Baltimore Orioles: Grades for Every Player in May

Alex SnyderContributor IIJune 1, 2013

Baltimore Orioles: Grades for Every Player in May

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    The Baltimore Orioles have held strong in their division the entire season, staying just behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, even with starting pitching woes and bullpen implosions.

    A lot of players are having strong seasons, such as Adam Jones, Nate McLouth and, of course, Chris Davis. If the team can get its pitching together, it could be a very scary opponent for any team.

    Grading and assessing players' performances over a determined time period is part of the life of a sports blogger. May has been quite an interesting month for O's fans as the team has had some very high moments and some that are not so high.

    Let's take a look at how the O's roster has performed over the month of May. I'll only analyze the current 25-man roster and not every player who appeared in a game, since one of the team's favorite pastimes is shuffling players between the majors and minors.

The Lineup

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    Matt Wieters—Catcher: B

    To go along with his always exceptional defense and game-calling, Wieters' bat has shown some signs of life during the month of May with some key hits and RBI. His batting average remains low, but his run-production is there, and with a catcher who is as good defensively as Wieters is, that's all you can ask for.

    Chris Davis—First Base: A+

    Davis won the AL Player of the Month in April, and he's having an even better May, hitting .370 with 10 homers and 22 RBI going into Thursday's action. It would be a safe bet to say he'll add to those numbers before the month closes. He's become arguably the best hitter in the game not named Miguel Cabrera.

    Ryan Flaherty—Second Base: D

    While his bat has been absolutely horrid this season, Flaherty's glove has been fantastic at second base, keeping him from getting an "F" rating. He grabbed two hits in his return to the big league club on Wednesday night, so, hopefully, that's the start of him getting his bat going for the Orioles.

    J.J. Hardy—Shortstop: B-

    Gold Glove defense and serious pop is what Hardy's game revolves around, and he's doing just that. Now that he's batting in the sixth and seventh slots the majority of the time, Hardy has not been relied upon as much to get on base and make things happen, allowing him to drive the ball out of the park and be a run-producer.

    His average is a bit low, but a team will take that when a guy is playing incredible defense and is a run-producer in the lower part of the lineup.

    Manny Machado—Third Base: A+

    The youngster has been everything and more than the team could have hoped for since his call-up in early August of last year. He's currently leading the league in doubles, multi-hit games and keeping pace with Miguel Cabrera atop the hits leaderboard—all while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at a position that wasn't his by trade. Machado is a stud.

    Nate McLouth—Left Field: B

    Some people may be surprised that McLouth is doing so well this season, and others may have expected it. He has become a much-needed spark plug atop the O's batting order and a plus defender in left.

    McLouth did go through a bit of a slump in May, but he broke out of it after about a week. He's been pretty much above average overall in the month of May, deserving of a "B" rating.

    Adam Jones—Center Field: B+

    All season long, Jonesy has been able to keep his average up and drive in runs. But during May, he popped a few more homers than he did in April. He also seems to have his defensive woes figured out, as he had made some bone-headed errors earlier in the season.

    Jones is undoubtedly the team leader, and leading the team is exactly what he's doing.

    Nick Markakis—Right Field: B

    I give Markakis a "B" rating because he's simply doing exactly what the team and fans expect of him: hitting for average, drawing walks and driving in key runs. His pop, like Jones', was more relevant in May than in April, and his defense was as solid as ever.

    Steve Pearce—DH: C

    I think I can speak for everyone when I say that Steve Pearce has done pretty much what everyone expected him to do when he made the team out of spring training. He got off to a slow start in April, but he's since turned it on a little. While Pearce isn't setting the world on fire with his average, he's been known to come up with a key home run here and there.

    He isn't the type of bench player teams would drool over, but he's done his job and it's hard to really complain about him.

The Bench

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    Alexi Casilla—Utility Infield: C-

    In this writer's humble opinion, Casilla doesn't get enough playing time. But then again, his bat doesn't exactly make a case for his name to be on the lineup card. While his glove is above-average and he can run the bases well, his ability with the stick leaves a lot to be desired.

    Still, we all knew that Casilla was that kind of player when the O's acquired him, so he isn't really doing anything wrong. Overall, he's done an acceptable job in his role. 

    Chris Dickerson—Outfield: A+

    I was ready to give Dickerson an "A+" rating even before Friday night's game, but he really ensured it for himself with that walk-off three-run blast against the Detroit Tigers (obviously, he was really concerned with the rating I'd give him and wanted to make sure it was what it is).

    Dickerson has been a nice surprise for the O's this season. He's been an exceptional bat off the bench for the team, as he can spell the outfield regulars at all three positions and take a few at-bats at DH as well, where most of his damage has come. 

    Danny Valencia—Utility Infield/DH: B-

    Valencia's average leaves a lot to be desired, as it sits at only .227. But he's hit two doubles, two homers and driven in five RBI in just 22 ABs over six games. The ball has jumped off his bat pretty good since his call-up in the later half of May, and he has proven to be a solid option at DH against left-handed pitching. 

    Chris Snyder—Catcher: B

    The O's acquired Snyder after Taylor Teagarden went down with an injury in May. He has done nearly everything the team could hope for from a backup catcher.

    His defensive play has been great, but he's batting only .143 over 14 ABs in five games. Still, any offense you get from your backup catcher is extra, as his main focus is providing above-average defense—and Snyder has done just that upon his arrival to the club.

The Starting Rotation

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    Jason Hammel: C

    Hammel has had trouble all season with finding the ability that made him pretty dominant in 2012. However, he had a couple of nice starts in the month of May, including his eight innings of two-run ball in Washington. The O's need Hammel to get himself right. 

    Miguel Gonzalez: C

    Gonzalez has been a solid enough pitcher for the O's all season, and he's performed pretty much the same in each of the first two months of the year. He's a very nice back-of-the-rotation option for any team, and as long as the O's don't rely too heavily on fantastic starts from him, both parties will be fine. 

    Chris Tillman: B-

    After starting May with a string of nice starts, Tillman ended it with a pretty bad one, giving up six runs in just 4.2 innings against the Nationals, including surrendering three homers to Ryan Zimmerman. Luckily for him, the team rallied back to win the ballgame, but I'm sure he wasn't pleased with himself at the end of the day.

    For the most part, Tillman has been one of the O's better starters this season, but that isn't saying much. He isn't doing poorly, but he could certainly do better. Let's see if he can get back to what he was doing in the first half of May. 

    Freddy Garcia: C-

    Garcia has really had just two good starts with the team since his call-up, but nobody should realistically expected him to dominate lineups every time out. He's done his job, and that is providing rotation depth.

    A "C-" rating may seem a bit high for him, but one has to look at his performances knowing that he's not supposed to be all that great to begin with.

    Kevin Gausman: D-

    Statistically, Gausman deserves an "F" rating. But considering that the young prospect has just two major league starts, I feel like it wouldn't be fair to give him said rating. He's young and inexperienced, and while his starts haven't been fantastic, he has shown the ability to get major league hitters out with a high-90s fastball and nasty changeup.

    I'm not worried about Gausman; growing pains are natural for players his age. We're all just spoiled by Machado.

The Bullpen

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    Brian Matusz: B

    The lefty Matusz has turned into quite the nice bullpen arm for manager Buck Showalter. It's funny how, even though Matusz struggled as a starter, he's doing the same thing but in a different role and having so much success. But hey, I'm not complaining.

    Matusz lowered his ERA down below three in May, and I don't see any reason why he can't keep it up.

    Steve Johnson: C-

    To my surprise, Johnson got off to a rough start in 2013. But he has since calmed down and shown the ability he displayed during the 2012 season. If he can keep it up, he might force his way back into the starting rotation, especially given the rotation's struggles thus far.

    T.J. McFarland: B

    McFarland had been able to maintain an ERA of around three all month. His success is a nice surprise for the team, as the bullpen has struggled to put up the kinds of numbers it did last season. Like Johnson, McFarland could find himself in talks to join the struggling rotation should he keep up his success out of the 'pen.

    Tommy Hunter: A

    Outside of the home run ball, Hunter has been fantastic this season. Over his last 10 games, covering much of May, he's pitched to a 1.65 ERA in 16.1 innings. He's been used in both long relief and late-inning set up. Hunter has arguably been the team's most reliable reliever this year.

    Troy Patton: D-

    On the opposite side of the spectrum (and pitching arm), Patton saw his ERA climb in the month of May, from as low as 2.92 all the way up to its current 5.01. The O's would really appreciate Patton finding himself, as he was a key late-inning arm for the Birds last season.

    Darren O'Day: A

    During May, O'Day pitched how he did in April. And last October. And last September. And...well, you get the idea. The submarine pitcher has been the model of late-inning bullpen consistency since he joined the Orioles prior to the 2012 season, and the team really couldn't ask for more from him.

    Jim Johnson: D-

    What happened to J.J.? Everyone Oriole fan has wondered the same thing, as Johnson had a bit of a meltdown in the latter half of the month, where he blew three straight saves and four out of five.

    With those four blown saves, he has already blown more saves this year than he did in all of 2012, when he saved 51 games in 54 chances. Johnson has, however, converted his last two save opportunities.

    All of Birdland hopes that he has found his groove again, because he has become one of the best relievers in the game. Every successful player experiences blips in his career, and Johnson is hoping that that's all that stretch of games was.


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