Baltimore Orioles' Position-by-Position Breakdown at 2015 Spring Training

Mark Cover@MCooveContributor IIFebruary 27, 2015

Baltimore Orioles' Position-by-Position Breakdown at 2015 Spring Training

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Pitchers and catchers reported last week to their respective clubs for spring training, and now the full squads have shown up ready to get back into playing shape.

    The Baltimore Orioles will be looking to get right back into things, as they will be looking to defend their AL East division crown from last season and will be striving to be serious contenders once again in a much improved American League.

    Across the board, there is a lot of talent in the Orioles' organization including those in the minor leagues. Several starting pitchers and hitting prospects will be looking to impress manager Buck Showalter and company in hopes of earning one of the final spots on Baltimore's 25-man roster.

    Nearly all starting positions have clear-cut locks as to who should be starting, but there are still a few spots here and there that are up for grabs.

    What follows is a position-by-position breakdown for the Baltimore Orioles at 2015 spring training.

Catcher

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Baltimore's superstar catcher Matt Wieters enters his seventh professional season with the Orioles and also a contract year, which could yield a huge payday if Wieters were to build off of his impressive start to last season.

    If Wieters has a season in which he bats for a high average and collects around 25 homers, then expect another club to pony up the big bucks in order to sign a very valuable catching commodity.

    Caleb Joseph will handle backup duty after platooning nearly all of last season with Nick Hundley after Wieters went down with injury.

    With a cannon of an arm and sneaky power, Joseph will be one of the more valuable backup catchers in the league this upcoming season.

First Base

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    After being cleared to use Adderall this past offseason to combat his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, first baseman Chris Davis should have a very nice bounce-back season in 2015.

    After scuffling all of last season and not being able to see the ball clearly without the use of the amphetamine, Davis ended with nearly 30 less home runs than his stellar 2013 total of 53 and hit nearly 100 points lower in the batting average department .

    Look for Davis to finish this season with numbers in the middle; somewhere in the range of a .260 batting average with 35 homers to go with.

    Backup first baseman and presumed starting designated hitter Steve Pearce had one heck of a breakout season in 2014 and will be looking to replicate it with solid on-base numbers and above-average power this season.

Second Base

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Second baseman Jonathan Schoop went through his share of growing pains in his rookie season but should finish with better numbers this upcoming campaign as he learns how to navigate through a 162-game season and learns opposing pitchers better.

    Schoop may take awhile to reach a respectable batting average, but the power is there to put up 20-plus homers in a full campaign.

    Utility infielder Ryan Flaherty, although one of the weakest bats on the club, can man nearly any position on the field tremendously. For that reason alone, he deserves a spot on the roster and should continue to receive around 300 plate appearances this year.

    If Schoop or anyone on the left side of the infield succumbs to injury, look for Flaherty to hold things together at least on the defensive side of things.

Shortstop

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    After signing a three-year extension following the Orioles' exit in the ALCS, shortstop J.J. Hardy will remain the centerpiece of an elite Baltimore defense for at least a few more years.

    Hardy had a down year power-wise in hitting single-digit homers for the first time since 2010. Still, Hardy made a considerable impact on the club on the defensive side.

    Despite having a lackluster season offensively, Hardy finished tied with the fifth-best WAR for shortstops in baseball with a 3.4.

    If Hardy can get back to his 20-homer ways, he may very well be considered the most valuable shortstop by season's end.

Third Base

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Third baseman Manny Machado will be one of the deciding factors in whether or not Baltimore makes a deep postseason run in 2015.

    After coming off yet another season cut short due to injury, Machado is looking to progress further as a player most notably at the dish.

    At this point, Machado is considered one of the best defenders in the game, and yet he is still just 22 years old.

    Machado still has plenty of years to grow as a player, but if his growth comes sooner rather than later, he will keep Baltimore a contender for years to come.

Left Field

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Outfielder Alejandro De Aza is penciled in currently as the starting left fielder and possible leadoff man for the Baltimore Orioles.

    With solid on-base skills, speed and extra-base hit ability, there really is no threat to De Aza's job security unless he thoroughly disappoints in spring training or goes down due to injury.

    David Lough and Steve Pearce are other possible candidates for the corner outfield spots, but what the Orioles need is a proven leadoff hitter to replace Nick Markakis' production at the top of the lineup.

    Look for Lough to fill a role either as a platoon player in right or as a defensive substitution in late innings.

Center Field

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Franchise player Adam Jones will once again anchor the outfield and a Baltimore lineup that has been one of the best in baseball for the past few years.

    Although criticized for his free-swinging ways and low walk rate, Jones made his third straight All-Star game and won his third straight Gold Glove award last season en route to hitting nearly 30 homers and 100 RBI.

    Jones has played in at least 159 games over the past three years. There's no question he is the most durable player on the club.

    Look for Jones to once again put up around 30 homers and a respectable average in the .280's.

Right Field

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    After more than a decade, there will be a new face in right field for the Baltimore Orioles after Nick Markakis departed via free agency this past offseason.

    Travis Snider, formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates, will most likely win the starting right field job out of spring training. He is a candidate to provide around 20 homers to the lineup and should live up to the high defensive expectations that the club puts on its players.

    Once again, David Lough and Steve Pearce will be considered for this position as well, but they will most likely back up Snider at the spot.

Designated Hitter

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Breakout player Steve Pearce is slotted currently on the team's depth chart as the starting designated hitter.

    After changing his stance and receiving everyday at-bats, Pearce was able to put together a very successful season for himself in 2014, hitting for a .293 batting average and a sparkling .373 on-base percentage with a more than solid 21 homers.

    The Orioles decided to bring back designated hitter/outfielder Delmon Young on a one-year deal worth $2.25 million due to his solid production off the bench.

    Young put up a slash line of .302/.337/.442 and also provided a clutch bat at various points in the seasonmost notably during Game 2 of the ALDS when he hit his go-ahead three-RBI double to put the Orioles ahead of Detroit, which allowed Baltimore to go into Detroit up two games to none.

Starting Pitcher

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    For the first time in several years, the starting rotation is not a concern for the Baltimore Orioles.

    Baltimore finished in the top five in starting pitching ERA in the AL in 2014 mainly due to solid performances from both the front and the back end of the rotation.

    All five projected startersChris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausmanput up personal bests in one area or another last season and all have the capability to post sub-3.50 ERA seasons.

    None of Baltimore's starters will garner much attention this season nor will they put up numbers along with the league leaders, but they will continue to do what they do bestfly under the radar and surprise the baseball world once again.

Relief Pitcher

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Baltimore's bullpen, which ranked third-best in ERA in the AL in 2014, returns nearly all of its personnel aside from recently departed lefty Andrew Miller, who signed with the New York Yankees earlier this offseason.

    After taking over closing duties in mid-May of last year and finding immense success in his new role, Zach Britton will be relied upon to close the door night in and night out for the Birds this season.

    Britton, who set a new career-high in ERA last season with 1.65, dazzled all season long and managed to convert 37 out of his 41 save chances on the regular season.

    Setup man Darren O'Day will also be heavily used this coming season now that Miller's talent has left the building.

    O'Day, who has been a rock for the Orioles since 2012, has never finished a season with Baltimore with an ERA higher than 2.28. He put up a personal best of 1.70 last year while striking out 73 batters in 68.2 innings pitched.

    The bullpen will once again be one of Baltimore's many strengths. Truth be told, the team as a whole has very few weaknesses.

    All stats provided by Baseball Reference and ESPN Stats unless otherwise noted.

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