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Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING AROUND THE CAMPS: BALTIMORE ORIOLES

By Eric C. Wright

Sarasota, Fla.--The Baltimore Orioles were one of the best and most consistent teams in all of baseball in 2014 as they rode a home run-heavy offense and underrated pitching to the AL East Crown which was than followed by a disappointing postseason defeat.  Free agency was not kind to the Orioles which no doubt will hurt their chances of repeating in the division, what with the Boston Red Sox retooled and ready to strike.  Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis both left town to sign deal elsewhere but at the same time the Orioles welcome back All-Star catcher Matt Wieters who missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery.  This is a team that still can hit the baseball out of the ballpark and their staring pitching was solid across the board last season. 

LINEUP

1.  Alejandro De Aza
2.  Manny Machado
3.  Adam Jones
4.  Chris Davis
5.  J.J. Hardy
6.  Matt Wieters
7.  Steve Pearce
8.  Travis Snider
9.  Jonathan Schoop

ROTATION

1.  Chris Tillman
2.  Wei-Yin Chen
3.  Bud Norris
4.  Miguel Gonzalez
5.  Kevin Gausman

CLOSER

Zach Britton

5-STAR PLAYERS

Adam Jones:  One of the most consistent and durable star outfielders in fantasy baseball, Jones sometimes gets forgotten when talk of the first round guys at his position are talked.  The consistency is staggering here as Jones has hit 33, 32, and 29 home runs the last three seasons while also logging runs, RBI, average, and steal numbers that are all within a few digits of one another.  The late first round is an excellent place to have Jones anchor your outfield.

4-STAR PLAYERS

Manny Machado:  This is me taking a firm stand on Machado as a future star and a guy who should be a top ten fantasy baseball third baseman this year as long as he stays healthy.  Two major knee surgeries likely have already taken any stolen bases out of the equation but Machado showed how tremendous a hitter he can be when on the field as he clubbed 12 home runs and 327 at-bats.  Machado's ability to handle the bat was compared to Miguel Cabrera when he was coming up the O's farm system so major expectations remain. 

Zach Britton:  Despite not having powerful stuff, Zack Britton was brilliant at closer for the Orioles in 2014 as he rang up a 1.65 ERA while nailing down 37 saves in 41 tries. The margin is thin when a closer has the mediocre kind of K rate Britton had but his nasty sinker is a huge weapon that should lead to more success.

Chris Tillman:  Over the last three season, Chris Tillman has logged ERA's of 2.93, 3.71, and 3.34 as he has turned into the clear ace of the staff.  Blessed with a four-pitch arsenal, Tillman consistently keeps hitters off balance which helps him overcome the lack of a strikeout pitch.  Those who chase trends should note that Tillman has been a top ten starter the second half of the last two seasons.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Chris Davis:  Going into last season, it would have been thought of as ludicrous to have Chris Davis slotted as anything but a five-star guy.  After all Davis was a first round pick last spring as he came off a 53 HR and 138 RBI blockbuster season.  Those who are followers here however remember that we screamed to the rafters to avoid Davis at all costs prior to last season as we never advised paying for career years and also were very worried about the massive K rate sinking the Orioles first baseman in 2015.  Throw in a PED bust for greenies and we nailed it.  Davis couldn't even bat .200 as he put up a hideout .196 average to go with only 26 home runs and a sullied reputation.  I wouldn't go near Davis again this season as any positives he supplies in home runs will be offset by the horrid average.

Matt Wieters:  Those looking for catcher values should be all over the comebacking Wieters in 2015 as he should be ready to go in April after missing all of 2014 due to the Tommy John surgery.  Wieters was in the midst of his best ever star, hitting over .300 and with power before his elbow woes.  While it could take Wieters a few weeks to find his footing, he is still capable of 20 home runs and 65 RBI.

Alejandro De Aza:  Solid and steady has been De Aza out of the leadoff spot the last two seasons for the Chicago White Sox.  There is some quiet power/speed value here without going crazy of course.  The Orioles need a leadoff hitter and De Aza is the only guy capable of doing so for them.  Better value in five outfielder formats but De Aza could serve as a shaky outfielder 3.

J.J. Hardy:  It was a strange season for Hardy in 2014 as his previously firm 20-plus home run power was nowhere to be found.  Without the pop, Hardy is pretty much useless.  There are no excuses for the bad year but Hardy has a long track record with his power as he has hit 22 or more home runs in five of the last eight seasons.  The Orioles felt comfortable enough to re-up Hardy in the offseason so that should speak volumes in regards to his chances for a comeback campaign.

2-STAR PLAYERS

Steve Pearce:  A long journeyman career through multiple MLB cities was the storyline for Pearce until the influx of injuries inflicting the Orioles thrust him both into the outfield and at first base.  Pearce responded by hitting for power and putting up a useful batting average.  He did so well that Pearce is the favorite for the starting DH job in 2015.  There is a need to be cautious here as Pearce was a career journeyman for a reason.  There is a firm chance he could go right back to being useless so keep this in mind before you make a draft pick in his direction.

Wei-Yin Chen/Bud Norris/Miguel Gonzalez:  Outside of Chris Tillman and the sleeper status of Kevin Gausman, the rest of the Baltimore Orioles rotation in really only for those looking to fill a SP 5 slot.  Norris has the best K Rate of the bunch but the worst control, while Gonzalez and Chen post decent ratios but shaky K rates.  Keep them as SP 5's only.

Kevin Gausman:  Gausman put up some solid K Rates while coming up the minor league ladder for the Orioles but when given the chance to start in the past, he has failed often.  He deserves being looked at again given his youth but the shine is fading quick.

1-STAR PLAYERS

Travis Snider-Jonathan Schoop, Ubaldo Jimenez, Delmon Young

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