Although the winter has just begun and there still is plenty of time left for the Baltimore Orioles to make a couple of key trades before pitchers arrive to camp in mid-February, it’s time to begin predicting their starting lineup for next season.
Last season, although the Birds were expected to finish at the cellar of the American League East and another losing season, they surprised everyone and finished with a 93-69 record.
Not to mention, they advanced to the ALDS and forced a fifth game, which was a feat in itself; no one expected them to even make the ALDS after having to play the Rangers in a one-game Wild Card playoff.
Brian Roberts is healthy and will most likely be back in the starting lineup for the first time since 2010, but will not be at the top of the order as he was accustomed over the last decade or so.
Next season’s lineup will look very similar to the 2012 lineup with a couple of exceptions.
Check out my prediction for the 2013 Baltimore Orioles batting order.
As was the case towards the end of last season, Nate McLouth, who signed a one-year contract with the Orioles earlier this offseason, will return at the top of the order. The Birds acquired the 31-year-old left fielder from the Pirates in August.
The left-hander hit .241 with seven home runs and 20 RBI on the year. However, he struggled with the Pirates before being let go in mid-May. With the Birds, in 209 at-bats, he delivered 56 base hits (.268 batting average), all seven long shots and 18 of his 20 RBI.
At the top of the order, he hit .263 (26-for-99) with five round-trippers, six RBI and 15 runs scored.
In September, he batted .298 and was one of the major sparks in the offense over the last stretch of the season. After his acquisition, he fired up the Birds and definitely was a major influence on the rest of the order.
In his career, he is a .248 hitter with 88 homeruns and 290 RBI over seven years in the big leagues. He’s spent most of his career in the National League, playing two stints with both the Pirates and the Braves.
The second spot in the order will most likely be filled with Gold Glover winner J.J. Hardy, who spent most of his time last year in that spot. Although he struggled for most of the season, he played superb defense and could always be counted on to play the game hard.
He finished the year batting .238 with 22 long balls and 68 RBI in 663 at-bats. In his second year with the Birds, 158 base hits, including 30 doubles, two triples and he scored 85 runs.
In his first year with the squad in 2011, he broke out and smashed a career-high 30 home runs and drove in 80 RBI while batting at a .269 clip. Although he was not able to repeat those results last year, Orioles’ fans are hoping he can rebound next season and put up at least 25 long balls and 75 RBI.
Out of the second position, he compiled 631 at-bats and recorded 149 base hits, including 20 of his bombs, 63 RBI and 27 of his doubles. The year before, he batted up and down the order and spent most of his time out of the leadoff spot in the absence of Roberts.
In his career, the 30-year-old is a career .259 hitter with 133 home runs and 451 RBI over his eight seasons. He spent the first five years in the National League with the Brewers, but after being traded to the Twins in 2010, he’s spent the last three years in the AL.
He will most likely bat out of the second position for most of the season.
After suffering a broken hand in early September against the Yankees and missing the first postseason the Orioles played in since he broke into the majors in ’06, the 29-year-old Nick Markakis will be back at the start of the season.
Although he filled in for Roberts at the top of the order for more than half of his at-bats last season, after McLouth took over and finished so strong, he will most likely move back to his more comfortable third position in the order.
Last season, the New Yorker hit .298 with 13 home runs and 58 RBI in 420 at-bats; he compiled 125 base hits, including 28 doubles, three triples and scored 59 runs before landing on the DL on Sept. 8.
In the third position last year, he batted .256 (51-for-199) with eight round-trippers, 26 RBI, 13 doubles and 25 runs scored. Out of the leadoff spot, he batted .335 (74-for-221) with five home runs, 28 RBI, 15 doubles and 34 runs scored.
Now you might be wondering why he won’t be at the top of the order with numbers like those. Well, last season was the first season he spent that much time at the top of the order. He is not a prototypical leadoff hitter. He has more power and less speed that the typical leadoff batter.
Of course, if the Birds need someone to fill in, he would be a great option, but I think he is better suited out of the third or even second spot in the order.
In his six-year career with the Birds, the left-hander is a .295 hitter with 117 bombs, 549 RBI, 1,198 base hits and 265 doubles. He has been the rock of the Orioles since his debut in 2006, and hopefully will get a shot at the postseason next year.
There’s no question who will occupy the clean-up position for the Birds…Adam Jones, the 27-year-old right-handed batter who the Birds acquired from the Mariners in 2008. The center fielder has grown and improved every season since making his home in Baltimore.
Last season, he posted career-highs in home runs (32), average (.287), hits (186), doubles (39), runs scored (103), at-bats (648) and stolen bases (16). The only major category he did not set a career-high in was RBI and he finished just one short of the year before (82 in ’12 and 83 in ’11).
He spent most of his time hitting out of the fourth spot in the order last year. He went 154-for-530 (.291) and jolted 28 long balls, 78 RBI, 32 doubles and scored 86 runs out of the clean-up position.
The only other position he batted was third; there, in 118 at-bats, he delivered 32 base hits (.271 average), with four bombs, nine RBI and 17 runs scored. There is no doubt he is a better clean-up hitter and he will be in that spot for years to come.
In his seven years in the majors, he is a career .278 batter with 107 home runs and 373 RBI.
The fifth spot can be debated, but I think it will go to one of the building blocks in the Orioles’ organization, Matt Wieters. Last year, he was one of the three Birds to win a Gold Glove for his work behind the plate.
Not only was he awarded the top defensive award in the AL, but he posted career-high power numbers, including 23 home runs and 83 RBI. His previous career-highs were 22 round-trippers and 68 RBI the year before.
Last season, the left-handed catcher spent time up and down the order, batting at least twice in each spot in the order from third to ninth. Although, he spent most of his time batting in the fifth position.
Of his 526 at-bats, the switch-hitting 26-year-old went 88-for-388, with 18 long balls, 59 RBI and 17 doubles behind Jones in the fifth spot. Although he batted .361 out of the clean-up spot, he showed more power hitting out of the fifth spot; he collected three home runs and 14 RBI in 98 at-bats in the fourth position.
In his short four-year career with the Orioles, the South Carolina native is a .260 batter with 65 bombs and 249 RBI. As he grows and gains more experience at the major league level, there is no doubt he will become a better hitter and his numbers will only go up.
There has been debate this entire offseason and there will continue to over the course of the winter on whether or not Chris Davis will be the Orioles’ everyday first baseman. Last season, he spent the majority of his time as the designated hitter (he can also play the outfield).
Duquette and the Orioles have made it clear they are in the market for a big name, slugging first baseman, but as of now, they have not been able to land anyone. So, if opening day was tomorrow, Davis will be penciled in as the first baseman.
Last season, the 26-year-old led the Birds with 33 home runs and 85 RBI, and really sparked the offense over the last month of the season. He smashed 10 long balls in September and October, and carried the Birds into the postseason.
He spent most of his time batting out of the sixth spot. However, like Wieters, he moved throughout the order regularly. Out of the sixth spot, he went 52-for-152 (.342) with 13 long shots and 31 RBI. By far, that was his most productive spot in the order.
In the future, he might be a fourth or fifth spot hitter, but he is still young and learning. He strikes out too much at this point in his career.
Over his five-year career, the former Ranger is a .258 hitter with 77 home runs and 222 RBI.
Although Wilson Betemit spent some time on the DL last season and did not post the most impressive numbers, I think the Birds will go with him as the designated hitter (as long as they do not sign a first baseman—if they do, Davis will be the DH).
Last season with the Birds, the switch-hitter batted .261 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI over just 341 at-bats. He collected 89 base-hits, including 19 doubles and 41 runs scored.
When he was in the order, he produced and if given a chance, I think he can post some impressive numbers.
Betemit has spent time with seven different teams over 10 years in the majors, in both the AL and NL. He is a career .268 batter with 75 round-trippers and 283 RBI.
I think he will share time with both Davis and Nolan Reimold out of the DH position. There’s no doubt McLouth will start the season in left field. After suffering a neck injury, it’s not clear exactly how Reimold is health-wise.
The 20-year-old phenom Manny Machado will most likely be batting towards the bottom of the order, not because he is a bad hitter, but he is young and inexperienced. It’s easier for him to learn with less pressure on him. Plus, he is faster and has the ability to get on base and steal some bases for the top of the order.
Last season, Machado debuted with a bang as he smashed three home runs and drove in seven RBI over his first week. Not to mention, he was named the AL player of the week for his first week’s success.
Over the course of the rest of the season, he finished batting .262 with seven long balls and 26 RBI. Although he cooled off towards the end of the year, like I said, he is learning and needs time to acclimate to the majors.
He spent time batting out of the last four positions in the order, but spent most of his time batting in the eighth spot. Of his 191 at-bats, he collected 73 out of the eighth spot. He batted .315 (23-for-73) with three home runs and 11 RBI in that spot.
Like Wieters, Markakis and Jones, Machado is one of the building blocks in the Orioles’ organization and should continue to grow and improve next season.
The last spot in the order can be debated as well. Maybe Machado will hit out of the last spot and McLouth out of the eighth spot. So, who would that leave as the leadoff hitter? Why of course, Brian Roberts.
However, I think it’s more likely that Roberts will begin the season as the ninth place hitter, only because he has not been in the order on a regular basis since the beginning of the 2010 season.
Last season, Roberts only compiled 66 at-bats, all of which were out of the leadoff position. He batted .182 (12-for-66) with no home runs and five RBI in limited action.
In his 12 years in the majors, all with the Orioles, he is a .280 hitter 84 home runs and 482 RBI. Known for his speed, he’s swiped 275 bases and drilled 339 doubles. He holds the Orioles record for doubles in a season and the AL record for doubles by a switch hitter.
In his career, he has only batted out of the ninth position in the order 25 times. Over those at-bats, he collected five base hits. Over the eight seasons, he only made four stops at the last spot in the order.
I think he will start at the bottom of the order just to get his bearings back, and to see whether or not McLouth will be able to hack it an entire season at the top of the order.
Of course, no one can predict the order. The main positions (Markakis, Jones, Wieters and Davis) are most likely correct. But, there’s no telling. It’s all up to Showalter and how the team performs in Spring Training.
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