It must be difficult being an AL East team not in Boston or New York. Baltimore have tried to build through the draft and sign cheap veterans to add depth, but they can barely hang with the pack. They were hoping to build off their 2012 Wild Card berth and compete for the division, but the Red Sox and Rays were the cream of the division.
2013 wasn’t completely forgettable. Chris Davis became one of the best power hitters in the game and Manny Machado showed why he was one of the top prospects in the game.
Boston and New York rearranged some of their pieces this offseason. If they get off to a slow start, can Baltimore build an early lead in the AL East?
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Baltimore Orioles.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 85-77
Key Additions: SP Ubaldo Jimenez, OF Nelson Cruz, RP Brad Brach, RP Ryan Webb, SP Suk-Min Yoon & 2B Jemile Weeks
Key Losses: SP Jason Hammel, RP Jim Johnson, OF Nate McLouth, SP Scott Feldman, 2B Brian Roberts, RP Francisco Rodriguez, 2B Danny Valencia & OF Chris Dickerson
Interleague Schedule: NL Central + Washington Nationals
Projected Starters: Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Ryan Flaherty, Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis & Nolan Reimold
Projected Starting Rotation: Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris & Miguel Gonzalez
Closer: Tommy Hunter
Fantasy Sleeper: 2B Ryan Flaherty – With Roberts and Valencia out of the picture, the job at second base is Flaherty’s to lose. I don’t believe Jemile Weeks is anything more than a Four-A player. Flaherty could end up being a steal late in the draft. There isn’t much power at the second base position and he has the ability to hit 10-15 homers. His batting average won’t be ideal, but he could be a player you can stream as a backup 2B.
Prospects To Keep Your Eye On: SP Dylan Bundy & SP Kevin Gausman – Before last season, Bundy was the top pitching prospect in all of baseball. He injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery last June. He’s just now getting close to throwing off the mound. Once he’s ready to go, he’ll start the season in the minors. If he bounces back, you could see him near the end of the season. Gausman had some starts last season, but didn’t perform well. I expect him to start this season in the minors and will hopefully be called up before All-Star Break. Suk-Min Yoon is another guy who looks like he’ll be stuck in the minors early.
Team Analysis: I really liked Baltimore last year. The talent on the team was playing well and I knew they had Manny Machado on deck. Boston and New York looked like they might have down years (I was really wrong about Boston). Wins were hard to come by in Baltimore early in the season, but played better as the season progressed. Adam Jones and Chris Davis pushed their level of play to the next level and Chris Tillman and Nate McLouth outperformed expectations. Matt Wieters took a step back, but I still think he can be an All-Star catcher soon. The Orioles still have most of their key parts from last season, but they aren’t deep. They lost one of the best closers in the game, Jim Johnson. The Yankees and Rays are gunning for the Red Sox, so they spent this offseason adding key pieces. The Orioles didn’t make a notable move until the signing of Jimenez last week. I hated the signing of Nelson Cruz to an inflated contract (a player who suspended from the Biogenesis scandal). They must think Jones, Wieters, Davis and Machado will all take a huge step forward. I love all those players, but that’s a little too much to ask.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 81 (Prediction: UNDER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 78-84 (5th in AL East)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.