2013 MLB Season: Previewing the Baltimore Orioles Opening Day Lineup
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The Baltimore Orioles brought a powerful lineup into the 2012 season. Baltimore was second in the MLB in home runs and 12th in RBI. While the power numbers looked good for the Orioles, the more efficient numbers such as average and on-base percentage were down for the Birds.
Baltimore ranked 20th in the majors in batting average and 23rd in on-base percentage, while also striking out 1,315 times, good for sixth most in the league.
Let's take a look at Baltimore's Opening Day lineup, and see what we can expect from the Orioles' bats heading into this season.
1. Nick Markakis (Right Field)
Baltimore Orioles' right fielder Nick Markakis seems to have found himself a new role as the Orioles' leadoff hitter.
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2013 Predictions: .301/13/60
Nick Markakis' 2012 season ended with the seven-year veteran on the disabled list with a broken thumb suffered in early September.
Markakis found himself moved into the leadoff spot in July, following the season-ending injury of second baseman Brian Roberts. The experiment paid off for Buck Showalter, as Markakis was one of the most efficient leadoff hitters in the game when he was healthy.
Upon entering the leadoff role, Markakis hit .335 with a .390 on-base percentage over a 54-game span for the Birds. While Markakis has never been much of a speed guy, stealing only one base all of last season, there is still something to be said for his ability to get on base consistently.
In the outfield, Markakis proves to be just as efficient. Having won a Gold Glove in 2011, Markakis has a career .992 fielding percentage and currently ranks third among active right fielders in outfield assists with 77.
It's worth noting that Markakis was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his neck earlier this spring training, so the Orioles may have to monitor that injury early on, but he appears to have made a fine recovery from his broken thumb.
There is no reason to think that Markakis will struggle this season with the Orioles when healthy. A lifetime .295 hitter and a top right fielder in the league, look for another strong outing in 2013 from Nick Markakis.
2. Manny Machado (Third Base)
Orioles' third baseman Manny Machado looks to play a larger role in 2013.
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2013 Predictions: .268/20/70
One of the most surprising moves the Orioles made in 2012 was the decision to bring up 20-year-old shortstop prospect Manny Machado...to play third base.
With the AL East race still a tight one between the Orioles and Yankees, Baltimore saw calling up of Machado as a way to provide a much-needed spark for the organization.
Looking at Machado's offensive numbers, you won't find anything impressive over the first 51 games of his career. At the plate, Machado looked every bit the rookie he was, but for a team that struggled all season at the third-base position, Machado's rookie numbers sufficed for the Orioles.
In a move that ESPN writer David Schoenfield called the "best move of the year," Machado's call up affected the Orioles' push for the postseason in a way that goes beyond batting averages and fielding percentages, although Machado did hold his own at the hot corner last season.
Following the call up of Machado, the Orioles closed out the season with a 33-18 record. Sure, you can't attribute the Orioles remarkable late season push just to Machado, but at the very least he gave a nice preview of what the Orioles could be getting out of the youngster in his first full big league season.
Machado couldn't have started off his career any better. Machado came to the Orioles and immediately posted a four-game hit streak in which he hit .375 with three homers and seven RBI. In that four-game span Machado had more extra base hits (five) than he did singles (one).
Machado eventually leveled off and finished the regular season with a .262 average, seven home runs and 26 RBI, but has left the Orioles' front office and fans alike excited for the 2013 season.
Machado isn't going to garner the attention that Mike Trout or Bryce Harper do early on in his career, but with a little bit of experience, he could very well be a highly talked-about player for years to come.
3. Adam Jones (Center Field)
Orioles' center fielder Adam Jones was second on the team in home runs (32) and third in RBI (82) in 2012.
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2013 Predictions: .290/34/91
Last season, the Orioles decided to build their franchise around 27-year-old center fielder Adam Jones, inking him to a six-year, $85.5 million contract last May. Considering Jones' ever increasing numbers since first joining the Orioles in 2008, the signing of Adam Jones looks to be money well spent.
Jones saw new career highs in home runs (32), batting average (.287), and on-base percentage (.334) for the Orioles last season, and was just one RBI shy of tying his career best of 83 in a season.
While the Orioles are not one of the most mobile teams in the league, Jones also managed to swipe a team-high 16 bases for Buck Showalter and the Birds.
Jones has played in 119 or more games for the Orioles in his five seasons with the team, including his first 162-game season of his career, proving to be one of the more durable players on the Orioles' roster.
Jones also earned his second All-Star Game appearance of his career along with his second Gold Glove award, both previously won in 2009. While he remained a long shot for this next accolade, it is still worth noting that Jones also finished sixth in the AL MVP race during the 2012 campaign.
With his numbers continuously increasing over the last few seasons, and his ever-growing experience at the plate, Adam Jones will hopefully continue his climb up the statistical ladder in 2013.
4. Matt Wieters (Catcher)
Catcher Matt Wieters will likely be filling the Orioles' clean-up role this coming season.
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2013 Predictions: .259/25/85
Matt Wieters has truly come into his own over his last two seasons for the Orioles. No, he is not quite the hitter scouts and fans thought he would be coming out of the draft, but his bat still makes for another great weapon in the Orioles' lineup.
Wieters hit a career-low .249 last season, but saw highs in home runs (23) and RBI (83). Unfortunately for Wieters, another stat that he also saw a career high in was strikeouts, striking out 112 times last season, a significant increase from the 84 times he struck out in 2011.
While Wieters still has some maturing to do at the plate, the now fifth-year pro has already found himself at an elite level defensively.
Wieters won his second consecutive Gold Glove this year, and was also named to his second consecutive All-Star Game. Wieters finished second in the American League in players caught stealing (32) and threw out 39 percent of those attempting to steal on him.
Another area of his game where Wieters greatly improved is his pitch calling behind the plate. While a pitcher is ultimately responsible for what goes on, on the mound, a young pitching staff such as the Orioles' could rely heavily on the catcher to help them get through a game.
Orioles' pitchers had an ERA of 3.79 with Wieters behind the plate, a nice improvement from 2011 when pitchers' ERA was 4.52 when pitching to Wieters.
Wieters has the ability to help his team out in every aspect of the defensive game. With a slight increase in his batting average and a decrease in his strikeout numbers, Wieters could establish himself as the total package at catcher.
5. Chris Davis (First Base)
Orioles' first baseman Chris Davis led the team in home runs (33) and RBI (85).
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2013 Predictions: .268/34/87
Chris Davis seems to have finally found a permanent home in Baltimore. Though he is not a well-traveled player, having only played for the Texas Rangers prior to coming to Baltimore, there was doubt that Chris Davis was ever going to be a full-time major league player.
The Orioles traded relief pitcher Koji Uehara in 2011 to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitcher Tommy Hunter and first baseman Chris Davis. Davis played in 31 games for the Orioles following the trade, hitting .276 and driving in 13 runs.
The following season, manager Buck Showalter gave Davis the opportunity to start, and in 2012, Davis delivered.
From 2008 to 2011, Davis hit just .252 with 44 career home runs and 137 RBI in 297 career games. With a noticeable talent for the long ball, it was Davis' lack of consistency that had some questioning his ability.
In 2012, Davis nearly doubled his career numbers. With a career-high 33 home runs and 85 RBI, Davis showed his worth. Add to his numbers a .270 average on the season and 139 games played, Davis has established himself as an everyday first baseman in Baltimore.
Davis also filled in at various spots defensively for the Orioles last season. Davis played in 38 games at first base for the Orioles, 30 games in right field, 11 in left field and even had a surprise pitching appearance in an epic 18-inning showdown with the Red Sox last season...which he won.
A talented player both in the field and at the plate, Chris Davis will supply the Orioles with a nice surge of power at the bottom half of the lineup.
6. J.J. Hardy (Shortstop)
Despite struggling at the plate last season, J.J. Hardy managed to win the first Gold Glove of his career in 2012.
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2013 Predictions: .268/23/76
The first thing most Orioles' fans would tell you about J.J. Hardy's performance last season is that he struggled offensively, and they would be absolutely correct.
While Hardy's run-production numbers remained relatively similar to those in years past, 30 doubles, 22 home runs, and 68 RBI, his batting average dropped to .238, which is 31 points lower than his 2011 average of .269.
Hardy also struck out 14 more times in 2012 than he did in 2011, which is likely due to the fact that he played in 29 more games. So what is to blame for Hardy's drop off in offensive production last season?
Plain and simple, Hardy just wasn't able to hit the ball to open spots in the field. Hardy actually had his third highest balls in-play percentage of his eight-year career, putting the ball in play 75 percent of the time.
Where J.J. Hardy didn't struggle was defensively. Hardy won his first career Gold Glove and finished the season with career highs in putouts (244), assists (529), and fielding percentage (.992).
Orioles' fans, don't panic yet on J.J. Hardy and think he is in a decline. The 30-year-old shortstop shows plenty of range in the field and may have just seen some bad luck at the plate. He still has a great knack for putting the ball in play and hitting the long ball.
Expect a bounce-back season for the Orioles' shortstop in 2013.
7. Nolan Reimold (Left Field)
Nolan Reimold suffered yet another injury-plagued season for the Orioles in 2013.
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2013 Projections: .273/21/62
Nolan Reimold has been a player who, for the last few years, excites fans coming into the season, and by the end of the season has fans shaking their heads at yet another injury-plagued year.
Reimold broke onto the scene in 2009, playing mostly in left field for the Orioles. There has been a lot of hype built around Reimold and how productive he could be for Baltimore when healthy.
Last season Reimold lived up to the spring training hype, playing in 16 games for the Orioles, hitting .313 with five home runs and 10 RBI. April 30, however, would prove to be Reimold's last game for the 2012 campaign after suffering a season-ending neck injury which resulted in a surgery to remove a bulging disk from his neck.
Reimold appeared to be well on his way to the best year of his young career before going down with his injury. A lifetime .261 hitter with 36 home runs and 114 RBI for his career, Reimold could be in need of a highly productive, non-injury plagued season if he wants to continue his career with the Orioles.
Although Reimold will be playing left field on Opening Day for the Orioles, expect Nate McLouth to also see a lot of time out in left. Designated hitter will likely serve Reimold a little bit better due to his injury history.
If the brief glimpse we had of him last season is any indication, than the Orioles will greatly benefit with Reimold's bat in the lineup.
8. Steve Pearce (Designated Hitter)
Steve Pearce rejoins the Orioles for the 2013 season after a brief stint with them in 2012.
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2013 Predictions: .255/11/36
Pearce is a six-year veteran of the league and has played for four different franchises. While that is not surprising to see for a player of Pearce's caliber, what is surprising is the teams he played for last year.
Pearce spent time with the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles last season before ultimately ending his season with the Yankees.
Of the three teams he played for last season, Pearce had the most success with the Orioles. Playing in 28 games for the Birds, Pearce hit .254 with three home runs and 14 RBI to go with a .321 on-base percentage.
In late November, the Orioles decided to bring Pearce back for the 2013 season and give him a chance to compete for an Opening Day roster spot. Pearce impressed this spring, hitting .321 with seven homers and 18 RBI in 26 games with the Orioles, beating out Conor Jackson for the final roster spot.
If necessary, Pearce can also contribute for the Orioles in the outfield. Pearce started a total of 21 games in the outfield for the Orioles last season, playing 15 games in left field and six games in right field.
Pearce will likely serve as a left-handed specialist for the Orioles' lineup early on, with all four of his home runs coming off of left handed pitchers last season.
Given the likelihood of him being a situational hitter for the Birds, Pearce will not put up the most productive numbers. That being said, for an Orioles' team that struggled with at the DH position last season, Pearce could prove to be a serviceable player.
9. Brian Roberts (Second Base)
Orioles' second baseman Brian Roberts hopes to turn in his first healthy season in almost two years.
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2013 Predictions: .263/4/42
For Orioles' fans who hadn't heard the news yet, you were likely reading through this slideshow wondering if you were going to see Brian Roberts anywhere on here. Well the answer is in fact yes, Brian Roberts appears to be healthy and ready to return for the 2013 season.
The longest tenured Oriole on the roster, Roberts has struggled to stay healthy since 2010, after incurring multiple concussions and a torn labrum upon returning to the field in 2012. Roberts opted for season-ending surgery on the labrum and left many fans in doubt as to whether the 35-year-old would be back for his 13th season with the Orioles.
Due to make $10 million this season, Roberts, for obvious reasons is a high-risk, high-reward player for Baltimore. The lifetime Oriole has a .280 career average and is a two-time All-Star, but his age and lack of playing time over the last three seasons leaves many to wonder what he is capable of when healthy.
Roberts has been a leadoff hitter for the Orioles for the majority of his career, but given his extended absence from the game, manager Buck Showalter has chosen to start Roberts off ninth in the lineup with the opportunity to move up given his production.
If spring training is any indication, than Roberts will be back to his old self. Roberts hit .310 this spring for the Orioles, managing three extra-base hits and three stolen bases. However, spring training is not always the best indication of what a player will do in the regular season.
In regards to defense, Roberts appears to have not lost a step defensively, posting a perfect fielding percentage this spring in 112 innings of defensive work.
While I don't expect Roberts to resemble his old self, I am expecting, or at least optimistically hoping that he will bounce back and prove to be a contributing factor once again for the Baltimore Orioles.