It’s about time! The 2014 MLB season is now upon us, and the Orioles opened up with a win against the Boston Red Sox to start their 2014 campaign. While there are probably a bunch of players you already know—like Chris Davis and Adam Jones, for example—I’ll run through the lineup to help you become better familiar with the 2014 O’s.
Nick Markakis looks to bat leadoff for most of the season as he mans his normal spot in right field.
J.J. Hardy, at least early on in the season, will spend time batting second. When Manny Machado comes back, Hardy might move to sixth.
Adam Jones will be the three-hitter in this potent Orioles lineup.
Crush Davis will be the cleanup man—most likely for the duration of the season.
Newcomer Nelson Cruz will bat behind Davis in the five hole, giving the O’s a nice left-right punch. Cruz came over from the Texas Rangers this offseason as a free agent and will be playing left field and designated hitter on occasion. One area where Cruz excels is hitting for power, but he needs to find a way to get on base a bit more frequently than he has the past two seasons.
Matt Wieters will resume his spot behind the plate, bringing his Gold Glove defense to the field every day.
After Wieters—at least to start the season—is Delmon Young, who will DH as well as play left occasionally. Young was the first overall pick in the 2003 draft and has bounced around a bit during his eight-year career. Last year Young spent time with the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies. His best season came in 2010 while on the Minnesota Twins, where he batted .298 with 21 home runs and 112 runs batted in. He also hit 46 doubles that year as well. If he can keep his head on straight, he will be a huge addition to this team.
While Manny Machado is out, Ryan Flaherty will spend most of the time at third base. Flaherty is a jack-of-all-trades player, having the skill to play third base, second base, shortstop, and the outfield. When Machado comes back, the infield status will depend on how Jonathan Schoop plays at second as well as how well Flaherty is playing.
Speaking of Schoop, the young second baseman will start the season as the starter. He’s only 22, but hit very well in the preseason, batting .385 with two HR and eight RBI. In limited action last year, he batted .286 in five games, but being ranked as the 82nd overall top prospect by BaseballProspectus.com is nothing to sneeze at. This kid has what it takes to succeed.
While Manny Machado starts the season on the DL, there is no reason his starting job at third is in jeopardy once he comes back. It could be some time this month, but the Orioles don’t want to rush his return.
Other players that will factor in are backup catcher Steve Clevenger, infielder Steve Lombardozzi, and outfielders David Lough and Steve Pearce.
Clevenger was part of the Scott Feldman trade last year that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs. Clevenger was hitting well this spring, batting .472 with two HR and seven RBI in 36 at-bats. He has played in 83 games in his short MLB career, batting .204.
Lombardozzi is a local boy from Fulton, Md., who came over at the end of March in a trade with the Detroit Tigers that sent Alex Gonzalez to Detroit. Lombardozzi has spent his first three years with the Washington Nationals, batting .264 over the course of 705 AB.
Lough had a decent spring, batting .310, and gives the Orioles another quality outfielder. Lough was acquired back in December from the Kansas City Royals, where he spent the first two years of his career. During that time, he batted .278 over 116 games.
Pearce is a familiar face around Baltimore, as this is his second year with the O’s, although he did spend time with the O’s in 2012. Pearce gives Baltimore another option in the outfield. He played solid in 2013, batting .261 with 4 HR and 13 RBI in 44 games. He showed a knack for getting on base, posting a .361 on base percentage last year.
The Orioles led all of baseball last year in home runs, and this year they look to repeat as they will certainly put up their fair share of runs. Stay tuned, as next week I will run down the O’s pitchers.
by Andy Mindzak