With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.
RP Donnie Hart
Opening Day age: 26
Contract status: Under club control through the 2022 season
2016 stats: 0-0, 0 saves, 0.49 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1 HR, 18 1/3 IP
Why to be impressed: Despite never pitching above Double-A Bowie, Hart stepped into the lefty specialist role in the second half of 2016, holding left-handed bats to a .132 average and .348 on-base plus slugging percentage in 44 plate appearances. The sidearm lefty also had the third-highest ground-ball rate on the club, an encouraging quality with such a good defensive infield behind him.
Why to be concerned: Hart’s strikeout rate is concerning with him projected to be in the kind of role that often involves entering the game with runners on base. It also remains to be seen how Hart will respond to times of adversity with such a small body of work at the major league level and the Orioles not having a clear-cut option that’s next in line to be their lefty specialist.
2017 outlook: A good first half of the spring and his unorthodox delivery make Hart a good bet to be able to serve a useful purpose in the bullpen for 2017. Right-handers only managed one extra-base hit against Hart in 27 plate appearances last year, but it remains to be seen whether he can consistently defend himself against right-handed bats, which will be key to his hopes of sticking for the long haul.
2017 not-so-scientific projections: 2-3, 0 saves, 3.32 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 5 HR, 49 IP