Tag Archive | "Orioles"

2015 Orioles preview: Tommy Hunter

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2015 Orioles preview: Tommy Hunter

Posted on 19 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than 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
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza

RHP Tommy Hunter

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Under club control through the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: 3-2 with 11 saves, 2.97 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 6.7 K/IP, 4 HR, 60 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: While many focused on his failures as a closer in the first two months of the 2014 season, Hunter pitched to a 1.83 ERA in the final four months, reestablishing himself as one of Buck Showalter’s most reliable relief arms. Historically prone to giving up the long ball, Hunter allowed a career-low 0.6 homers per nine innings pitched in 2014.

Why to be concerned: Hunter deserves credit for holding left-handed batters to a .639 on-base plus slugging percentage last year, but lefty hitters have a career .488 slugging percentage against him, which will always make Showalter take pause in deciding when to use the right-hander. Shifting to a relief role has done wonders for Hunter’s fastball velocity, but his 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2014 still isn’t what you’d like to see from a reliever who can touch the high 90s with his fastball.

2015 outlook: With Andrew Miller no longer at Showalter’s disposal for the seventh and eighth innings, the Orioles will need Hunter to pick up where he left off in the final four months of 2014. He’s been working on a split-fingered fastball this spring, which would be an interesting pitch to had to his repertoire of hard stuff. An ERA south of 3.25 with success in the late innings seems reasonable for a man who’s proven himself more than capable in a non-closer role over the last couple seasons.

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Potential Matusz trade makes bullpen sense for long run

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Potential Matusz trade makes bullpen sense for long run

Posted on 19 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Even after the free-agent departure of imposing left-hander Andrew Miller, the Orioles should feel good about their back end of the bullpen.

The trio of closer Zach Britton, submariner Darren O’Day, and right-hander Tommy Hunter is better than many late-inning combinations you’ll find in the majors. The 28-year-old Brad Brach — who is now out of options — was a pleasant surprise in his first year in Baltimore as his peers have complimented him for having some of the best stuff of anyone in the bullpen.

The free-agent addition of southpaw Wesley Wright was savvy for only $1.7 million as he held left-handed bats to a .594 on-base plus slugging percentage last season and pitched adequately against right-handed hitters (.719 OPS). Wright doesn’t have options, but the Orioles signed the 30-year-old with every intention of him being a part of their 25-man roster anyway.

The bullpen picture becomes blurry after that due to a lack of roster flexibility.

Right-hander Ryan Webb pitched solidly last year (3.83 ERA), but Miller’s late-July arrival squeezed him out of the bullpen down the stretch and in the postseason. However, unlike last season, Webb is out of minor-league options.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette made two Rule 5 acquisitions in the offseason in right-handers Logan Verrett and Jason Garcia. Verrett, the former New York Mets prospect, is more polished and experienced after making 28 starts at Triple-A Las Vegas last year. Meanwhile, a shift to the bullpen last season saw the 22-year-old Garcia’s stock rise due to a high-90s fastball despite him not having an inning above Single A under his belt while pitching in the Boston Red Sox system.

Both would need to be on the 25-man roster all season to remain with the organization, which is, of course, unlikely to occur.

We haven’t even discussed the logjam that currently exists in the starting rotation due to the albatross of a contract held by Ubaldo Jimenez. Even if Jimenez is able to right himself in 2015, you’d hate to waste the talent of Kevin Gausman or Miguel Gonzalez in the minors simply because they both own an option. And if Jimenez’s struggles continue, the Orioles would likely need to stash him in the bullpen because they’re not eating the $38.75 million he’s owed in the final three years of his contract.

The starter situation alone is likely to squeeze out left-handed long reliever T.J. McFarland, who pitched well in 2014 but has two minor-league options remaining.

And that brings us to left-handed reliever Brian Matusz, who many thought wouldn’t be tendered a contract in the offseason before he agreed to a $3.2 million deal for the 2015 season. The 2008 first-round pick has been a good situational lefty over the last few years, but his inability to defend himself against right-handed hitters — who posted an .876 OPS against him in 2014 — makes him an expensive and limited option in the bullpen.

The winter signing of Wright should be viewed more as a potential replacement for Matusz than Miller, who is a unique talent and received lucrative compensation for it in free agency. And a trade of Matusz would provide some breathing room as the Orioles try to figure out how to accommodate so many arms while still competing for the American League East title.

It’s no secret that Matusz has been the subject of trade rumors all winter as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported Wednesday that the Orioles are actively shopping him. The Mets are viewed as a potential suitor, especially in light of lefty reliever Josh Edgin needing Tommy John surgery.

Matusz has pitched well this spring as the Orioles have stretched him out as a starter like they did in the last couple springs, which could create a little more appeal to potential trade partners. In 6 1/3 Grapefruit League innings, Matusz has allowed one earned run and five hits while striking out eight and walking none. Improvement in his changeup has also been noted in several reports.

Would the Orioles be willing to send Matusz and some cash to the Mets in exchange for a low-level prospect and the permanent rights to Verrett in order to option the right-hander to Triple-A Norfolk and keep him in the organization?

Such a move would not only eliminate Verrett from the roster crunch, but it would create a clear opening in the bullpen for Webb or Garcia while keeping a slot open for a true long reliever. It wouldn’t solve all of the Orioles’ roster woes, but the current climate of the bullpen includes plenty of talent with nowhere to go.

Even if the Mets pass, Duquette should do everything he can to find a trade partner for the situational lefty. The Orioles aren’t going to fetch a ransom for Matusz — who never lived up to expectations as a former first-round pick — but they shouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger on any deal that provides even a modest return.

It’s the best move for both short-term roster flexibility and potential long-term gain.

 

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2015 Orioles preview: Alejandro De Aza

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2015 Orioles preview: Alejandro De Aza

Posted on 18 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just less than 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
March 17 – Kevin Gausman

OF Alejandro De Aza

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Under club control through the 2015 season

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

2014 stats: .252/.314/.386, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 56 R, 17 SB, 528 PA

Why to be impressed: The left-handed hitter provided a spark for the Orioles down the stretch after coming over from the White Sox, posting an .877 on-base plus slugging percentage in 89 plate appearances. His speed can be an asset as he’s expected by many to take over the leadoff spot against right-handed pitching and has stolen 79 bases in his career.

Why to be concerned: De Aza’s overall OPS has declined steadily from .920 in 2011 to just .700 last season, and he walked just 39 times a year ago, which isn’t exactly what manager Buck Showalter is looking for at the top of the order. His defense is better at the corner outfield spots than in center, but De Aza has profiled as a below-average defensive player in his career.

2015 outlook: De Aza was a good starting outfielder in 2011 and 2012, but his career path has been declining ever since, making it concerning if the Orioles entrust him with a near-everyday role. He’ll provide some speed and reach double digits in homers, but an OPS in the low .700s, mediocre defense, and struggles against left-handed pitching aren’t qualities you’re looking for in a starting outfielder on a contending club.

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Wieters shut down with elbow tendinitis

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Wieters shut down with elbow tendinitis

Posted on 18 March 2015 by Luke Jones

A day after making his Grapefruit League debut behind the plate, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters has been shut down due to elbow tendinitis.

The three-time All-Star selection will be shut down from catching duties for a week after manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Florida Wednesday that Wieters experienced soreness the morning after his spring debut. No runners attempted to steal against him in Tuesday’s game, but Wieters made a wide throw to first base on a roller in front of the plate in the 10-9 loss.

Tuesday was the nine-month anniversary of his Tommy John surgery.

It’s not unusual to experience tendinitis when building up strength in a surgically-repaired elbow, but this development certainly doesn’t help Wieters’ chances of being ready to catch in the season opener on April 6. Showalter told reporters that Opening Day is not yet off the table, but it would be difficult envisioning the veteran catcher having enough time to strengthen the elbow adequately considering he didn’t respond favorably to only one game behind the plate.

“With all the time we have left, we thought it would be prudent to just try to get ahead of it,” Showalter told media in Florida. “He’s been doing a lot of things on the half field and throwing program. He’s been doing things that he didn’t do when he was healthy. There’s been a lot there. His legs feel great, though. I don’t think it puts anything in jeopardy, but we’ll see.”

Wieters could return to action as a designated hitter as early as Sunday.

Though the possibility of Wieters opening the season as the club’s DH has been discussed throughout the winter, Showalter again told reporters it’s unlikely that the Orioles would keep him on the 25-man roster if he’s not ready to catch. The club would likely choose two catchers among Caleb Joseph, Steve Clevenger, J.P Arencibia, and Ryan Lavarnway if Wieters begins the regular season on the 15-day disabled list.

Serving strictly as a DH before Tuesday, Wieters is hitless in 23 spring at-bats.

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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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