2015 Season Previews: Baltimore Orioles

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Baltimore Orioles

Orioles
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 78-84 (5th in AL East, 23rd in MLB)

Manager: Buck Showalter (377-328 in five seasons with Baltimore, 1,259-1,161 in 16 seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 3B Manny Machado (5.0), OF Adam Jones (3.4), DH Steve Pearce (3.2)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Manny Machado

Manny Machado may have injuries to both knees on his resume, but he will be 22 years old until July, which seems wild considering he already has 1,266 plate appearances in his brittle career. The gold glove third baseman is primed for a breakout in 2015, if he can manage to stay on the field. The ball jumped off of his bat in 2014, as 15 percent of his hits went out of the yard – an eye-popping stat when you consider the friendliness of Camden Yards (just 7.9 percent in 2013). Machado’s slight increase in walk-rate (from 4.1 percent in 2013 to 5.6 percent in 2014) brings hope for further growth in that area, as he has only swung at 49.4 percent of pitches in his career, ranking 55th in MLB (among players with 1,000 plate appearances since 2012) over his career, showing that he isn’t a free-swinger. His approach may never lead to Joey Votto comparisons, but it wouldn’t be surprising for Machado to start reaching some of the offensive numbers that led to comparisons to early Nomar

This is the year Gausman becomes an ace...right?
This is the year Gausman becomes an ace…right?

Garciaparra production, and he would be about a year younger than Garciaparra if he reaches those numbers in 2015. Machado should be an All-Star level producer for the next decade, and a healthy Machado reaches that expectation this year.

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Kevin Gausman

Remember Gausman’s September?

I Split W L W-L% ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO9 SO/W
Sept/Oct 0 1 .000 2.87 5 5 0 0 31.1 27 12 10 2 9 29 1.149 8.3 3.22
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/4/2015.

The hard-throwing right-hander moved quickly through the Baltimore system, gaining and providing valuable innings down the stretch for the O’s. Only time will tell as to whether that quick elevation led to a lower ceiling for Gausman, but based on the late season results and the mid-90’s heat, Gausman could become the next Justin Verlander. The elevated WHIP and unimpressive strikeout totals will likely be a thing of the past, as Gausman continues to harness his stuff and moves to the top of the Orioles’ rotation and becomes one of the top starters in the American League.

Offseason Overview: The Orioles lost outfielder Nick Markakis and DH Nelson Cruz to free agency, replacing the two with Travis Snider and Alejandro De Aza. Neither player will come close to the league-leading 40 home runs that Cruz hit, they likely will combine for half of that, but the Orioles are banking on the healthier seasons from Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Manny Machado, while hoping for continued production from Steve Pearce. The major faces remain in the rotation and bullpen, so, beyond health, the Orioles will continue to bank on their young players, like Gausman, Machado, and Jonathan Schoop (who could become an offensive force at second) to continue to contend, leaning on Adam Jones as the face of the franchise. The Orioles will have impressive defense and power from their arms and their bats.

The Verdict: Buck Showalter has continued to lead his teams to contention, keeping Baltimore competitive the last three seasons, including the AL East title while dealing with insane amounts of injuries in 2014. He appears ready to trust his younger players to produce, and he’ll likely allow the chains to come off of Gausman in 2015, and, perhaps, Dylan Bundy can prove 100 percent recovered from elbow surgery to be a factor down the stretch. The Orioles could be better in 2015 with improved health and productive, contract-year performances out of Davis, Wieters, Bud Norris, and Wei-Yin Chen, and this could be the final year with this group before free agency really pulls it apart. They, too, will perform better than their PECOTA, as Showalter proves his worth and the talent overcomes the doubt.

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