Baltimore Orioles: Starting Lineup Projections

Sep 7, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado (13) hits a solo home run against the New York Yankees during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado (13) hits a solo home run against the New York Yankees during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

As we get into Spring Training, here are my statistic projections for the Baltimore Orioles starting lineup.

As the baseball season starts to get into gear and Spring Training gets going, I’ve put together a series of statistic projections for how I think the Orioles starting lineup will perform. As a disclaimer, this can (and likely will) change as two things happen:

  1. It’s entirely possible the Orioles sign someone (someone like, say, Austin Jackson), and then the lineup will change.
  2. Spring Training performances may alter my projections a bit, though only a little, as I don’t put a whole lot of stock in spring training stats. I will also be posting a starting rotation projections article as well, so keep an eye out for that.

So here are my projections for the 2016 starting lineup for the Orioles (for reference of some of the stats I mention, click here):

  1. Hyun-Soo Kim: .272/.340/.420, 15 HR, 75 R, 76 RBI, 7 SB

The Orioles new addition from South Korea is going to be a great part of the team, I think. He has shown tremendous patience at the plate in Korea, with an OBP that would be among the league’s best in the MLB, and a decent amount of pop and skill making contact.

Now, I don’t think he’s going to have the year he had in Korea. The Korean league is about equivalent to AA ball here in the states, but a skill like plate discipline and a good eye is something that can easily translate into the major leagues. It’s worth noting too that KBO-transfer Jung-Ho Kang didn’t strike out anymore in the MLB than he did in the KBO, so it’s reasonable to assume that Kim will be similar.

Kim will make a great leadoff hitter with his ability to get on base, and he could provide some decent power too. In all honesty, I’m being conservative with my estimate, and I really think Kim’s power ceiling is somewhere around 20 HRs. I think Kim could ultimately be like Nick Markakis but with more power.

2. Manny Machado: .289/.359/.498, 30 HR, 98 R, 86 RBI, 15 SB

Manny finally had the breakout year everyone knew he was capable of last year and has now firmly placed himself as one of the best players in all of baseball, and probably the best third baseman.

And the most beautiful thing about his breakout? Statistically, nothing registers that it was a fluke. He started crushing the ball, and there’s no reason to think he can’t continue that. His isolated power went from .153 to .216, which is a massive increase, and his average batted-ball distance is over 290 feet. His hard hit rate was a career-best 33.1%, which is above the league average of around 30%, and his wOBA was a fantastic .370 (league average is about .320).

So yea, Manny is incredible, and he’s going to keep being incredible. The only thing that I don’t think will carry over as much are the steals. He’ll still steal a good number of bases, but he went out of his way to go 20/20 last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he focused more on hitting and less on stealing this year.

3. Adam Jones: .277/.315/.475, 31 HR, 85 R, 95 RBI, 5 SB

Adam Jones is a scary and strange player from a statistical perspective. He swings at absolutely everything, ending each year with an OBP in the low-.300s, and with a terrible walk rate. Yet, somehow, he always hits the ball. As an Orioles fan, you don’t look the gift horse in the mouth and are just happy with his production, but there’s reason to be wary.

Each year of the past three years his contact rate has gone up, and each year his hard hit rate has gone down. So he’s hitting the ball more, which is great, but he’s hitting it softer and softer. So far, it’s been fine, the changes are minimal, and that’s why I’m not projecting Jones to all of a sudden bomb this year. But the way he approaches the plate is ripe for a spectacular crash one year, and if that year was this year, or next, don’t be surprised. The Law of Averages tends to be right more often than not.

Until then though, Jones will, I believe, continue to be one of the best hitters on the Orioles, reaching 30 HRs and batting in the high-.200s. He’ll also likely continue to be a Gold Glove-caliber fielder, as he’s been every year.

4. Chris Davis: .252/.341/.542, 40 HR, 90 R, 112 RBI, 2 SB

The prodigal son returned. After what felt like forever negotiating a contract, Chris Davis is back in Baltimore where he can crush home runs to his heart’s delight.

The man is pure power, and the beautiful thing about him is he’s in the exact right place for the way he hits. Last year, he pulled the ball more than he ever had before (55% of the time, which is way above the league average 40% pull rate) and in Camden Yards, Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium, that’s exactly what you want to do as a left-handed power hitter. His hard hit rate (41.4%) was among the 20-best in the MLB last year; add that to his pull rate and his ridiculous 29.4% HR/FB, and you’ve got home runs by the dozen.

Is he going to strikeout a lot? You bet. I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw another 200 strikeout year from him, but that doesn’t matter when he hits 40 home runs. He’s a three true outcome hitter (HR/BB/K) and we’re not expecting anything else from him.

Sep 9, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis (19) hits an RBI ground rule double against the New York Yankees in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis (19) hits an RBI ground rule double against the New York Yankees in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /

5. Pedro Alvarez: .240/.315/.471, 32 HR, 65 R, 84 RBI, 2 SB

The recent Orioles signing has come off a six-year stretch with the Pirates and established himself as a monster home run hitter and little else. He is the three-true-outcome hitter, as he has struck out, walked, or hit a home run in 44.1% of his career plate appearances. However, it’s important to note that he’s not some decent-OBP power hitter like Adam Dunn used to be. Alvarez strikes out a lot more than he walks, his career strikeout rate is 29.1%.

Regardless, Alvarez can pummel the ball, his career hard hit rate is at 37.4%, (when he hits a fly ball, it’s typically gone, with a career HR/FB of 22.5%, which is more than double the league average) and more often than not, Pedro pulls the ball, which is perfect for Camden Yards.

Pedro is what Pedro is. A monster power hitter with a low average, and with him in the lineup, the Orioles add yet another monster power threat, but take on another average liability. But in any case, expect to see some more dingers crushed in Camden Yards.

6. Mark Trumbo: .254/.304/.476, 30 HR, 73 R, 88 RBI, 1 SB

One of the Orioles’ bigger acquisitions of the offseason was trading Steve Clevenger to the Mariners for Trumbo. During his time in the major leagues, Trumbo has been known to do one thing: hit the ball exceptionally hard. He doesn’t walk, he doesn’t get on base, he just hits home runs and strikes out. In Anaheim, he did that pretty well, averaging around 30 home runs each year; but the past two years with Arizona and Seattle have been rough for him.

Luckily, though, there are explanations for his decline those past two years. First of all, he dealt with some injury troubles (a stress fracture in his foot), and second, he was in a park (and division) that’s not nearly as hitter-friendly as the AL East is. What is encouraging is seeing that his hard hit rate has stayed roughly the same the past four years; and last year, he started hitting the ball to the opposite field a lot more than he ever did before. If he can keep doing that, he’ll be set, because right field is the field to take advantage of in the AL East between Camden Yards, the Pesky Pole in Fenway, and Yankee Stadium.

His fly ball rate has stayed roughly the same, but his HR/FB rate has dropped, which normally would be concerning. But fret not, because since his hard hit rate has stayed the same, there’s little cause for alarm, which is why I’m entirely confident that he’ll be able to hit 30 home runs with the Orioles this year, especially if he’s the full-time DH (as he should be) and doesn’t have to worry about fielding.

6. Matt Wieters: .248/.302/.418, 14 HR, 38 R, 47 RBI, 0 SB

I know. Those projections seem kind of low for the almighty Wieters. But honestly, I don’t think he’s going to play the whole year. I’m glad we got him for the one year and didn’t overpay for him, but I think Wieters will get hurt, as it seems he’s wont to do, and he won’t get a full year in.

I think at this point we know what Wieters is. He’s a power hitter and an incredible fielder. Given a full year, I think he could hit 20 HRs and bat around .250, but I just don’t think he’ll get there, especially if he’s spending the majority of his time behind the plate. I’m hopeful though, because he’s incredibly valuable as a fielder, and makes the Orioles noticeably better, especially the pitching staff with the way he can call a game.

8. Jonathan Schoop: .258/.292/.435, 20 HR, 56 R, 58 RBI, 3 SB

Schoop is an odd bird (pun only slightly unintended) at second base. He’s a big power hitter at second, which is not typically a power position. Last year was a great year for him; he ended up with .279 AVG, but a .329 BABIP seems to predict a regression in that, especially considering how much he strikes out, his lack of speed, and how little he walks (his BB% was a miserable 2.8% last year to go with a .306 OBP).

But what is really his power. Last year his ISO jumped up to .203 from a .145 the year before, and his hard hit rate went up from 26% to 34.5%. Schoop is going to crush the ball, and he’s going to be a very good fielder at second base. He’s not going to get on base a lot, and he’s going to strike out a lot, but if he’s hitting 20 home runs, you can live with that.

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9. J. J. Hardy: .246/.284/.361, 11 HR, 52 R, 53 RBI, 0 SB

It seems that gone are the days of J.J. Hardy hitting 25-30 home runs and batting in the .260s, age is a pain like that. The 33-year-old should be serviceable at shortstop, certainly as an above-average to good fielder, and as a mediocre hitter.

In case you were wondering what happened to him, the answer is likely age. The power has just gone away, whether it was the injuries that plagued him a couple years back, or age, or both, it’s gone. His hard hit rate has dropped steadily over the past four years, bottoming out to a career low last year (23.7%), while his soft contact rate has been steadily increasing. Along with that, his ISO has plummeted down to a career-low .092 last year. Add in the fact that he’s striking out more than ever before, and you can easily see a man in the twilight years of his career.

Hardy will be serviceable, and that’s fine, but he’ll be little more than that.

Looking at the Orioles starting lineup as a whole, I think it’s reasonable to expect a team that strikes out a lot (we could easily lead the league in strikeouts), hits for a low average (probably around .260 as a team), doesn’t run (we’ll probably be dead-last again in steals) and hits a ton of home runs.

By my projections, the team should hit around 200 home runs, which would have been good for top-five in the league last year. It’s not a balanced team, but it’s a powerful team, and that will account for something.

UPDATE: Since initially writing this, the Orioles signed Pedro Alvarez. He has now been included in this article and Jimmy Paredes has been taken out.