The Orioles won one of the Wild Card slots last year by winning 93 games. While it is not impossible, it’s improbable to imagine that they will find themselves in that situation again. Luck played a big part in the O’s success, but these Orioles are actually a pretty good team. They have some decent pitching, offense with upside and no pressure compared to any of the other teams in the division.
This team really doesn’t get enough consideration despite the talent it has. However to become perennial contenders many of their key players will need to take another step forward and the team will have to depend a little less on luck. Here are 10 to watch in 2013. Jason Hammel (SP): Hammel made tremendous strides forward in 2012 due to an improved arsenal of pitches, which led to more strikeouts, fewer walks and more groundballs. If he hadn’t injured his knee he might have had a total breakout. That said he comes into 2013 with breakout potential written all over him. 200 strikeouts is a possibility along with a 3.75 ERA.
Wei-Yin Chen (SP): Chen is the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy pitchers; he gets no respect from almost everyone in the fantasy community. He transitioned from Japan to the AL East almost seamlessly and actually improved his strikeout rate comparatively. He’s just 27 so the possibility that last year was a step forward and not just a freak occurrence is very real. There might be more in the tank too, but I’d be very happy with a repeat.
Nolan Reimold (OF): Provided he’s healthy Reimold could split time between the DH role and left field. He missed most of last season due to a bulging disc in his neck. However before that he was raking the ball hitting .313 with five home runs in just 67 ABs. While that was a small sample it was screaming breakout for Reimold. He’s picked up in that same vein thus far in spring training at least in terms of power. He's hit four home runs in just 41 ABs. He could be a low risk - high reward sleeper.
Adam Jones (OF): Jones has a breakout last season becoming a legit 4-4.5 category contributor. He’s just 27 coming into this year so it’s possible the best hasn’t come yet. That said he’s going to be an expensive acquisition on draft day and regression is very possible.
Nick Markakis (OF): Markakis had a great season last year in just 420 ABs but had the season cut short by injuries. Was it really a step forward or just a freak aligning of the planets? If it’s real he has a shot of returning to the 20 home run club and threatening .300 once again. If not it's still hard to sneer at .285-15.
JJ Hardy (SS): Draft Hardy for power because he doesn’t offer much more. Odds are he’ll never hit 30 home runs again, but 25 might be possible, though 18-20 is far more likely. So long as he gets at-bats he should continue to produce. There is no upside beyond the power. Manny Machado (3B): Machado had a solid rookie season, but youth is rarely dependable. While it’s possible that he builds on his 191-AB audition and becomes a 25 home run hitter this year, odds are that he’ll struggle this time around. Keep your expectations modest and be thrilled if he hits 15 to go with 10-15 steals in 2013. Still he has great keeper upside.
Jim Johnson (CL): Johnson isn’t likely to rack up 40 saves again, even if the Orioles offer him as many chances as last year. He gets the job done despite not having a high strikeout rate and depending on the on the groundball as a means to success. Despite the lack of typical closer skills he’s one of the safer closer plays in fantasy. Chris Davis (1B): Home runs, home runs, home runs. Last season’s .270 was an illusion, but the power is definitely real. Since he finally figured out to hit in the big leagues he is a valuable fantasy contributor but don’t expect last year to reoccur. His home run/fly ball rate was fueled more by luck than skill. Even with regression he’s capable of 20-25 bombs.
Chris Tillman (SP): Adding a little speed to his fastball turned out to be the key to success for Tillman, who only managed 86 innings but turned in a sub 3.00 ERA, cut his walk rate and raised his strikeouts per nine innings to almost seven. The sample size was small but it didn’t look to be driven by luck as ground ball rate, hit percentage and home run/fly ball rate all stayed consistent. Looks like a matter of having better stuff. He won’t maintain levels like that across an entire season, but if he could post a sub 4.00 ERA in the AL East, he’ll be a very solid middle of the rotation guy.