The Orioles are going into 2016 with possibly one of the most unique lineups in baseball.
Why? A big part of the intrigue has to do with the re-signing of first baseman Chris Davis, acquiring Mark Trumbo from the Seattle Mariners, signing international free agent Hyun Soo Kim out of South Korea and the addition of former Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez a little bit into Spring Training.
The real question that needs to be answered during the season is, “Will these acquisitions give the Orioles the best lineup in baseball”?
- Caleb Joseph’s 2015 season: .234/.299/.394, 11 HR, 49 RBI
Caleb Joseph has been a blessing in disguise for the Orioles since coming up from the minors in 2014 after Matt Wieters’ initial elbow injury. While Joseph is not the greatest asset to have on offense, his defense makes up for it and in a lineup with so much power, he can easily fit in the bottom of the order.
- Francisco Pena’s 2015 season: .143/.143/.143, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 8 games in MLB
It is very clear what Francisco Pena’s role on the 40 man roster is: insurance. You do not need a plus hitter as your backup catcher, you care more about their defensive skill and handling of a pitching staff. If Pena plays a game in Camden Yards in 2016, he will either be in the visitors dugout or something has gone horribly wrong.
- Matt Wieters’s 2015 season: .267/.319/.422, 8 HR, 25 RBI
Most of Matt Wieters’ 2015 season was focused around getting healthy enough to go back to playing a majority of the time whether he was catching or in the lineup as the designated hitter. Wieters did post decent numbers following his injury and recovery and is projected to be the starter barring his current elbow concerns set him back at the beginning of the season.
- Pedro Alvarez’s 2015 season: .243/.318/.469, 27 HR, 77 RBI
For giggles, I’ll list Pedro Alvarez as an infielder even know any knowledgeable baseball fan knows those days are behind him. Alvarez is one of the most limited baseball players in what he is able to do on the field, but he sure can hit some long balls. In 2013, he led the National League with 36 homers — we all know who led in the American League — and the Orioles are hoping the short porch in right field at Camden Yards will help Alvarez get to that number again. Alvarez should be the starting DH or possibly platoon with Mark Trumbo.
- Chris Davis’ 2015 season: .262/.361/.562, 47 HR, 117 RBI
The term “home run” is like Beetlejuice: if you say it three times, Chris Davis appears. The MLB leader in home runs for the second time in three years signed a seven year, $161 million deal with the Orioles in the off season which is the largest deal in franchise history.
With a lot to live up to in Baltimore, Davis’ career can take two paths: the way of Jim Thome or the way of Ryan Howard. Davis is unlike any power hitter I have ever personally seen in my time watching baseball. For as effortless as he swings, the ball always flies off of his bat. While his home runs do not act as line drives like Giancarlo Stanton‘s do, Davis still manages to hit them out for as high as he hits them. That way of hitting homers led to five of Davis’ long balls getting robbed at the wall last season, something I still think is pretty hilarious. All I hope for Davis is that his batting average stays above .250, his home run total eclipses at least 30 and he does not strike out 200 times.
- Christian Walker’s 2015 season: .111/.333/.111, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 7 games in MLB
One of the more notable players this spring for the Orioles, Christian Walker may not be listed as an infielder for long. Walker will start his 2016 season in Triple-A Norfolk working in left field to eventually convert to a starting outfielder. One of the more promising prospects in the Orioles system, which is not a hard label to acquire, Walker has opened eyes with his power during Spring Training with four home runs and 14 RBI which are impressive numbers for sure but they are Spring Training numbers.
Do we all need to be reminded of Jake Fox? My hope for Walker is that he finds his niche in the outfield and can be a valuable part of the Orioles outside of being trade bait.
- Ryan Flaherty’s 2015 season: .202/.281/.356, 9 HR, 31 RBI
Unless you have been living under a rock or you do not know who I am at all, you should know that I am one of Ryan Flaherty’s bigger fans in Baltimore. With that, I know his skill set and what is realistic from him. Flaherty is a serviceable utility man with the ability to play every position in the field outside of center field and catcher. For somebody who does not get regularly at bats in the lineup, it can be tough to maintain a top batting average so I do not expect the best results from Flaherty which is okay as long as his defense is adequate.
- Jonathan Schoop’s 2015 season: .279/.306/.482, 15 HR, 39 RBI
Everybody’s breakout pick for the 2016, Jonathan Schoop, is expected to have one of the best seasons out of all of the Orioles hitters. Due to an injury in 2015, Schoop was limited to only 86 games and still managed to hit 15 home runs which leads to depressing thoughts about what could have been if he had stayed healthy all season. Nonetheless, the Orioles are happy to have Schoop back and fully healthy ahead of a year where his home runs could get lost in the mix of everything.
- Manny Machado’s 2015 season: .286/.359/.502, 35 HR, 86 RBI
Easily the Orioles best player, Manny Machado seems to be fully recovered from his knee injuries and ready to build off of his great 2015 season. In a season where Machado went to the All Star Game for the second time in his career, where he won his second career Gold Glove and finished 4th in American League MVP voting, the most impressive feat for me was his 35 home runs. In 2013, he hit 14 which was his highest total before 2015 and I think we saw a glimpse of what Machado’s power can be when he’s healthy and plays a full season. Speaking of full season, Manny was the only MLB player to play in 162 regular season games which just adds to how happy I am that he is on my favorite team.
- J.J. Hardy’s 2015 season: .219/.253/.311, 8 HR, 37 RBI
The season J.J. Hardy had in 2015 is not what any team or fan base wants to see following the signing of a three year, $40 million contract during the prior year. Injury plagued for most of the season, hearing reports that Hardy is now fully healthy is a pleasant relief after dealing with injuries on and off for the last two seasons. When healthy though, Hardy may be the best defensive short stop in the AL. Posting 14.7, 19.8, 13.3, 20.4 & 12.2 dWAR’s since coming to Baltimore gives Hardy the benefit of the doubt if he is struggling at the plate or is not hitting 20+ home runs anymore. If he can stay off the disabled list, Hardy can be a good bounce back candidate in 2016.
- Hyun Soo Kim’s 2015 season: .326/.438/.541, 28 HR, 121 RBI in KBO
The Orioles went back to the international market looking for talent to add to their team. This time, they chose to look at the Korean Baseball Organization and 10 year veteran Hyun Soo Kim of the Doosan Bears out of Seoul, South Korea. Kim had struggled in the beginning of Spring Training but seems to have figured things out of recent with eight hits in his last seven games after going without a hit in his first seven games in spring. I still think Kim will start in left field on Opening Day and will find his confidence at the plate soon and will get better once he has seen more of MLB pitching.
- Nolan Reimold’s 2015 season: .247/.344/.394, 6 HR, 20 RBI
It might be time to end the Nolan Reimold chapter in Baltimore. In a crowded outfield once again, Reimold finds him competing for a spot on the team essentially against a Rule-5 play in Joey Rickard and he is losing big time. With six hits in 37 at bats, Reimold has struggled mightily this spring which was an important one for him to rise above the competition in the outfield and show why he deserved at least a roster spot. Plagued by injuries his whole career, this could be a sad ending to Reimold’s Orioles career.
- Adam Jones’ 2015 season: .269/.308/.474, 27 HR, 82 RBI
Adam Jones is easily the face of the Orioles franchise and for good reason. Jones is the most consistent player on the team: he will hit around .275-.280, hit around 30 home runs, play solid defense and strike out around 120+ times. As he puts it himself “nobody gets paid to walk” which may be the best way to describe the Orioles offense’s strategy since 2012. You can expect more of the same from Jones in the 2016 season, which is a good thing.
- Joey Rickard’s 2015 season: .360/.437/.472, 0 HR, 11 RBI in 29 games for AAA Durham
The Orioles love the Rule-5 Draft which everybody knows by now. It has led to Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland being on the team, two players have been very serviceable for the team. Expectations are a little higher for Joey Rickard. During this Spring Training, Rickard has a .356 batting average with one HR, five RBI and three stolen bases. The best part about him? He’s an outfielder! He is easily Hyun Soo Kim’s best competition to start in left field and he has the benefit of being able to play center field in case Jones were in need of an off day for whatever reason. I like what I have seen from Rickard and I feel like the Orioles have found a diamond in the rough.
- Dariel Alvarez’s 2015 season: .241/.290/.379, 1 HR, 1 RBI in 12 games in MLB
My two favorite things about Dariel Alvarez is hit very impressive home run power and his very strong arm out in right field. Alvarez was one of 15 outfielders who hit 100 MPH on a throw from the outfield, an impressive feat to accomplish in only 12 games. There are still holes in his game that I feel some more time at Triple-A Norfolk could help him figure out but he is definitely one of the first people the Orioles will call up during the year.
- Mark Trumbo’s 2015 season: .262/.310/.449, 22 HR, 64 RBI
2015 was a very good year offensively for Mark Trumbo and it was his best season since 2013 in which he hit 34 home runs. I am still a huge fan of the trade to acquire Trumbo from Seattle considering the upside he brings with him. Steve Clevenger may have the lore of being from Baltimore to get Orioles fans to like him but at the end of the day, Clevenger is a AAAA catcher who is a horrible defender and the upside is better with Trumbo. I honestly think we may see our first club level home run shot in Camden Yards since 2011 when Mark Reynolds put one up there.
- Jimmy Paredes’ 2015 season: .275/.310/.416, 10 HR, 42 RBI
Jimmy Paredes might have been the most exciting player early on in 2015 for the Orioles but that may not be enough to keep him on the team. Paredes hit a brick wall with his offense and offers nothing in the field that is promising and might be done with the Orioles due to the fact that he is out of options. He will most likely start the season on the DL with a wrist sprain which will keep him in the organization for the time being but after that, it looks over.
The Orioles offense has the potential to be the most potent in the league by far. With their ability to hit the long ball in Camden Yards, it will lead to some very high run totals in some games and high strikeout totals and very low run totals in the other games.
The biggest argument against the offense is that it is one dimensional and relies on the long ball too much which can be a problem but can also benefit them with how Camden Yards is set up and the warmer weather in the summer allowing the ball to fly out easier.
My final synopsis of the Orioles hitters is that it will be nothing if not super fun to watch Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez all possibly put out 30 home runs each. The strikeouts will still be there but can be easily forgotten if guys in black and orange are crossing the plate and not the ones of the creme white home jersey variety.
Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison