Steve Pearce was a big part of the Orioles’ success in 2014, and pretty much nobody thought they would be saying that. X-Factors can being the biggest difference for teams when it comes to racing for the postseason and you have a breakout player that can put you over the edge. I’m going to look over some in-house options that could make a difference in the 2015 team.
Henry Urrutia – Outfielder
- 2014 MLB stats: DNP (Injured)
- 2014 MILB stats: 65 games, .253/.274/.312, 0 HR, 19 RBI’s
Obviously this is not the most impressive stat line for a guy who played in Norfolk and the Gulf League last year, but he was recovering from sports hernia surgery and will go into Spring Training healthy.
Urrutia is already on the 40 man roster, so it would not take an addition roster spot to add him to that. With no certainty at DH yet for the Orioles, this could be a name that floats around the spot. Being a left handed hitter with power potential in Camden Yards is at his advantage. Like I said earlier, unless the Orioles resign Nelson Cruz, they will not have a certain DH candidate and Urrutia will be in the discussion for that spot during Spring Training.
With the kind of low risk/high reward player he is, he could make a significant difference in the Orioles next season.
David Lough – Outfielder
- 2014 stats: 112 games, .247/.309/.385, 4 HR’s, 16 RBI’s
Yes, I know that David Lough did not live up to expectations in 2014 after trading for him from Kansas City. However, 2015 is a fresh start for the speedy outfielder, with way less expectations from the fanbase.
Going into last season, Lough was battling for a starting spot in left field with Quintin Berry and Steve Pearce. Lough and Pearce both made the 25 man roster, but for different reasons: Lough to play left field and Pearce as the 25th man because he was out of options. I can’t get in the head of David Lough, but I can make all the assumptions I want. My best guess is that he wanted to be “that guy” who the fans could trust on to be offensively and defensively dependent.
I was fully on the “Lough as the left field starter” bandwagon last season, and I will proudly pilot it again. I mean, HE FINISHED WITH A HIGHER WAR THAN DELMON YOUNG. That alone has to be my favorite stat from last season. Also, last year was the first year he posted a positive offensive WAR in his MLB career, so he is making progress!
Tim Berry – Pitcher
- 2014 stats: 6-7, 3.51 ERA, 133.1 IP, 108 K’s, 45 BB’s, 1.25 WHIP
The #7 top prospect in the Orioles organization was called up for one day to the Orioles last season. He did not make an appearance, but I still think that is awesome. I can definitely see him making spot starts in case of injury or someone struggling in the rotation.
I can also see him take a “2013 Kevin Gausman” role in the bullpen before trying out for the rotation in 2016. I think Berry could flourish as a middle reliever who could save the O’s trading for someone at the deadline. I mean, you obviously don’t want your young pitchers getting use to pitching out of the bullpen early in their career, but I do not think half of a season there will hurt. It didn’t seem to hurt Kevin Gausman, who will, barring injury or any other freak accident, will be in the O’s starting rotation.
Ryan Flaherty – Infielder
- 2014 stats: 102 games, .221/.288/.356, 7 HR’s, 32 RBI’s
If there is such a thing as a “consistent bench player”, Ryan Flaherty would be that. If you aren’t an Orioles fan and you don’t know much about Ryan Flaherty, let me explain. Ryan Flaherty is a poor man’s Ben Zobrist who has more power than Ben Zobrist but just ends up hitting ground balls to second base. No seriously, go look at his spray charts; almost all of his ground balls are to second base.
Flaherty CAN be a very important player to the Orioles in 2015, if he chooses to be. He is a guy who has 10-15 HR capability who can hit around .250, which is more than enough from a bench player. Why I think this is the year he breaks out is because, like David Lough, he was little to no pressure now. All of the pressure will be on Jonathan Schoop to try and hold down second base to where Flaherty can easily rise to the occasion if Schoop slips up or someone goes down with an injury.
Having a guy like Flaherty is very crucial to a team’s success. Sure, he doesn’t seem like anything special, but he is a solid fielder who can show some power every now and then. I think if he can learn to hit the ball to the opposite field, he may see his power numbers stay the same, but his average go up.
Obviously there are more players I could list, but I believe that these four will have the best chance to make some impact this upcoming season since they are all on the 40 man roster and will be with the big league club in Spring Training up until the end of March and right before the season starts.