a year ago suggests he experienced plenty of bad luck as he owns a career .320 BAbip, but the shift isn’t going away and Davis has worked on his bunting down the third baseline this winter as a result. In the same way that his career 2013 season was an outlier, Davis shouldn’t be defined by his nightmarish 2014 that included a 25-game suspension for Adderall. A return to his 2012 numbers seems reasonable if he’s healthy, but it’d be very tough for him to match that .270 average with the shift becoming a fixture in baseball for the foreseeable future. If his power to the opposite field returns with his health, Davis should be able to approach the 35-homer mark.

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2015 Orioles preview: Zach Britton

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2015 Orioles preview: Zach Britton

Posted on 12 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day under four 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

LHP Zach Britton

Opening Day age: 27

Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: 3-2, 37 saves in 41 chances, 1.65 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 7.3 K/IP, 4 HR, 76 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: A year ago, Britton was out of minor-league options and responded by embracing a relief role and producing one of the best seasons ever from an Orioles closer with 37 saves from May 15 through the end of the season. His 5.68 ground out to air out ratio reflected how incredibly successful he was with his heavy sinker in his new role.

Why to be concerned: Because he relies on inducing so many grounders, Britton will be prone to stretches of bad luck more often than your typical closer that relies on the strikeout. His heavy workload in his first year as a reliever makes it worth monitoring the southpaw’s health this spring as he prepared this offseason as a regular reliever.

2015 outlook: Asking Britton to post a 1.65 ERA again might be asking too much, but his reliance on his sinker (he threw it 89 percent of the time last season) should save some wear and tear on his arm and allow his impeccable infield defense to continue to record outs. If he stays healthy, Britton should have few problems approaching 40 saves with an ERA below 3.00.

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2015 Orioles preview: J.J. Hardy

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2015 Orioles preview: J.J. Hardy

Posted on 11 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just under four 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

SS J.J. Hardy

Opening Day age: 32

Contract status: Under contract through the 2017 season with a vesting option for 2018

Minor-league options remaining: Need player permission to option due to five years of major league experience

2014 stats: .268/.309/.372, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 56 R, 0 SB, 569 PA

Why to be impressed: Despite back problems that lingered throughout the season, Hardy earned his third consecutive Gold Glove and still managed to appear in 141 games. His .268 average and .309 on-base percentage were his highest marks since his first season with the Orioles in 2011.

Why to be concerned: Back issues are the last thing you want to hear for a middle infielder on the wrong side of 30. The ailment zapped Hardy of his typical power as he hit only nine homers — his lowest total since 2010 — and collected only 37 extra-base hits after finishing with 52 or more in three straight seasons.

2015 outlook: Hardy spent the winter strengthening his core and declares his back to be better, which should allow his power to return after he failed to hit a homer until late June last year. His defense alone makes him very valuable and he’ll hit double-digit homers, but age and his back history make it unlikely that we’ll see the same level of offensive production from a few years ago.

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