The Mad Professor: The Orioles Still Haven’t Found What they are Looking For…”
Wow. I think it is going to be a long summer in Baltimore. This is a great franchise with a great history. Alas, there is a quote—attributed to several sources including Winston Churchill—to the tune of “History is just one damn thing after another.” I think O’s fans are going to look back at 2016 and agree with that definition.
You must have pitching. You can’t win every game 14-12. The Red Sox took that approach to baseball last year and we all saw how far that got them. In the case of the O’s, their lineup is essentially the same as 2015. Their SP remains middling at best. Their bullpen is solid.
Within this context, the O’s will be better from a fantasy perspective than they will be in reality. So, there is profit here if you choose well in your drafts. But, in reality, it is likely that the O’s will trail the rest of the AL East because of their lack of dependable SP.
The bullpen is their strongest asset. They have a stud reliever in Britton and good setup men in O’Day (a closer in waiting) and Matusz. But in the same way that you can’t steal first, you can’t save if you are losing. It’s testament to Britton’s dependability that he converted 36 out of 40 chances in 2015. Essentially, he saved half of the Orioles’ 81 wins. Were Britton on the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers (or other big market teams), he’d get the appreciation he deserves. But in Baltimore he does not get the press. In this regard, you might hold back and hope you can pick him up at a discount after the likes of Davis, Chapman, Kimbrel, etc. have been drafted at a premium.
The pitching staff is average. Baltimore finished in the middle of the MLB pack last year with a 4.06 ERA and a .257 BAA. Hardly the stuff of legends. The big(??) acquisition was Yovani Gallardo. He’s an innings eater (averaging about 180 IP over the last three years with Milwaukee and Texas). He does not strike out many hitters and his K/BB ratios have been terribly mediocre the last three years (144/66, 146/64 and 121/68, respectively). That’s hardly dominating stuff.
Those numbers will slide him in somewhere in the middle of a starting rotation comprised of Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Gausman. Tillman is simply a weak #1 SP. His numbers are pedestrian at best. Gonzalez offers little more. He had decent stats in 2013 and 2014, but is not a quality #2 SP. Tillman and Gonzalez are listed as #1 and 2 in many depth charts, but they’d be several spots down on most quality rosters. Jimenez showed signs of adequacy before the All-Star break last year . Afterwards, he was terrible (5.32 ERA) despite a serviceable K/BB ratio.
If there is strength in the rotation, it lies with the 24-year-old, Kevin Gausman. After a bumpy start in 2015, he finished with a solid 78/20 K/BB ratio. But he still was erratic at times. At 25, Gausman is a solid young pitcher. If he can settle down this year, he could easily rise to the #1 slot in this staff.
Top prospect Dylan Bundy is worth a look if he makes the team. He has good stuff, but missed much of 2013-14 thanks to Tommy John surgery, and then had a shoulder injury last year (OK. A short rant. WHY are 21 year olds getting Tommy John surgery???). If he makes the starting rotation, he could offer value from the #5 SP slot. I think he is more of a long term investment. If he makes the team, he is as likely to do so in the bullpen as he is to crack the rotation. But as the season wears on, he may find himself starting games.
Overall, this is hardly an awe-inspiring rotation. Gausman and a healthy Bundy offer profit late in most drafts. Jimenez, Gonzalez and Tillman won’t be the stuff of winning fantasy rotations. In sum, the pitching value on this team is in the bullpen. The starters are what end games are all about.
The lineup has some real fantasy profit potential. Age is a factor, but injury has been as well. This is a lineup of Studs and Scrubs. Going around the horn, then, we start with a heavy-hitting IF.
C. Matt Wieters. Before Tommy John surgery sidelined him in 2014, Wieters was living up to his billing as a stud catcher. Injuries in 2015 limited him to only 258 AB. But if you own skills once you display them, the 30-year-old Wieters could be a draft day bargain at catcher. When healthy, he delivered 20+ HR from the C-spot. His position in the lineup will definitely affect his RBI potential. Hard to believe a one-time uber-prospect is past his prime.
1B. Chris Davis is an obvious source of great power. He hit 53 HR in 2013 and 47 in 2015. He will now bat around the solid, dependable middle of the lineup of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and newly acquired Mark Trumbo. Along with Wieters, these five comprise a middle of the order that can deliver HR in bunches.
2B. Jonathan Schoop offers solid 20+ HR potential from the 2B position. Given real AB in the second half of 2015, his BA jumped to a respectable 270+. He does not really offer much in terms of BA or speed, but this is a legitimate source of power and RBI potential, especially if he hits high in the order.
SS. J. J. Hardy. He is now 33. Not long ago, he was a threat to hit 25+ HR. Age and injuries have caught up to him, limiting his AB (only 411 in 2015) and keeping his HR to single digits. His production has tailed off and his spot in the lineup has plummeted. It’s time to look elsewhere for your fantasy shortstop.
3B. Manny Machado. He is a stud at a deep position full of young talent. Take your pick: Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Machado. Throw in Donaldson and Cabrera. He and Davis are the most powerful bats on the team. If 30 HR are worth $40, get out your wallets. He’s only 23 and a legitimate first round pick.
OK. The infield is formidable, with the glaring exception of Hardy. Turning to the outfield, we see a big difference: with the glaring exception of Adam Jones, it is not real solid.
OF/DH: Adam Jones, Hyun Soo Kim, Nolan Reimold, Jimmy Paredes, Mark Trumbo.
Adam Jones remains a solid, consistent producer. Over the last 5 years, he has averaged about 28 HR and 90 RBI. Bid with confidence. Mark Trumbo remains a legitimate threat to hit 25 HR or more. In the middle of this lineup, he should have ample opportunity to deliver value from the OF or the DH spot.
Paredes got off to a hot start and flamed out quickly in 2015. He may have a stress fracture in his hand, so keep an eye on him in Spring training. He, along with Hyun Soo Kim and Nolan Reimold, offers little in terms of consistent OF production. Kim looks like a platoon player (barring injuries to others). Nolan Reimold once looked like a solid value pick for the back end of your OF and fantasy lineup. He’s a 230/240 hitter who has yet to earn himself consistent AB. Not much value here.
Summary. The O’s have a solid bullpen, mediocre starting pitching and a lineup that has a formidable middle and a really low low-end. When you bid on the Orioles’ studs, bid with confidence. Fantasy fans will enjoy this team much more than the fans. A lot of baseballs will leave Camden Yards this year. Unfortunately, Baltimore’s SP will be responsible for as many as its lineup.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 3rd, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #3 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Our topic this week will be 1st base and 3rd base players to target or avoid this year.
Our guests this week are Zak Sauer and Eric Paulen. Zak is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com as well as an owner in MLFB and MLFF leagues. Zak’s articles publish every Thursday. Eric is an Emmy and Peabody Award winner with significant experience leading large film/video production projects spanning all genres of television. Eric has been successful at building and directing production teams in developing and implementing programming content for diverse audiences with well-known television networks and brands, including A&E, ESPN, HBO Sports, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, The Travel Channel, WWE Network, The NBA, NHL Productions, NFL Films, and NCAA.
Come join a lively debate!
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 6th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will help you build a better bullpen and we will also discuss catcher options for 2016.
This week’s guests are Joe Iannone and Mike Stromme. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and you can check his articles out every Sunday. Mike is also a writer with MLFS and he is also the assistant editor.