26 February 2018

The Orioles Have Room To Improve At Many Positions

The Orioles, overall, weren't good last year. They started the season hot, faded, then somehow battled back to make things interesting in late August (68-65 on the 30th) before really fading and losing 22 of their remaining 29 games. Their end-of-season record (75-87) was tied for third-worst in the American League. Their run differential of -98 was also third-worst.

Still, the 2017 Orioles had their moments, and there's some hope that Buck Showalter can right the ship for one last hurrah. You might see how it could happen. It's easy to point out the current flaws with the O's roster, but talking up the best of some of their key (and well-paid) players who had down seasons is possible.

That's important, because just look where the O's ranked in FanGraphs' wins above replacement at every position last year:

AL Ranks
C: 3.7 (2nd)
1B: 1.4 (9th)
2B: 3.7 (4th)
SS: 1.1 (12th)
3B: 2.7 (7th)
LF: 0.1 (14th)
CF: 1.4 (12th)
RF: 1.2 (13th)
DH: -1.4 (t-10th)
SP: 5.5 (t-13th)
RP: 2.3 (t-11th)

Other than catcher and second base, there wasn't much to get excited about. And now, Welington Castillo and his 2.8 fWAR are gone. Fortunately, Caleb Joseph is in line for more work and might be underappreciated by FanGraphs' metric. Baseball Prospectus' WARP, which factors in the well-regarded FRAA to better account for catcher framing, had Joseph much closer to Castillo (2.8-2.1) despite about 100 fewer plate appearances. Throw in some upside from Chance Sisco (though there may be less now with him dropping in top-100 lists) and things don't look so bad at catcher.

The list of O's players who underwhelmed last year is long: Manny Machado (102 wRC+), Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Seth Smith (gone), Wade Miley (gone), Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez (gone), Jeremy Hellickson (gone), Chris Tillman, and plenty of fringe major league pitching options. Try painting a picture of the O's competing for a playoff spot without Machado, Davis, Trumbo, Gausman, and Tillman performing much better. It's almost impossible.

Maybe Gausman and Dylan Bundy put things together next season and get needed support from Andrew Cashner, Tillman, and Nestor Cortes, or Miguel Castro, or Mike Wright, or Gabriel Ynoa, or someone else. Maybe the O's even use some of their (assumed) payroll room and upgrade the rotation. Maybe Zach Britton comes back feeling well in June and gives the bullpen a shot in the arm. Maybe Machado, Davis, and Trumbo start mashing again -- and things look even better when Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini, and Tim Beckham keep hitting. Maybe Austin Hays is the real deal or Colby Rasmus bounces back in a major way -- or both! And maybe Adam Jones turns back the clock for another year.

You might not buy into this team. I don't, really, but that's also not the first time that's been the case and I've been wrong. Spring training is a time for hope, and it's fun to envision one more run for this group of players.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Vegas has them at 71.5 wins, I think that's about right.
1. NYY
2. BOS
I also could flip flop 4 and 5 to close to call with both teams having major turds.