5 Baltimore Orioles Destined for a Breakout in the Second Half
As of right now, the Baltimore Orioles are falling, and falling fast.
While they haven't moved in the standings, they've been continuing to increase the distance between them and the first-place New York Yankees. And after last night's horrible loss, the O's lost their wild-card spot for the time being.
The rapid fall of the Birds can be attributed to, in part, the offense. Frankly, the offense has just been offensive over the last few weeks. Guys aren't hitting, guys aren't getting on base, guys aren't showing the same pop they did earlier in the season. Basically, guys are striking out.
Still, the offense isn't as much of a worry as the defense, the starting pitching or the overworking of the bullpen. But I digress...
Because of all the slumping, there are some players who are bound to break out in the second half of the season—and break out big.
Want to know who is a likely candidate to do that? Keep on reading.
Nick Markakis: Right Field
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Nick Markakis was hitting pretty well before he went down with a wrist injury and went on the DL for the first time in his career. He looked as though he was going to have something of a rebound year power-wise.
That's why I believe he'll have a big second half. He was going good before the injury, came back for the first game after the All-Star break and didn't miss a beat.
He's got seven hits in 19 at-bats covering four games, and the interesting thing is they've all come in the leadoff spot. Those seven hits have raised his batting average ten points since his return—up to .266.
He seems to be taking to that place in the lineup well which is a great thing for the O's to see, considering no one knows when second baseman Brian Roberts will return.
I've been clamoring for his insertion into the leadoff spot ever since Roberts went down with an injury. But I digress...
Markakis will be his usual force in the lineup; and if his 20-homer power doesn't return for the third straight season, he'll at least get plenty of hits and slap doubles left and right.
Adam Jones: Center Field
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After tearing the league up in the first couple months of the season, Adam Jones has cooled down considerably.
That's why I think he'll have another breakout in the second half of this season. He's due.
Reaching 35 homers is certainly not out of the question for Jones this year—he had 20 by the halfway point in the season. But he'll have to heat up again in order to bash 15 long balls with just under half the season to go.
I think he can do it, and I'm also optimistic about him reaching around 90 RBI. That is, as long as the guys hitting in front of him can get on base.
J.J. Hardy: Shortstop
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Defensive wizard J.J. Hardy had a pretty poor offensive first half. His power was there, but his average, OBP and RBI were not.
Part of that could have been due to the fact that he missed having Nick Markakis hitting behind him, but who really knows for sure.
All I know is that Hardy had a great second half last season, and I expect him to do the same this year.
Hardy is not a bad hitter, by any means. But he's also not a conventional number-two hitter. He isn't much of an OBP guy. He'd probably be better served batting sixth or seventh for the O's, but then again, who else can bat in the two-hole?
Hardy's average will come up, especially with the likes of Jim Thome, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and possibly Markakis hitting behind him. And I expect him to reach at least 20 dingers.
Mark Reynolds: First Base/ Third Base/ DH
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Mark Reynolds has had an absolutely putrid year so far. But he's starting to get hot; and with consistent playing time, his power numbers should return.
Granted, his defense is horrible, and there's really no place to put him now that Jim Thome is the full-time DH for the team.
But if he finds his way into the lineup on a daily basis, I expect him to start being a run producer once again. His track record is too consistent for it not to happen, as is his ability to hit the ball far.
Once Reynolds finds his groove, he'll once again have a successful power season.
He just won't be very successful in any other facet of the game.
But hey, he does get on base—best on the team at it.
Matt Wieters: Catcher
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The Orioles' catcher didn't have a bad first half in terms of offense, but he definitely slowed down some after starting the year white-hot.
He usually has a pretty good stretch late in the year, so expect Matt Wieters to turn it on come August and September.
He should reach 20 homers for the second consecutive year and maintain a .250-.260 batting average while knocking in anywhere from 60-80 runs—not bad at all for a catcher.
Another solid season from the team's backstop certainly seems to be in line.