In the third installment of Live Toast's 2013 MLB Preview we look at the AL East. We've already looked at the NL East and the AL West, so be sure to check them out.
The AL East looks to easily be the most competitive division in MLB. Some Vegas polls show every team winning more than 80 games, which means all five teams could have a winning percentage higher than .500. For this division this year, it looks like pre-season predictions will be all but worthless, and any of these teams could end up at either the top or the bottom of the division. It seems likely, baring anything crazy happening, just a few wins will separate the #1 team from the #5 team.
Yankees have won the AL East in 12 of the last 15 seasons, doing so again last season. But with age and injuries starting to pile up, this looks like one of the best chances the AL East field has had recently to wrest the crown away from the Bronx. The Yankees and Orioles both had quiet off-seasons, and with the added pressure from the division they are going to need some luck if both are to return to the playoffs.
Blue Jays Preview
· Orioles Preview
· Rays Preview
· Red Sox Preview
· Yankees Preview
2013 Toronto Blue Jays preview
The Blue Jays stand to benefit from much of the AL East standing pat during the off-season. Toronto made some of the biggest moves of the off-season, right there with the biggest moves of the past decade. In just a few short months they brought in five former All-Stars in shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and perhaps most significant pitchers Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey. The Toronto offense was above average to begin with, but poor pitching and bad luck submarined Toronto's chances in 2013. With the addition of three proven pitchers and the offensive powers of Reyes and Cabrera, the Blue Jays should be able to compete for the division crown this season.
The Blue Jays "traded" manager John Farrell (and reliever David Carpenter) to the Red Sox in return for SS Mike Aviles and then re-hired Manager John Gibbons, who previously coached the Blue Jays from 2004 - 2008. After the Blue Jays he worked as bench coach for the Royals and managed the San Diego Padres affiliate San Antonio Missions. Gibbons was able to bring a winning attitude to the Blue Jays in his first stint, leading the Jays to a 87-75 record and second place in the AL East, the first time Toronto had finished above third place since their repeat World Series win in 1993. With a considerably higher-profile roster, optimism is high that Gibbons can finish what he started in Toronto.
Blue Jays Offensive Outlook
Toronto was close to the league average in most offensive categories last year, so adding the speed and on-base prowess of Reyes as well as the Cabrera should push Toronto's offense near the top of the bigs. In slugging outfielder Jose Bautista the Jays have one of the most feared hitters in the game. The top of the lineup looks quite dangerous, likely featuring some order of Reyes, Cabrera, Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion (.280 BA, 42 home runs), and Colby Rasmus (23 HR, 75 RBI). This looks to be one of the more powerful lineups in the league and should give the Jays plenty of chances to score runs.
As one of the best hitters in MLB, Toronto's Jose Bautista will be counted to lead the Blue Jays to the AL East Crown and into the post-season in the 2013 season.
The Blue Jays' defense was average last season, and if they are going to compete for a world championship, it will have to improve.
Blue Jays Pitching Outlook:
And the pitching staff looks just as formidable as the hitting. The Blue Jays have the AL's reigning Cy Young winner in R.A. Dickey. Josh Johnson is a two-time all star who led the NL in era in 2012. Mark Buehrle is a four-time All-Star, a World Series champion and pitched both a no-hitter (2007 vs Rangers) as well as a perfect game (2009 against the Rays).
Add to those impressive veterans young starters Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero and you have a loaded rotation. Morrow had a 2.96 ERA last season and averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Romero's ERA jumped to 5.77 last season after posting 2.92 in 2011, when he was an All Star. With the lessened pressure of not having to be the leaders of the staff, in addition to being able to watch some of the league's most accomplished pitchers go to work everyday, both Morrow and Romero should see their stats improve. Look out for this rotation.
But starting pitching can only go so long, and the bullpen could become an issue. Don't be surprised if the Jays bring in some arms to help round out the pen. Casey Janssen ended up winning the closer's role after Sergioe Santos's injury last season. The longest-serving Blue Jay player on the roster, Janssen had a solid year as the club's closer with 22 saves and a 2.54 era with 67 strike outs in 63.2 innings pitched. And if Santos is healthy he could regain role back, fill in in case of injury, or serve as an above-average set-up man.
Blue Jays Key Off-Season Moves:
- Signed free agents LF Melky Cabrera (was with the Giants), 3B Andy LaRoche (Red Sox), 3B Maicer Izturis (Angels), LHP Greg Smith (Angels), 1B Luis Jimenez (Mariners), 3B Mark DeRosa (Nationals), RHP Justin Germano (Cubs), C Henry Blanco (Diamondbacks), RHP Rich Thompson (Athletics), LHP Juan Perez (Brewers), RHP Ramon Ortiz (Yankees), LF Ryan Langerhans (Angels), RHP Dave Bush (SK Wyverns) and RHP Claudio Vargas (Vaqueros Laguna).
- Acquired via trade RHP RA Dickey, C Josh Thole and C Mike Nickeas (from the Mets), SS Mike Aviles (Red Sox) and 3B Yan Gomes (Indians).
- Did no re-sign free agents DH Jack Cust (who went to the Rays), RHP Carlos Villanueva (Cubs), LHP Aaron Laffey (Mets), RHP Brandon Lyon (Mets), RHP Jason Frasor (Rangers), RHP Shawn Hill (Tigers), RHP Chad Cordero (Angels), RHP Andrew Carpenter (Cubs), RHP Jim Hoey (Brewers), and LHP Nate Robertson (Rangers).
- Traded: C John Buck, RHP Noah Syndergaard, SS Mike Aviles, C Travis d'Arnaud and OF Wuilmer Becerra (Mets).
2013 Boston Red Sox preview
The Boston Red Sox followed up perhaps the worst end to a season in baseball history with one of the most disfunction, uninspired and downright horrific seasons of all time. The Red Sox season started with Manager Bobby Valentine calling out Kevin Youkilis out of the blue, followed by Dustin Pedroia explaining to the press that Bobby would soon lean that's not how they do things in Beantown. Along the way there was conspiring, group text-messages complaining of the manager, the trading of one of the most beloved Red Sox in Kevin Youkilis, the ownership trying to buy happiness from the players with headphones, and whole host of other nonsense that culminated in management shipping out three of the biggest names in baseball.
The one bright spot for Boston is that things can't possibly get any worse. There has been a lot of turnover, and management tried to bring in "clubhouse guys" that play the "dirt dog" style Boson fans are so keen on. This is a very deep team that is looking to bring Boston back to its winning ways.
With a new manager (the old pitching coach John Farrell), an influx of veterans, and none of the baggage of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, 2013 gives the Sox a chance at a new start. The team also saw more than its fair share of injuries last season, which hopefully will not recur.
If the Red Sox are going to make the playoffs they are going to need several players to vastly improve on what they did last season, both on offense and starting pitching.
Red Sox Offensive Outlook
After several seasons of haters proclaiming DH David Ortiz "done" as a player, he has continued to put up impressive offensive numbers despite his 36 years of age. In 2012 he was limited to 90 games but batted .318 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI after a 2011 season in which he hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs. Ortiz could miss Opening Day but has proven he can't be counted out as an elite hitter. The Red Sox offense will likely depend on what they get from Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Pedroia is a career .303 hitter with an average of 17 home runs per 162 games. In six years Ellsbury has a .297 career batting average with 16 home runs per 162 games, scored 107 runs and 73 RBI. Ellsbury will be a free agent at the end of this season, so his production will not only affect the Red Sox season, but his bank account as well.
Perhaps the one bright spot of the 2012 season was the emergence of Will Middlebrooks, even if it came at the expense of Kevin Youkilis. Middlebrooks had a .288 batting average with 15 home runs in 75 games but had what looked to be a breakout season cut short by a broken wrist in August after displacing Kevin Youkilis at third base. If those numbers end up being the norm for Middlebrooks, he could emerge as the Red Sox next superstar.
One big question mark will how the new faces fare in Boston. In order for AL East fans to get acquainted with the new batters, I put together this nifty table:
While none of these numbers are eye popping, they are serviceable, and in a weak free-agent pool there's only so much the front office can do. RF Victorino is widely known as a clubhouse guy who brings energy, as well as some speed. While his age might put a damper on his speed, Victorino is still one top guys you want wreaking havoc on the bases. His speed will also come in handy covering Fenway's right field. 1B Mike Napoli will not be behind the plate much, if at all, this season, a move that should help him stay healthy and will also let him devote more time to hitting, as he won't have to spend as much time scouting opposing hitters. Johnny Gomes is well known for his ability to hit left-handed pitching, and Fenway's Green Monster should help him quite a bit. Stephen Drew, brother of former Red Sox JD, is next up on the Red Sox shortstop carousel. The Red Sox have had something like 200 shortstops since trading Nomar Garciappara halfway through the 2004 season. As evidenced by the numbers above, Drew wasn't great offensively last year, but has had a couple of season where he flirted with .300 and hit mid double digit homer runs. If all four of these guys match their career highs the Red Sox will be dangerous, but that's a big if.
A very big if.
Red Sox Pitching Outlook:
Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz has to be consistent as one of the team's best pitchers if the Red Sox are going to compete in the ultra-tough AL East
The Red Sox pitching was god-awful last year; their 4.70 team ERA was the fourth worse in baseball. And the only new face is 35-year-old Ryan Dempster. Gone is the $100 million dollar man Daisuke Matsuzaka, who only started 11 games last year, and of course Josh "Beer 'n Chicken" Beckett.
Jon Lester had a horrible season with a 9-14 record and needs to vastly improve if the Red Sox have any chance of making the playoffs. His velocity was way down last season. Lester has vowed that he will return to form in 2013, and his spring training appearances seem to support that argument. Perhaps most important for Lester to improve is the number of runner he allows to score once they get on base.
Clay Buchholz at least had a winning record last year, even with a 4.56 ERA. Buchholz has been an above average pitcher in the past, he pitched a no-hitter and in his All-Star 2010 season had a 2.33 ERA with 17 wins and a 1.203 WHIP.
John Lackey is among the most disliked local players in Red Sox history and will have to do a lot to change the opinion of fans. Fan patience will be short with Lackey, but he was a workhorse and staff ace on some very good Angels teams. Its not completely outside the realm of possibility that Lackey could be a solid starter this season.
Ryan Dempster saw his ERA swell from 2.25 in 16 games with the Cubs to 5.09 in 12 games with the Rangers. He did average eight strikeouts per nine innings last year. He has been dependable, starting more than 28 games since 2008, pitched more than 200 innings from 2008 - 2011, and threw 173 innings last year. At 35 he is getting a little old, but its could also be above-average.
Lefty Felix Doubront had his first full season as a starter last season and was not great, although he did average more than a strikeout an inning. He started the year with a solid 5-2 record but ended up 11-10. With a mid-90s fastball and solid off-speed stuff, Doubront has the potential to be very good.
The Red Sox Bullpen was a big problem last season, ranking 27th out of 30 in save percentage, but looks like it has been improved. Vastly improved. The Red Sox brought in set up man Koji Uehara as well as Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan is a two-time All Star and was a very good closer with the Pirates the past two seasons, notching 40 saves in 2011 and 36 last season. Andrew Bailey was signed prior to last season to close for the Red Sox after Jonathan Papelbon left, but injuries kept him to just 19 appearances out of the bullpen. At one point Daniel Bard looked to be the closer of the future, with many thinking he was better than Papelbon. Then the Red Sox decide to take their queues on how to manage rising pitching stars from the Yankees. They saw how great it worked out for New York when they moved Joba Chamberlain from the bullpen to the rotation, back and forth again, and decided that was the best approach for Bard. He went from a 1.93 ERA in 2010 to a 3.33 in 2011 to 6.22 in 2012. Hopefully Farrell can help Bard come back to being competitive. The bullpen also features the likes of Junici Tazawa and Alfredo Aceves. If Bailey can stay healthy it gives the Sox two of the best closers in the game and should make the bullpen one of the leagues best.
Red Sox Key Off-Season Moves:
- Signed free agents RF Shane Victorino (Dodgers), RHP Ryan Dempster (Ranges and Cubs), 1B Mike Napoli (Rangers), SS Stephen Drew (Athletics), LF Jonny Gomes (Athletics), C David Ross (Braves, was with the Red Sox in 2008), 1B Lyle Overbay (Diamondbacks), LF Drew Sutton (Pirates), RHP Koji Uehara (Rangers), RHP Anthony Carter (White Sox), and 1B Mark Hamilton (Cardinals).
- Acquired via trade LF Justin Henry (from Detroit), RHP Graham Godfrey (Athletics), RHP Kyle Kaminska, RHP Joel Hanrahan and 2B Brock Holt (Pirates), 1B Mike Carp (Mariners). Claimed off waivers RHP Sandy Rosario (Athletics) and 2B Jeff Kobernus (Nationals).
- Did no re-sign free agent LF Cody Ross (Diamondbacks), RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Indians), 1B James Loney (Rays), 3B Andy LaRoche (Jays), CF Marlon Byrd (Mets), RHP Aaron Cook (Phillies), LHP Rich Hill (Indians), RHP Billy Buckner (Angels), RHP Scott Atchison (Mets) and RHP Nelson Figueroa (Diamondbacks).
- They gave up LF Jerry Sands, RHP Zach Stewart, RHP Mark Melancon, 2B Ivan De Jesus, and RHP Stolmy Pimentel in the trade with the Pirates. They also traded 3B Danny Valencia (Orioles), RHP Sandy Rosario (Athletics) and 2B Jeff Kobernus (Tigers).
2013 New York Yankees preview
The Yankees had the best record in the AL last year and made it to the ALCS (only to be swept by the Tigers) and return mostly the same roster and should have the unparalleled Mariano Rivera back in the bullpen. But the team is another year older and is already being hit heavy by the injury bug. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson will all miss significant time, and Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia are all returning from significant injuries last season.
Jeter, P Andy Pettitte, Rivera, Rodriguez, P Hiroki Kuroda and RF Ichiro Suzuki are all more than 36 years old, and Brett Gardner is the only starter under 30 (he turns 30 in August). It not news that the Yankees are old, but this day and age, with players playing longer than ever, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. However the window on this group of Yankees to win another ring is closing very quickly. Rivera has already announced he is retiring at the end of the season, and its not unreasonable to think many of the starters wont be too far behind him. This could very well be Jeter's last shot at another ring.
One silver lining as far as the injuries is that the Yankees will get slow drip of All-Star players throughout the first half of the season. CF Curtis Granderson suffered a broken forearm in spring training and will not be back until May at the earliest. Mid May is the earliest projection for when Teixeira comes back from a wrist injury. Michael Pineda could be back by the All-Star break and will give the Yankee rotation a big boost. ARod's return from hip surgery is very uncertain, with guesses ranging from the All Star break to not even playing this season.
Yankees Offensive Outlook
Today's Yankee lineup revolves around 2B Robinson Cano, who hit .313 with 33 home runs, 94 RBI and a .929 OPS. Especially with Teixeira and Rodriguez out, the Yankees offense will rely heavily on what Cano does. The offense starts with lead-off hitter Ichiro Suzuki, who at 38 did not miss a beat last season, he hit .322 since joining the Yankees halfway through the season. There is going to be a lot of attention on what Jeter can do at the plate. He is still the Yankees #2 and has been getting it done forever. Looking at last year's numbers there's no reason to think he will drastically decline this season. Then again he is 38, with dozens of extra playoff games over the years, as well as a broken leg in last year's playoffs, we could be watching the sun set on what has been a brilliant career.
Derek Jeter is 38, and how the Yankee Captain performs in 2013 will be a big factor in whether or not the Yankees return to the playoffs this season in a tough AL East.
3B Kevin Youkilis has always been an on-base machine, but his durability has been an issue and at 34 there is no reason to expect a change. Due to injuries Travis Hafner played in just 66 games last season (and hit just .228) and 94 the year before, but he is a career .278 average hitter and at a youthful 35 he should bring some energy to the club. Juan Rivera made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2001. He had a mid .200s average the past three seasons but is a career .274 hitter. Dan Johnson has never held a starting position and has played in 413 games in eight seasons. He is best known for putting the nail in the coffin of the Red Sox 2011 season with his two-out, two-strike home run against the Yankees in the final game of the season, allowing the Rays to win the game and complete the Red Sox's epic collapse. So there's that.
After an impressive 2010 and 2011, Brett Gardner missed of the 2012 because of elbow issues. He's been an impact player in the past and there's no reason to think he won't return to form.
Manager Joe Girardi anticipates catchers Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli playing as a tandem. Neither one is an offensive machine but for a #9 hitter are serviceable.
Yankees Pitching Outlook:
The Yankees pitching should again be one of the best in the league, which, given the uncertainties on offense bodes well for the team.
CC Sabathia had another phenomenal year, (3.38 ERA, 1.140 WHIP with 200+ innings) and continues to be one of the best in the game. He's just 31 so expect another solid year for him. Sabathia will likely be the most important player for the Yankees this season. At 37 years old last season Hiroki Kuroda still managed a 3.32 ERA, 1.165 WHIP and 16 wins. Like most of the Yankees, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt until the effects of their age is seen on the field. At this point one has to wonder how much more the Yankees can get out of Andy Pettite, who first retired from baseball after the 2010 season. But reports out of spring training have him doing well. He had a solid 2.87 ERA and 1.142 WHIP last season and another good year won't surprise anyone; keep in mind he had all of 2011 to rest up.
Phil Hughes improved last season, bringing his ERA down to 4.23 and his WHIP to 1.265. His back has been an issue early in spring training and he could miss a start or two. Ian Nova could have a bounce-back season after posting a 5.02 ERA. His strikeout numbers where up last season, and he suffered from some bad luck on the field, so expecting him to pitch better in 2013 is reasonable. Michael Pineda was supposed to be the young ace of the future but he will miss at least half of the season. He could be an important piece of the puzzle once he returns.
Last year's closer Rafael Soriano opted-out of the final year of his contract with the Yankees, so its imperative that Rivera returns to form. He's been defying the age gods for years now, so one more year of the old Mo seems reasonable. The bullpen also feature David Robertson (2.67 ERA last season), Boone Logan (3.74 ERA), Joba Chamberlan (4.35 ERA).
Yankees Key Off-Season Moves:
- Signed free agent 3B Kevin Youkilis (who was with the Red Sox and White Sox) DH Travis Hafner (Indians), LF Juan Rivera (Dodgers), RHP Chris Smith (Mariners), LF Matt Diaz (Braves), 1B Dan Johnson (White Sox), C Bobby Wilson (Angels), and LF Thomas Neal (Indians). Claimed off waivers: RHP Jim Miller (Athletics), C Eli Whiteside (Giants), LHP Josh Spence (Padres).
- Did not resign: 1B Nick Swisher (Indians), LF Raul Ibanez (Mariners), C Russell Martin (Pirates), 3B Eric Chavez (Diamondbacks), RHP Rafael Soriano (Nationals), RHP John Maine (Marlins), LF Darnell McDonald (Cubs), LF Chris Dickerson (Orioles), RHP Cory Wade (Cubs), RHP Ramon Ortiz (Blue Jays), LHP Justin Thomas (Athletics), LHP Pedro Feliciano (Mets) and C Gustavo Molina (Rockies).
2013 Tampa Bay Rays preview
The Rays again won 90 games in 2012, the fourth time in five seasons they've managed to do that. You know it's a tough division when when 90 wins won't get you into the playoffs. The Rays re-loaded on young talent during the off-season when they traded James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for a number of prospects, including Wil Myers, a potential super-star. The Rays also lost BJ Upton in center field and Carlos Pena at first. For a team that struggled to score runs, those losses could signal trouble. But the Ryas have youth on their side as well as a superb pitching staff. Two-time manager of the year Joe Maddon has been managing the Rays since 2006 and has been able to come out with a winning team more often than not.
Rays Offensive Outlook
3B Evan Longoria is the Rays best offensive weapon, and hopes are high that he can get through the full season without injury. He hit .289 with 17 home runs in an injury plagued season that saw him play just 74 games. The Rays picked up Royals prospect outfield Wil Myers to help pick-up the offense. Earlier this season, Myers was rated the 4th best prospect in baseball by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.
DH Luke Scott has had some big years and hit a solid .285 with 14 home runs last season, but his offense has declined the past few seasons (from 27 home runs in 2010) and at 34, its reasonable to expect his best years are behind him. 2B Ben Zobrist hasn't been able to match his 2009 totals, when he was an All Star, an MVP Candidate and hit .297 with 27 home runs. The team also brought in James Loney, once a star with the Dodgers, however he had a tough 2012, hitting just .249 in 144 games with the Dodgers and Red Sox. He once regularly hit around .300, so if the can return to form he could give the Rays' offense a boost.
LF Matt Joyce hit .277 with 19 home runs in 2011 but his average dropped to .241 last season. He was still able to hit 17 home runs in 124 games. The offense is rounded out by SS Yunel Escobar, CF Desmond Jennings, 2B Kelly Johnson and C Jose Molina, none of which evoke much fear from opposing pitchers, especially when compared to the rest of the AL East. The Rays will miss the production of BJ Upton.
The Rays defense was one of the worst in the league, leading the league in errors with 114, and there isn't much reason to think that will improve dramatically in 2013.
Rays Pitching Outlook:
But pitching is the strength of the team and will help offset the lack of offense, led by the defending AL Cy Young Award winner David Price. Price has been sensational since he emerged at the tail-end of the 2008 season but in 2012 he was incredible. He won 20 games and lost just five, posted a 2.56 ERA, struck out nearly a batter an inning, allowed less than a home run per nine innings, pitched more than 200 innings and more or less defined excellence. It was an incredible year and it is going to be tough to match those kids of numbers.
The Rays traded James Shields to the Royals, and as one of the few pitchers that threw more than 200 innings the past five years, he leaves a big void to fill. Jeremy Hellickson will likely be the #2. He had an ERA 3.10 and a 1.254 WHIP and won a Gold Glove. Matt Moore vastly improved the second half of last year, improving his command to drastically cut down on walks in the second half. Jeff Niemann missed the bulk of 2012 after getting hit by Adam Lind's come-backer but he's been a very good pitcher ever since entering Rookie of the Year discussions in 2009.
Closer Fernando Rodney had 48 saves last season with an insane 0.60 ERA and just nine runs allowed while pitching 74.2 innings. It is going to be extremely difficult for him to be that effective again. Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, Kyle Farnsworh and Cesar Ramos are some of the players rounding out the bullpen.
Rays Key Off-Season Moves:
- Signed 1B James Loney (was with the Red Sox), DH Jack Cust (Astros, Yankees and Blue Jays last year), LF Shelley Duncan (Indians), 2B Mike Fontenot (Phillies), RHP Jamey Wright (Dodgers), RHP Roberto Hernandez AKA Fauston Carmona (Indians), CF Jason Bourgeois (Royals) and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (Marlins).
- Acquired via trade RF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery and 3B Patrick Leonard (from Royals), SS Yunel Escobar (Marlins) and OF Raul Mondesi (Brewers).
- Did no re-sign free agents 1B Carlos Pena (Astros), 3B Jeff Keppinger (White Sox), CF B.J. Upton. (Braves), LF Ben Francisco (Indians), 1B Ryan Garko (Rockies), 2B Omar Luna and LHP J.P. Howell (Dodgers), and 2B Will Rhymes (Nationals).
- Traded: RHP Wade Davis, RHP James Shields and SS Elliot Johnson to the Royals, RHP Burke Badenhop (Brewers), infielder Reid Brignac (Rockies) and LHP Chris Rearick (Padres).
2013 Baltimore Orioles preview
The last time the Orioles won the division was way back in '97, which was also the last time they made the playoffs. Manager Buck Showalter has brought a winning attitude to the Orioles and as Joe Maddon said, "The Orioles used to show up to play. Now they show up to win." Lots have been said about the Orioles ability to win close games (they were 29-9 in one-run games), a feat most statisticians will say they cannot repeat. As the Birds didn't make many moves, they will hope that last year wasn't a fluke and that Buck Showalter can keep the team playing championship-caliber baseball.
Orioles Offensive Outlook
The Orioles where close to the league averages in most offensive categories last season but did trail just the Yankees in home runs with 214. While there is some dropoff toward the back-end, the top half of the lineup is as tough as they come. Matt Wieters and Adam Jones were both All-Stars last season and will be counted on to lead the team's offense. Jones hit .287 with 32 home runs, 82 RBI and .839 OPS while Wieters batted .249 with 23 home runs, 83 RBI and a .764 OPS. Nick "The Stick" Markakis hit .298 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI.
Manny Machado, who the Orioles took with the 3rd overall pick in 2010, looks to be the opening day starter at 3rd. Many project Machado to be one of the best players in the near future. After being called up, Machado his .262 with seven home runs and 26 RBI in just 50 games.
Nate McLouth was shipped to Baltimore after struggling in Pittsburgh and brought his average up to .268 in 55 games after hitting .140 in 34 games for the Pirates. At age 31 McLouth can likely still be an above average hitter. If he can regain some of the power he had in his All-Star season in 2008 it would go a long way toward helping the Oriole's offense. Brian Roberts has been the Orioles second baseman since 2003, however injuries have significantly limited his playing the past three seasons. Roberts once hit .290 with 50 stolen bases, but at 35 its too much to expect him to return to that form.
Orioles Pitching Outlook:
The starting rotation was not stellar last season but did enough to put the team in a position to win, as their 93 makes clear. Wei-Yin Chen finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting with a 4.02 ERA, 1.261 WHIP and 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He will be counted on to continue his development and lead the rotation. Jason Hammel has improved each of the past three seasons (4.81 ERA in 2010, 4.75 in 2011 and 3.43 in 2012) and ended last season with a 1.237 WHIP and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings. At 29 he is entering the prime of his career and looks to be an above-average #2. Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Orioles last year was Miguel Gonzalez, who went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA. Now entering his second season in the majors, it will be important for Gonzalez to keep up those kinds of numbers. Dylan Bundy is a highly-regarded pitching prospect and could make the team early into the season.
The Bullpen was one of the strengths of the team and helps explain the Orioles success in close games. Closer Jim Johnson was great last year, converting 48 of 51 saves. He was drafted by the Orioles in 2001 and has seen his role on the team expand since saw regular playing time in 2008. His ERA has dropped each of the past four seasons. He has a sinker that averages 95 MPH which sets up a curveball that averages 80 MPH, both of which are complimented by a changeup and a four-seam fastball.
Orioles Key Off-Season Moves:
- Signed free agents RHP Jair Jurrjens (Braves), LF Conor Jackson (White Sox affiliate Triple-A Charlotte), 1B Travis Ishikawa (Brewers), OF Adam Greenberg (Marlins), LF Chris Dickerson (Yankees), OF Kyle Hudson (Phillies, drafted by the Orioles), RHP Daniel McCutchen (Pirates), LHP Daniel Schlereth (Tigers), and RHP Manny Delcarmen (Yankees's affiliate Round Rock Express).
- Acquired via trade 3B Danny Valencia (Red Sox), 3B Yamaico Navarro (Pirates ), and LF Trayvon Robinson (Mariners).
- Claimed off waivers 2B Alexi Casilla (from Twins), 3B Russ Canzler (Yankees), RHP Todd Redmond (Reds), and C Luis Martinez (Rangers).
- Did no re-sign free agent 1B Mark Reynolds (Indians), 3B Miguel Tejada (Royals), LHP Joe Saunders (Mariners), 2B Bill Hall (Angels), LF Endy Chavez (Royals), RHP Kevin Gregg (Dodgers), SS Omar Quintanilla (Mets), LHP Zach Phillips (Marlins), C Ronny Paulino (Mariners), and 3B Steve Tolleson (White Sox).
- Traded: RHP Jhondaniel Medina (Pirates) and 2B Robert Andino (Mariners)
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