Mar 25, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles infielder Manny Machado (13) makes a throw to first base in the third inning of the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Orioles infielders were not overwhelming at the plate in 2014. Chris Davis had a dreadful year with a .196 average and 26 homers, Jonathan Schoop showed signs of greatness and power while only batting .209, J.J. Hardy increased his average but saw his power drop significantly, and Manny Machado missed half the season. Steve Pearce provided some excellent fill-in for Davis, though other positions were not covered as well. It seems reasonable that the O’s should be able to match or exceed the total outcome from last year.
Chris Davis – There is no single player whose performance could make for a great season for the Baltimore Orioles more than Chris Davis. If he could return to a 2013 performance or anything close to it, the O’s will surely be playing October baseball. Having said that, I do not expect it. He will have a better season than 2014, hitting maybe 32-34 home runs and batting possibly .230. But I think the league has figured out ways to pitch and defense against him that are very successful.
Jonathan Schoop – I believe that Schoop is going to have a long and productive career. But we are still very, very close to the front end of it. I anticipate he will continue to grow and sharpen his skills by taking a step forward to a .235 average along with occasional power and excellent defense.
J.J. Hardy – Starting the year on the DL is not what was needed for Hardy. Honestly, the injury does not sound terribly difficult, and Hardy may well bounce back from it rather quickly. But I fear that he has a proclivity for some nagging sorts of injuries that take away from his full abilities. I don’t expect Hardy’s power to come back to pre-2014 levels, but if he hits in the .260s with good numbers again in RISP situations, we can call it a successful year.
Manny Machado – There are clearly NO lingering issues from Machado’s previous knee injuries and surgeries. And I am far from isolated as a writer in anticipation of an outstanding year from Manny. Some are suggesting he could be among the MVP vote-getters in 2015. I don’t know about that, but it is not a crazy idea. After a slow start in April, I will predict Machado to lay out his best season yet – hitting near .300 with more power than the past as well.
Evereth Cabrerra – This is not a player I would have expected to be writing about in the weekend before opening day, and certainly not talking about as the starting shortstop! But Cabrera may prove to be the best offseason pickup by Dan Duquette. I will predict him to fill in very admirably at the beginning of the season for Hardy, along with providing a more productive alternative to give Hardy more rest and days off. He will do the same for Schoop and achieve some good total numbers by year’s end. The experience of being a part of the character-enriched O’s clubhouse will be a life-changing year for Cabrerra.
Ryan Flaherty – It is what it is, and he is what he is: a very good utility man defensively with a .220 average. If he’s in a slump it will be .217, and when he gets hot it will approach .225. I am honestly hoping that Cabrerra does well at the beginning of season and sticks with the team, with Flaherty enjoying the nice summer breezes in Norfolk.
Jimmy Paredes – If this was written a day earlier, I would have had to expand upon it more descriptively. But Paredes will start the season on the DL with a back issue. After a blistering spring training, will this break that momentum and make it impossible for him to come back and contribute significantly to the team? I don’t know; I would not have predicted his outstanding spring training. If we could put together Flaherty’s glove and Paredes’ bat, we’d really have something. Final thought – I don’t expect a big final contribution from Paredes, but would be pleased to be very wrong.
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