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A. L. East

Baltimore Orioles 2017 Outlook

The Baltimore Orioles surprised prognosticators again by winning 89 games against 73 losses, when most projections systems had the Orioles about 10 wins below their final total.  In this Charm City resident’s humble opinion Buck Showalter should have won manager of the year.  Terry Francona is a hell of a manager, but I don’t think there is any comparison between the talent on their respective rosters.  I say that with full knowledge of perhaps the most curious managerial decision of the last decade, that being Showalter apparently forgetting that he had one of the best relievers on the planet during their walk-off loss to the Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card Game.  Still can’t figure that out.  Going with Ubaldo Jimenez over Britton in the 10th inning, led, predictably, to this:

 

All I can say is at least it wasn’t Jose Bautista.

On the offensive side in ’16, it is surprising to see the O’s finished 12th overall in the league in runs scored, while leading the league in home runs by a 28 home run margin, until you see that the O’s were 21st in OBP.  I think that sums up their lineup from ’16 pretty well … lots of solo shots.  Their sluggers, Trumbo, Jones, and Schoop ran OBPs of .316, .310, and .298 respectively.  Those are great batting averages.   On the pitching side, Baltimore came in 19th in ERA–as expected when your team runs out Chris Tilman as its ace.  With an offense that was middle of the pack and a mediocre starting rotation, the O’s won 89 games largely on the back of their dynamite bullpen.  The O’s had the best bullpen ERA in the league at 3.40, led by Zach Britton and his absurd 0.54 ERA, his third straight season of a sub-2 ERA.  Britton’s sinker is simply the best pitch in baseball.  The bullpen was not a one-pony show either.  Before getting to Britton, Showalter had Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, and Mycal Givens at his disposal.  While the Yankees got the credit for building a super-bullpen prior to the ’16 season the O’s actually had one.

With a middle-of-the-road offense and mediocre starting pitching, the O’s bullpen as a whole was the real star of the team.

As far as off-season moves, Dan Duquette continued his dumpster diving ways:

— Yovani Gallardo traded to the Mariners for OF Seth Smith

— Agreed to three-year contract with OF/1B/DH Mark Trumbo

— Signed C Wellington Castillo to one-year deal

— Signed DH/1B Pedro Alvarez to a Minor League Contract

Projected Lineup:

Note that I expect this lineup to change on a game by game basis.

  1. Hyun Soo Kim
  2. Adam Jones
  3. Manny Machado

    A picture of consistency for the last 5 years, I can’t help but thinking the bottom might fall out on Jones in the near future.

  4. Chris Davis
  5. Mark Trumbo
  6. Seth Smith
  7. Jonathan Schoop
  8. Wellington Castillo
  9. J.J. Hardy

Projected Rotation:

  1. Chris Tillman, injured
  2. Kevin Gausman
  3. Dylan Bundy
  4. Wade Miley
  5. Ubaldo Jiminez

Who should be on your radar:

Trey Mancini has hit at every level of the minors, in ’16 compiling a .302/.413/.698 slash line in AA, before a .280/.349/.427  in AAA, before getting the callup to the big show and swatting 3 home runs in 15 at-bats.  It’s a matter of when, not if Mancini gets the call-up this year.  With the similarities between the O’s current LH hitting lumbering outfielders (Smith, Kim, and now apparently Alvarez), to go with Davis’ lefty bat, the O’s are going to need a right-hander sooner rather than later.  With the addition of Alvarez, I have to believe the O’s are considering other moves, and if one of Smith or Kim is  traded or Alvarez makes the squad, I could see Mancini getting an early call-up.  To repeat, this lineup needs a righty bat.  Projections show a league-average hitter, but I’d be willing to gamble on the upside expecting something along the lines of high-teens homers with an average that doesn’t kill you, with potential for more.  Keep an eye on him especially if Kim or Smith gets moved.

Fantasy Outlook:

We’ll start with pitching because outside of holds leagues, AL-only, and leagues with the depth of Sasha Grey’s throat, there’s really only three guys to be interested in on the staff.  Britton is going on average a full round after the other two elite closers — Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman — and I don’t really understand that.  What he lacks in Ks over those guys, though he’s no slouch, averaging about 10 K/9 over the last two years, he makes up for in ERA, posting 1.65, 1.92, and 0.54 (!) in the last three years.  Those aren’t flukes either, well, maybe the 0.54 is.  After Britton, the next guy off the board is Mark Melancon and I start to see some real risk.  I could, for the first time in a long time, see drafting an elite closer — Britton.  Closers seem more and more likely to lose their jobs these days with the emphasis on building depth in the pen.

Rough approximation of the O’s rotation after Bundy and Gausman

The other two to keep an eye on are Gausman and Bundy.  With Bundy, I am intrigued.  The O’s never used to let their pitchers throw cutters and it has hurt them as an organization.  Just look at what Jake Arrieta did when he left the organization and was allowed to throw the pitch.  With a change in pitching coaches and philosophy, Bundy has added the pitch back into his repertoire.  I am not going to go crazy and predict a huge breakout, but I think there is some profit potential here in mixed leagues as a fifth starter or AL-only as a three or four, hoping the former-top-prospect can give me slightly under a K per nine and a mid-3 ERA if things break right.  There’s always the health risk though combined with the fact that he pitches in the AL East in a homer friendly park, so be aware you may get nothing from him or if you do get something, it could be ugly.  Worth the gamble late though in my opinion.

Gausman seems like he has been a breakout candidate for years now and is once again this year for many.  It’s come to the point that I will believe it when I see it.  He’s coming off the board before guys like Carlos Rodon and McCullers and that, to this word salad chef, is crazy.  He’s got some strikeout ability (8.72 K/9 last year) and good control (3.7 K/BB last year), two indicators of better things to come, but he’s also posted a 4.25 and 3.61 ERA with identical FIPs of 4.10 in the last two years.  He pitches in a terrible park and league for pitchers and can’t keep the ball in the park (HR/FB of 13.4% and 15.4% in ’15 and ’16).  Gausman is like Robbie Ray/Michael Pineda lite.  Good control, good stuff, but ERA is never gonna match.  I’ll take the dive on the other two given their relatively cheap price tag and huge K-rates.  In sum, Gausman is who he is to me which is a high 3 low 4 era guy with 8.5 K/9, until he shows me he isn’t, which I hope he does, but don’t think he will.  Nice sentence Steve.  Thank you.  For the price, gimme the aforementioned McCullers or Rodon.  You do you though.

If you need an innings eater like Tillman, which is all he is at this point , turn to the NL, not the AL East.  You don’t want a low 7 K/9, low-4 ERA at best guy in the AL East on your squad, you just don’t.  Oh, he’s already struggling with injury too.

Avoid the rest of the O’s staff like the plague.  If Gausman and Bundy don’t show up this year and with Tillman already hurt, this could get ugly real fast.

As to the offense, we went over Jones in the top 40 outfielders.  To quote:

“With Jones it feels like the bottom is going to fall out any season now.  He put up a very respectable .265/29/2/86/83 line last year.  But, with a wRC+ of 96.  He was not a good hitter.  His slugging dropped to .436 and his OBP hovered around it’s usual level at .310.  (What’s weird to me too is Jones’ reverse splits.  He has always struggled a bit against lefties but last year put up a triple slash line of .218/.268/.313 against southpaws.  That’s some backup catcher shit.)  There’s my added fear that he’s going to be hitting leadoff and reducing his RBI opportunities without a corresponding uptick in runs given that his OBP barely cracks .300 every year.  He still managed a solid line last year, but if a case of bad luck hits or the power dips a bit, I don’t think it’s going to be pretty.  Draft him and pray for last year’s line, but if he starts slow he won’t be on any of my buy-low lists.”

Machado is a beast, and enough has been written about him.  He’s a top-8 no-doubt pick.  Here’s his player page.  Believe.  Only question is whether the steals come back, which I am betting against.  Baltimore just doesn’t run.

I am out on Davis.  Home runs are up across the league, so there’s less need for a slugger these days and he needs luck to hit .260, like a lotta luck.  Odds are he’ll be closer to .230 than .250 and you wasted a pick on Davis as opposed to grabbing some real upside like Bregman or stability like Beltre.  Just draft Pujols 50 picks later.

Already covered Trumbo too:

“I get it, Trumbo hit 47 home runs this past season.  I understand.  Thing is, it was and will remain the best season of his career.  The rate at which he hit flyballs jumped along with his HR/FB percentage to a career high of 24%.  If it drops back down to the 14% range as it was in the previous two seasons, you’ve got trouble.  I don’t foresee a total collapse unless he gets injured.  But the likelihood of that has diminished now that he’ll be mostly DHing for the O’s.  While there is a chance that he repeats, there’s also a chance he reverts back to a 30 home run hitter with a weak average or worse (he hit 22 homeruns in about 60 less at-bats the previous season).  In the second half of last season he hit .214, albeit with 19 homeruns.  That’s unplayable.”

I like Schoop as a late option at second and think a repeat of his ’16 numbers is coming: 25 or so homers 70-80 runs and 70-80 RBIs .255 to .270 average.  Second base is so deep this year, no?  Beef Wellington is about the 13th catcher off the board and that seems about right.  Some are blowing their load at the prospect of Beef moving to Camden, but he’s leaving a stadium in Arizona that was just as offensively friendly.  Also, as someone that watches the O’s Showalter sometimes gets a hard-on for shitty players — looking at you Ryan Flaherty — and Buck likes Beef’s backup Caleb Joseph.  Joseph could put a real dent in Beef’s playing time.  Like Schoop, expect a repeat and be happy with it.  I don’t think there is any more coming.

This man, Ryan Flaherty, is a pro athlete. To quote Kevin Garnett, “anythhhhhhhhhhhinnnnnnngss possiiiiiibbbbbbbbbleee”

 

Kim and Smith will be useful in OBP leagues or deeper daily leagues where you can start them against righties.  Both have the upside of my taint though.

This Year’s Prediction

Any other manager or a weak bullpen and I would have the wins in the high seventies here.  I think Buck works his magic again though and the O’s win 84 and just miss the Wild Card.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 12th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #78 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we break down both West divisions. We will discuss potential lineups, rotations, bullpens, and any minor league potential for each team along with a heavy fantasy spin.

Our guests this week are Kevin Bzdek and Kevin O’Hara. Kevin Bzdek is one of our newest additions to our baseball writing staff in 2017. His articles publish every Friday morning. Kevin O’Hara is a big dynasty baseball fan and a moderator for the fantasy baseball community on reddit.com.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 19th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #79 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss player updates, players being overdrafted, and overall fantasy updates.

Our guest this week is Jon Merkel. Jon is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com in both baseball and football. His articles publish every Wednesday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

 

I have been playing fantasy baseball for about a decade over just about every format. Long time player, but first time writer. Hope to provide you helpful, informative, and entertaining insight throughout the season.

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