Optimism Vs. BaltimoREALITY: Nick Markakis
Moving on to the outfield. In this series I look at the optimistic approach to your 2013 Baltimore Orioles, then look at the unbiased reality. Will the optimism be correct? If you’ve missed any, I’ve looked at Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Brian Roberts, Alexi Casilla, Manny Machado, and JJ Hardy.
The former #7 pick overall is still only 29 years old. It’s time for him to hit his prime and to finally put it all together. In 2007 and 2008 Nick Markakis hit over .300 with 20 home runs. Something he’s tried to do ever since then. In 2012 he was on pace to do it again, until injury struck, forcing him to miss the end of the 2012 season and the playoffs. The optimism is that Markakis’ 07-08 was not his peak. It’s about time that he improves upon those numbers, gets back over .300, and reaches 25-30 HR’s. Because of the increased productivity before the injuries last season, he should do it this year.
He reached his ceiling in 2007 and 2008. Markakis is not going to be a guy who produces numbers any better than those. At this point in his career people should just be hopeful that he can actually reach those numbers again. Let alone surpassing them. For some reason the league figured him out and he lost his ability to hit .300. He’s failed 4 straight seasons.I do think that he can sniff that number again, but it will be close. As far as the power goes, I do think he can get to 20 again. Having hit 13 in only 104 games last season, 20 isn’t a stretch. As i said before, don’t expect many more than that.
Is his health a concern? No. 2012 was the first time he didn’t play a complete season in his 7 year career. He is not an injury prone player. He’s a solid middle-tier mediocre MLB outfielder — offensively. He will hit near .300, hit 20 HR’s, won’t show much speed, and won’t give you any leadership. That’s as mediocre as they come. It’s too bad that the Orioles are paying him too much to be mediocre. They had expectations that he was actually better than he was offensively. It’s not going to happen.
His defense however, is a different story. There is nobody better in right field in all of baseball. Markakis should have rightfully won a Gold Glove every year of his career except for 2012. People now fear him and do not try to run on him. He has one of the better outfield arms in baseball. Does him defense make him worth his salary? Perhaps. He’s good for the team in that regard.
He may be the only good option to lead off as well. He doesn’t possess as much speed as a typical lead off hitter, but the Orioles actually don’t really have any good lead off options. Brian Roberts would be a joke to try there. Nate McLouth‘s average is way too low. This is the perfect spot for Markakis. He doesn’t need to worry about hitting home runs in the leadoff spot, so the 20 he does get will be a bonus to each game. He gets on base enough to lead off, and still has one of the higher batting averages on the team. If the Orioles had a good lead off guy, Markakis would be a nice #2 or #6 hitter. For now he should settle in at lead off. Putting him in the #3 or #4 spot makes the team weak. He certainly doesn’t need to play there.
So lower your expectations on Markakis slightly. Instead of hoping that he will shatter his career numbers, just hope that he can get back to what he once was. That’s his ceiling. That’s all we should expect from him. Enjoy his excellent defense and take his mediocre offensive numbers. Guys like him are not superstars, they are good complimentary pieces to good teams. Guys like Jayson Werth, Hunter Pence, and Corey Hart are the same way. The Nationals paid Werth all that money and then the fans expected him to be a superstar. He’s not a superstar. He’s a very solid player that hits #2 or #7 in an order with other superstars and really adds a lot of good attributes to the team. Markakis is virtually the same, he’s just a little younger, and with a better batting average.
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