Despite the fact that they scored more runs in 2013 than 2012 and allowed only four more, the Baltimore Orioles did not return to the playoffs in 2013. They did have a winning season, though, marking the first time since 1996-1997 that the O’s have posted consecutive winning seasons.
From a fantasy point of view, the 2013 Orioles were a very valuable team, even though their pitching didn’t offer much more than a few guys worth putting on your roster. The vast majority of their starting lineup in 2013 held significant fantasy value in just about any league or format.
So, what does 2014 hold?
Projected 2014 Orioles Offense
|1. Nick Markakis||RF||30||L||592||82||11||55||2||.277|
|2. Manny Machado||3B||21||R||560||85||13||68||12||.295|
|3. Chris Davis||1B||28||L||580||102||43||127||3||.283|
|4. Adam Jones||CF||28||R||630||105||31||102||15||.286|
|5. J.J. Hardy||SS||31||R||575||73||24||74||1||.266|
|6. Matt Wieters||C||28||S||515||58||22||75||1||.249|
|7. Ryan Flaherty||2B||27||L||300||24||12||39||2||.227|
|8. Nolan Reimold||LF||30||R||350||35||12||47||1||.237|
|9. Henry Urrita||DH||27||L||270||20||5||24||1||.263|
- Crackerjack Fantasy Options: In the right situation, anyone in the Top-6 of the order.
Chris Davis and Adam Jones have great fantasy value. You’d have to look very hard to find a person who’d argue that, and I’d question the sanity of anyone who would. I wish we’d get a little more consistency out of J.J. Hardy, but he’s a fine option at a thin SS position. Manny Machado is a star in the making, but the injury that ended his 2013 season is worrisome. We’ll elaborate more on Matt Wieters in a bit. He’s not my favorite catcher, but should be a starting catcher for some team in most normal-sized leagues.
Nick Markakis probably won’t be that valuable unless you’re in a deeper league. But, he’s got some seriously talented hitters behind him. If he stays healthy and at the top of the order, he’s got real 100 run potential.
The rest of the lineup has no appeal to me, whatsoever. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if they made another move to bolster the offense. But with Baltimore’s stars, I have my doubts that a new guy will get into a prime number-producing spot.
Projected 2014 Orioles Pitching
- Crackerjack Fantasy Options: All listed.
I’m a fan of Chris Tillman. It wouldn’t surprise me if I overdid his projections a little bit, but he’s an everyday fantasy arm. Tillman can easily be the second or third best pitcher on a fantasy champion’s team.
Miguel Gonzalez is between a stream candidate and everyday arm. I wouldn’t think twice about adding him on the roster, but I probably would leave him on the bench when going against better American League offenses. The same could be said about Wei-Yin Chen, and we’re not done talking about him just yet.
The closing situation will be something to follow. Jim Johnson is out of town, but he’s saved over 100 games over the last two years, so you have to think that if someone becomes the main closer and they don’t go to closer by committee, he’ll be in a position to lock down plenty of games. This was going to be Grant Balfour, but that obviously didn’t work. So, who will be the new closer?
Well, Steve Melewski of MASN Sports is the most recent to speculate on the possibility that Fernando Rodney will be the man. MLB Depth Charts is suggesting that Tommy Hunter will be the man (though they don’t speculate on people until they sign, so Rodney wouldn’t be eligible), while the ESPN Closer Chart is suggesting that Hunter will battle with Darren O’Day for the final spot.
I don’t really want to get into a bunch of pro/con speculation at this point, but I am willing to take a look at these guys and project how these guys will do if they’re closing in Baltimore.
Possible Orioles Closers
- Fantasy Star: Adam Jones
This was a tight race between Jones and Davis. When we’re dealing with elite, first or second round players, I tend to be a bit more conservative and go with the guy who’s a little more dependable, and this is no exception.
If Davis does reach or even seriously approach 50 homers, he’ll likely be the team’s best fantasy player. But remember, he is a .266 career hitter and was at .258 before 2013.
Jones just has a long record of contributing pretty much across the board. He’s not a 20 steals type of guy, but he should nab between 14-18, which is more than enough for someone who’s as good as he is in all other categories. Year-to-year consistency and a little more of an overall game gives him the nod over Crush for this spot, although I am a big fan of Mr. Davis.
- Fantasy Bust: Matt Wieters
I’ll go ahead and quote what Clave said about Wieters in his Early Look at the Top-10 2014 Catchers.
I’m sick of waiting on him to fulfill his potential
Couldn’t agree more, and couldn’t have said it better myself. Matt Wieters was 13th on the ESPN Player Rater in 2013, and 8th in 2012. Wieters hit only .235 in 2013 and has been at .249 since his rookie season of 2009.
Wieters has good power, but a seven catchers had 20 or more homers in 2013. Well, we can call it six, since Mike Napoli won’t have catcher eligibility in 2014. Still, that’s a list that doesn’t even include Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Jonathan Lucroy, or Salvador Perez.
Catcher is a deeper position than I think many people seem to realize. His average will likely put Wieters down in the 6-9 range in a very deep Baltimore lineup, which won’t help matters either. He’ll likely hit 20-24 homers, but he really needs to be around 30 to be more valuable as a fantasy guy. I just don’t see that happening.
The bigger name is Dylan Bundy, but we’re not going to see him in 2014 until the end of June. The smarter bet would be that we won’t see him until August or September, if at all.
Now, Kevin Gausman is the kind of guy who can come in and make an immediate impact on your fantasy team. He’s not exactly blocked in the Orioles organization and in the minors, had a pretty amazing combo of 1.4 walks per nine and 8.8 strikeouts per nine.
That kind of stuff will help him once he becomes a full-time guy.
Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and second baseman Jonathan Schoop deserve mention here. But if we’re looking at the guy in their organization most likely to make a big fantasy impact in 2014, we’re looking at Gausman.
- Fantasy Sleeper: Wei-Yin Chen
You could throw Miguel Gonzalez in here, as I think he was under-owned in 2013. But I have my doubts that that will happen again in 2014.
Now, Wei-Yin Chen is a guy who’s bounced in an out of the starting rotation, but he’s been effective when there. Now that the Orioles rotation is not quite as deep, he should be a full time guy, and I like that a lot. Why should you? Well, consider the following.
- His career walk rate is 2.6 BB’s per 9 inning. That’s a very good rate.
- His career K rate is 7 per 9 inning. That’s not a league-leading rate, but it’s a very good mark for a guy who’s around the plate.
- His career K rate at Camden Yards is 7.6, which is nice to see. Baltimore is a very good place to hit and you don’t want to allow contact there. That tells me that when he needs to, Chen can pitch to miss bats.
Now, I’m not saying that we’re looking at a guy who’ll rival Clayton Kershaw in 2014. That’s not going to happen. But if we’re asking if Chen can do in 2014 what Andrew Cashner did in 2013, I say yes.
At the very least, Chen’s career walk rate makes him a viable spot-start/stream option. A pitcher who throws strikes against bad offenses is not going to fail very often.
- Final Thoughts:
The Orioles aren’t my favorite team in baseball, but they’ll be a fun one to follow. From a fantasy perspective, there’s genuine value in at least five hitters — probably six.
This team has been a lot of fun in fantasy baseball over the last few years. I don’t know if they’ll produce a star from relative obscurity like they’ve done over the last few years, but not many teams will give you the overall punch that the Orioles will.
- Chris Davis: Can He Crush Another 50 Home Runs in 2014?
- J.J. Hardy: Evaluating His 2014 Fantasy Value