Sep 28, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) takes the ball from starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (16) in the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Red Sox 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: A Projection of Fears for 2014

At the beginning of each year of blogging and writing about the Baltimore Orioles (this new Baltimore Wire blog is my third association), I have written a list of my hopes and fears for the team for the coming season. I do this early in the calendar year, and then I return at the end in December to evaluate how many hopes and fears eventuated. Typically, it is about half and half in both categories.

Yesterday I began by writing a list of my hopes and what drives those aspirations; and now today I confess my fears and concerns about what could imaginably go terribly wrong.

Disappointment in Chris Davis having a less than stellar season – So what does a guy do for an encore after hitting 53 homers and driving in 138 runs?  It was an amazing season for the Orioles’ first baseman. It is difficult to imagine now that just 12 months ago, Davis was seen by many Orioles fans as unlikely to adequately handle first base and likely to be the second coming of Mark Reynolds with strikeouts. He was #2 in the AL in that category with 199 (Chris Carter had 212), but his positive stats more than made up for it. A season with 38-40 home runs and 110 RBIs will look anemic now, but it is probably more realistic. If Davis could do that and cut down on the K’s, that would be a good success.

Another year of DH ineffectiveness – There are no sure bets as to what the Orioles will do with the DH role. It has been a great weakness for quite some time. The DH is very much tied to left field for the Orioles. At this moment in time, pending a move like signing Kendrys Morales or such, David Lough looks to be the probable left fielder. Designated hitter possibilities involve Nolan Reimold with health asterisks inevitably attached to him, and a platooned possibility of a host of other names. It is easy to imagine all of this degrading and descending into a relative vacuum once again.

Henry Urrutia getting lost and wasted at AAA – I do not see any reason why Henry Urrutia cannot excel at the plate in the major leagues, and sooner rather than later. I understand he was out of baseball with his Cuban status difficulties, and I realize he has still some catching up to do on defense, base running and the like. But the Orioles have a need now, and Urrutia will turn 27 this summer. I believe his offensive potential is greater than anyone else the Orioles have around the edges of the team or in the farm system, yet I fear he is going to get blocked from bringing it to OPACY soon.

Matt Wieters will have another mediocre offensive season – I was at the game when Wieters stroked his first big-league hit. It all seemed so easy and effortless, and his offensive potential at that point looked limitless. That seems like a long time ago now. It is not an unreasonable argument to say that, if Wieters was going to figure it out and hit at, say, a .280 clip, it would have happened by now.  I continue to hope it will happen, even as I fear it will not. Because of his value on defense and the number of homers he hits relative to most catchers, I’m good with a .240 average – although I think it needs to be at the 8th spot in the order and not 4th or 5th.

Manny Machado will never really catch up from a late start – It is great to be young, and Manny has that on his side as he seeks to come back from the knee surgery. My guess is that he will be ready to go about the time the regular season begins or soon after. So the fear is that his offseason will have been focused on knee rehab, and thereby understandably not on baseball-oriented fitness and repetitions. The concern I have is that his late start on the season (without much of a preseason) will yield results that are anemic and look like a Nick Markakis situation and a Yogi Berra “déjà-vu all over again.”

The Orioles will go through a series of ineffective second basemenRyan Flaherty is such a likeable player for Orioles fans, who hope he will step in and excel as the everyday second baseman. There is no doubt that he would bring “plus” defense to that position.  He has some power and can really turn on the inside pitch. But can he sustain this? I have doubts. Could Jamile Weeks take the position with a hot spring training and sustain it? I have doubts. Is Jonathan Schoop ready to be the guy at second?  His Arizona Fall League experience would seem to say “no way.”  Will someone, anyone be the answer?

One reliever will be the “designated closer” and be thrown into disadvantageous situations over and over – For anyone who has followed my writing here at this new blog The Baltimore Wire has already heard me say that I believe closers are largely a myth. I keep threatening to reconstitute my (IMHO) persuasive piece on that subject – and that may just happen as soon as tomorrow … so y’all come back!  But the current craze in baseball is to designate some one person as fulfilling the role of “closer” … whether he is the best match-up in that situation or not. And so I fear someone, or a series of “someones” will get designated and be too frequently in bad match-up situations.

Nolan Reimold will be healthy at last, squeezed out of Baltimore, and excel elsewhere – As I said yesterday, I’m still in Reimold’s boat, even if is the size of a dingy.  I am afraid that just about the time Nolan is able to put it together, he will be unpacking in a new place after his exit out of Baltimore (because the DH/LF role will be given to others) and that he will bust out somewhere else … and oh God, please don’t let it be the AL East.

The starting rotation will flounder again, and Dan Duquette will lose the window of opportunity to rebuild this franchise – That sentence pretty much summarizes the frustrations and fears of the Orioles fanbase. The concern is that by the time the rising pitching stars like Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Eduardo Rodriguez and Hunter Harvey make it to Baltimore, the pop that is the Orioles offense will be playing elsewhere. I have higher hopes for the current rotation than does the commenting community of Orioles fans over the offseason; and I’m slow to criticize Duquette and assign conspiratorial guilt to Peter Angelos – because I truly don’t know that is accurate. But it is neither rare nor unreasonable to have some concerns that the rotation could again descend to “who is the next man up?”

So there are nine concerns. They will not all turn out to be as negative as stated here. But if even half of them do eventuate, it could be a mediocre season for the Orioles in the tough AL East in 2014; and this could snowball into greater bad will and irretrievable frustration with fans.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles

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