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Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 SPRING TRAINING REPORT: BALTIMORE ORIOLES

By Michael Wong

Sarasota, Fla.--The Baltimore Orioles continue to try and win games by slugging the most home runs and doing whatever they can to get by when it comes to starting pitching.  The latter blew up on them last season as predicted but the Orioles hit home runs like never before.  So let's get into the odds and ends on the 2017 version from a fantasy baseball perspective.

1.  Adam Jones is not getting old yet is he?  It depends on whom you ask as there is a growing legion of Jones critics in fantasy baseball, with most of it being quite unfair.  Now being truthful, there is somewhat less flash here then in the past due to the fact Jones doesn't run anymore (5 total steals the last two years) but the rest of the numbers are right there along his excellent career norms. Consider that Jones hit 29 home runs last season, drove in 86, and scored 83 runs which were all good and regular numbers for him.  In fact the RBI and runs were a bit down but that is mainly due to the fact Jones missed a few games late in the year with injury.  Still just 31, Jones is more of a high OF 2 then his past as an OF 1 but there is still a lot to offer here and now he comes cheaper then he has in awhile.  Just keep in mind the steals are gone for good and Jones also has hit .269 and .265 the last two years.  While again he is no longer a top tier outfielder, Jones is not dead and buried just yet.

2.  Is THIS the year Dylan Bundy finally lives up to the hype?  Boy it seems like we have been waiting forever for Bundy to live up to his past as a much-hyped power pitching prospect but Tommy John surgery interrupted things for a bit.  Still just 24, Bundy worked in the bullpen and did some spot starting duty for the O's in 2016 as he pitched to a 4.02 ERA and 8.53 K/9.  Keep in mind though that Bundy is just now starting to find his way in the majors and his fastball has come back to life at 98-mph.  The O's will give him every chance to claim a rotation spot and so the post-hype sleeper tag applies here.  Remember some of the best values can be had from this class of player so be sure to check out what Bundy is doing this spring.

3.  Zach Britton is the top closer in fantasy baseball off his insane 2016 correct?  I mean by the numbers it would be hard to argue against him as Britton recorded a ridiculous 0.54 ERA and upped his K/9 rate above 9.50 for the second year in a row.  While we would understand anyone taking Aroldis Chapman number 1 among closer, Britton is as safe as it gets at a very volatile position.

4.  As insanely productive as Manny Machado is, where were the stolen bases last season?  This is the epitome of nitpicking as Machado hit 37 home runs, drove in 96, scored 105 runs, and batted .294 while carrying eligibility at third base and shortstop.  Those are mid-first round numbers no matter how you slice it but Machado had a bagel in the stolen base department after swiping 20 the year before.  Did Machado suddenly lose his speed?  The answer is no as Machado is just 24.  The fact of the matter is that Machado was a victim of manager Buck Showalter's disgust for the stolen base.  Showalter refused to give the O's the green light on the bases and that is why Machado didn't do anything there.  Obviously you are getting four categories of first round ability here but anything Machado does in steals will be a nice bonus.

5.  Is Kevin Gausman ready to be an ace starter?  No likely but Gausman has the stuff to be as high as an SP 2 if all breaks right in 2017. After taking a few years to make hay in the majors, Gausman posted a breakout season in 2016 by pitching to a 3.61 ERA and 8.72 K/9.  Able to throw his fastball at near triple-digits, Gausman certainly has top-shelf stuff.  However in the rough AL East, Gausman is more like yo be a firm SP 3 then anything more.  That is valuable but nothing worth chasing in the draft.


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