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Friday, February 16, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: BALTIMORE ORIOLES

By Michael Wong

Sarasota, Fla.--The Baltimore Orioles are becoming old news in the AL East as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on paper appear destined to battle it out throughout the 2018 season for the division title.  While the Orioles possess some impressive hitters, their pitching staff looks very shaky and they will also be without All-Star closer Zach Britton for months as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.  Despite all this, no Buck Showalter-led team can ever be counted out and so count on the Orioles forcing the Yanks or Red Sox to earn the division.

1.  Manny Machado moves back to SS full-time!  Showalter surprised many when he said a few weeks before the beginning of spring training that it would be 2017 incumbent third baseman Manny Machado who would be the team's everyday shortstop to begin the 2018 season; while Tim Beckham would man the hot corner.  As far as Machado is concerned, he went as a first round pick in most fantasy baseball leagues last season but disappointed some by hitting just .259.  Still, Machado deserves a mulligan there as he suffered from some horrific BABIP luck all season and his other numbers were tremendous as he hit 33 home runs, drove in 95, and even ran a bit again with 9 steals.  Just now entering into his prime, Machado is a first-round talent once again who may be able to slip into Round 2 based on the fluky average.  Bid aggressively.

2.  Can Dylan Bundy be depended upon as a top-end starter?  While there is no denying the fact Bundy was very good for long stretches of 2017, he still finished the year with a shaky 4.24 ERA and middling 8.06 K/9.  When you consider that Bundy's .273 was lucky and that his ERA should have been worse, you can see that trouble lies ahead.  Since Bundy doesn't have the K/9 rate to overcome any BABIP regression, there could be major problem on the horizon here.  Be sure not to draft Bundy as anything more than an SP 4.

3.  Why is everyone so down on Adam Jones?  Jones now serves as your classic example of what many in the fantasy baseball community call a "boring veteran."  Now 32, Jones is getting a bit up there in age but he is still showing good thump as he hit 26 home runs last season and his numbers the last few years have remarkable been consistent.  What Jones gets knocked for is the fact he doesn't steal bases anymore and his average has slipped down to the .270-280 range which is not horrible but not great either.  Be that as it may, if you can sang Jones as your outfielder 3, you did very good.

4.  Can Brad Brach hold the closer fort again until Britton returns?  Absolutely as Brach has closer-type stuff and he did well in Britton's place last year as well.  The Orioles may flip Brach to another club by the middle of the season if the Orioles do fall out of contention but any discount you can get with the guy can result in a nice value play this season.

5.  Can Jonathan Schoop be considered a top-tier fantasy baseball second baseman?  It certainly looks like it as Schoop was insanely good as he smashed 32 home runs, drove in 105, and batted .293 in 2017.  While we don't totally by the average, Schoop's power is completely legit and that skills is very rare at second base.  Yes, there is no speed to be had here which is not what you want from a middle infielder in fantasy baseball but Schoop is fully worth being grouped into the top tier at this spot.


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