It isn’t at all difficult to discern what the Baltimore Orioles need in order to become successful in 2014. They need a healthy Manny Machado, the offense to continue to come through like it has in the last couple of years, and for their pitching to jump from one of the more inconsistent units in the league to a staff at is middle-of-the-road, at the very least. When it’s all said and done, this team will be a threat, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact they may actually have on the American League East title race. Who might be the guys that could put them over the top?
This one falls under the description of pretty obvious. The Baltimore Orioles sported a starting staff that was bottom ten in the league last year overall. They were reluctant to spend big on pitching, especially if it meant surrendering a draft pick. Eventually they folded and threw four years and $48 million at Ubaldo Jimenez, who almost immediately becomes the de facto ace of their squad, though Chris Tillman will get the ball on Opening Day.
Jimenez represents a high-risk, high-reward type. He’s coming off of a terrific season with the Cleveland Indians, but his 2012 season prior to last year was an absolute disaster. Playing with the defense he has behind him, though, should lead to some more of what we saw last year, as should be the case with almost anyone that takes the mound in front of this team.
The first thing the Baltimore Orioles need is for Manny Machado to be healthy. He’s going to start the season on the 15-day disabled list after that brutal and gruesome leg injury at the tail end of last year. His rehab has been progressing well, to the point where he was actually almost a month ahead of schedule earlier in the winter. The O’s need him to come back relatively quickly, and return to the form he’s flashed early on in his career.
There’s no question of what he can do with the glove. He’s already perhaps the best young defender in baseball not named Andrelton Simmons, and took home the Platinum Glove award last season. His offense leaves some to be desired, but he’s shown some upside at the plate and should continue to improve. If he can take the next step with the stick, he’ll solidify himself as the face of the franchise.
Chris Davis really has been something in his time in Baltimore. There’s a question here as to whether or not he’s reached his peak, though, or if he could continue to improve. He’s hit 86 home runs in the last two years, with 53 of those coming in 2013. Perhaps just as impressive as his power numbers is the fact that he got on base at a .370 clip, which was the highest rate of his career by miles. His defense also isn’t too bad over at first either, which helped him reach that 6.8 fWAR mark last year.
If Davis can duplicate that performance from last season, he’s going to put the Orioles in quite a difficult spot financially as they try to afford to keep him around, but he’s also the key factor in the Orioles continuing to be as big of an offensive threat as they are. Another season like last year, and he’ll help Baltimore to be that much more fearsome of an offensive team for opposing pitchers to face.
Last year was not kind to Nick Markakis. His offensive numbers dipped pretty significantly, and his questionable defense led to him actually falling just barely on the negative side of fWAR. His batting average fell from .298 the previous year, to just .271 in 2013, with him getting on base at .329, almost 40 points below his OBP in 2012. Whatever 20 homer power he demonstrated early in his career is gone, and now he appears to be good for only 10-15 in a given year. Nonetheless, he’s a key piece for this Orioles team and a consistent year could make a big difference for Baltimore, continuing to overcompensate for their lack of pitching.