A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE ORIOLES
Why does everyone always overlook this team? They won the division by 12 games, they did it without Manny Machado and Matt Wieters most of the season and Chris Davis had a terrible year. Everyone criticized them all winter for not making any moves, but they've got Machado and Wieters coming back, and Davis should be much better.... With Machado, you always worry about the legs—but his legs are under him, and he's hitting the ball with authority, moving around well at third base, where he's going to be a Gold Glove defender again. I wouldn't put it past him that he goes back and plays shortstop.... Davis looks sluggish and burly, but the big thing is that he's allowed to take his ADHD medication again. Is he going to hit 53 home runs again? No, but I could easily see 35--40.... People seem to think that Wieters is a disappointment because of all the hype early on, but he's so important to this team. We all thought that he should get out from behind the plate because he's so big and tall, but his defense is so, so good.... They lost Andrew Miller, but the bullpen is still going to be a strength. Zach Britton has found himself as a closer; they shouldn't ever think about him as a starter anymore—he's finally harnessed his stuff and can dominate just with his fastball.... The starters are an underrated bunch. Kevin Gausman could be a really good No. 2 starter. Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez are nothing sexy, but they get the job done.
Just a year after signing a four-year, $50 million contract, Ubaldo Jimenez is now the Orioles' sixth-best starter. The righthander was terrible last season, with a 4.81 ERA in 1251/3 innings. Baltimore can do better. Manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Dave Wallace have had success converting starters into relievers of late: They turned Zach Britton into a closer with a 1.65 ERA last season and have gotten two good years—a 2.88 ERA in 147 innings in 2013 and '14—from Tommy Hunter in setup and closing roles. Jimenez might need the move; he's lost 2 mph off his fastball in three years, averaging a career-low 92.3 last season, and has been leaning more and more on his slider and splitter. A move to the bullpen, which for most pitchers usually leads to increased velocity, may be the only way the Orioles can get a return on their investment.
LEAGUE RANK 8
MANAGER BUCK SHOWALTER 6TH SEASON WITH ORIOLES
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
CHUCK SOLOMON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MACHADO)