Predicting Orioles Starting Lineup Halfway Through Spring Training
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Throughout MLB, teams have many roster spots locked down with incumbent players. However, spring training is a time for players to try to make their team's cut, and teams to analyze who they think would help them the best.
We're a good bit through spring training at this point, and though there haven't been many cuts, coaches are starting to get a better feel of who they want on their team and who won't be there come Opening Day.
The Baltimore Orioles are fortunate to have one of the most set fielding rosters in terms of players they know will be on it at the start of the regular season, with only a couple of spots on the field up for grabs.
At this point, those spots still seem fairly fluid, with Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla trying to wrestle the starting second baseman spot away from Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold trying to prove he deserves more playing time at DH than Wilson Betemit does.
Trying to predict any team's Opening Day lineup is no simple task, but the Orioles should have one of the more easily predictable ones in the league. Outside of the two above-mentioned spots, the Orioles have their fielding alignment set, barring any injuries. So the hard part is guessing where each player will slot.
Let's take a look at how I think the lineup will look on Opening Day.
1. Nolan Reimold, DH
Reimold will be at the top of the lineup instead of Nate McLouth because the Tampa Bay Rays' assumed starting pitcher, David Price, is a left-handed thrower. Reimold is a right-handed batter while McLouth is a lefty, so it'll give Reimold an edge. Plus, he had some great success in limited time in that spot early on in 2012 before his season-ending injury.
2. J.J. Hardy, SS
Hardy won't spend all season in the two-hole in 2013 like he did in 2012. While Hardy is solid with the lumber, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who wants him to remain in that spot in the batting order. However, his right-handed bat will be there come Opening Day because, again, Price is the opposing pitcher.
3. Nick Markakis, RF
Is there really an explanation needed? Markakis is arguably the team's best all-around hitter. He has a consistently high average, OBP, the ability to read the strike zone and some run-producing ability—and his pop isn't bad either. I believe Markakis will spend much of the season batting No. 2, but when he's not, he'll likely bat third.
4. Adam Jones, CF
Jones was the Orioles' MVP last season, and he's been growing more and more over the past few seasons. He was second on the team in home runs and third in RBI while maintaining a solid batting average and OBP. For the second year in a row, the team will look to him to be its primary run producer.
5. Matt Wieters, C
Wieters was second on the team in RBI in 2012 (one ahead of Jones and two behind Chris Davis). With his growing run-production ability and the fact that he's a switch-hitter, manager Buck Showalter will look to him to be Jones' lineup protection for much of the year, especially against left-handers. Look for Wieters to have a breakout season.
6. Chris Davis, 1B
Davis broke out in a big way last season, leading the O's in homers (33) and RBI (85). The big left-handed hitter will likely spend most of the season batting fifth or sixth, depending on the opposing pitcher and if Wieters is given a day off. However, don't be surprised to see him at the third or fourth spot in the lineup on occasion, especially if he keeps getting better.
7. Manny Machado, 3B
The talented young Machado bats seventh instead of eighth because he's a right-handed hitter he showed strong promise after his late-season call-up in 2012. Showalter is confident in Machado's abilities, and he'll likely remain in the lower part of the lineup for much of the season to keep too much pressure off him—unless he surprises everyone a la Mike Trout.
8. Nate McLouth, LF
McLouth will probably be the leadoff man most of the year, but against tough lefties such as Price, I think he'll be moved down in the lineup in favor of someone like Reimold or Markakis. Not that McLouth is terrible against lefties, but if there's a better option, why not? Still, McLouth can be very productive at the bottom of the lineup, providing some doubles and homers and helping to turn the lineup over.
9. Brian Roberts, 2B
Even if Roberts stays healthy all spring and proves he's still capable, I have a hard time believing that Showalter will want him batting at the top of the lineup right away. Roberts will need to prove he's still a good hitter in regular-season games to earn his management's trust in that department. But just like McLouth, Roberts can be a valuable asset in providing some gap power and turning the lineup over.
SP Jason Hammel
Hammel will get the nod on Opening Day because he was the team's most trusted pitcher in 2012, when he was healthy. He's the best veteran on the squad, but he's not necessarily an ace, so don't be surprised if someone like Chris Tillman or Dylan Bundy takes over that role later in the season.
That's my prediction for the O's Opening Day lineup. If you have any comments/disagreements, I'd love to debate them with you!
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