Expect great things from Machado. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
So the Baltimore Orioles lost. I hate it just as much as you do. Instead of weeping or watching the World Series, however, I’ve found a better use of my time: looking ahead to next year. Steamer has released its 2015 projections for hitters, which means we can see how the club’s position players will (theoretically) do going forward. I’ve broken down the current roster into WAR groups, with 2014 stats for comparison.
Note: Steamer doesn’t have projections for Chris Davis. I don’t know why.
3+ WAR: The Stars
Machado stands out here, with a phenomenal season that pretty closely resembles his breakout 2013 (in which he posted 5.3 WAR per 600 plate appearances, similar to Steamer’s 4.9). While that season, as well as this one, ended early because of knee injuries, he’ll still have the best third base defense in baseball. Coupled with better plate discipline and more power, this should return him to stardom.
Wieters saw even less action than Machado this year, as Tommy John surgery prematurely ended his most successful offensive campaign to date. He most likely won’t sustain that outburst, since it came chiefly as the result of an elevated BABIP; middling hitting, more in line with his career norms, is most likely. Surprisingly, though, a torn UCL won’t inhibit his defense in any way: His fielding should lead all AL backstops. He’ll ride that work behind the plate to a superb four-win season.
Pearce and Jones, predictably, will fall back to Earth a bit after outstanding seasons. The former just can’t keep up a .262 ISO, and the latter won’t continue to perform defensively at an elite level. With that said, both will carry their weight, and then some. In particular, Pearce’s projection intrigues me, since it still features a fairly lofty ISO and an overall exceptional bat. He’ll hold on to some of the gains he made this year, and subsequently will accompany Jones in the Orioles’ outfield.
1-2 WAR: The Supporting Cast
Fresh off a $40 million contract, Hardy will fulfill expectations in 2015, but not to the extent that some might imagine. At the plate, his flukish BABIP will decline, but the partial return of his power will compensate for that; in the field, he’ll fall off even more, due to that whole “age” thing (he turned 32 in July, and players at that age don’t tend to excel with the glove). Nonetheless, he’ll play well, and the Orioles couldn’t have asked for much more when they re-signed him.
Apparently, Baltimore might non-tender De Aza. Something about jettisoning a league-average outfielder who’ll probably make about $6 million strikes me as asinine. Regardless, De Aza should churn out another solid campaign on whichever squad he finds himself, with resurgent offense — due to several small improvements across the board — to make up for subpar defense.
And of course, the two breakouts (to differing extents) that drove the Birds’ 2014 success won’t happen again. Markakis put up his best fielding numbers since 2008, which he followed up with five years of atrocities in right; these will only grow worse henceforth. Likewise, Cruz hit at 2010 levels, mainly because of an increase in clout and a decrease in whiffs, neither of which will remain at those degrees. Both of them will play respectably, but they won’t be the assets they were this year.
0-1 WAR: The Scrubs
Schoop certainly has the ability to play well, but he won’t realize his potential any time soon. Regression to the mean with regards to his plate discipline and BABIP will only cover some of his poor hitting, and his defense apparently smelled anomalous. In his case, “wait till next year” will have to wait another year.
Likewise, Lough’s glove could very well catapult him to the spotlight someday. After all, if we learned anything from the team that beat the Orioles, it’s that defense — especially in the outfield, on a team with fly ball pitchers — matters tremendously. Sadly, though, Lough probably won’t follow the path of his former teammates in the near future, as his breathtaking glovework will come down to a more breath-giving level.
On the flipside, we find Flaherty, who possesses none of the capacity for glory of the preceding two, but all of the pathetic play now. A moderate uptick in hitting prowess won’t bring him up to anything worth noticing, and his defense will stay mediocre.
Paredes and Young have minuscule shots of residing in Baltimore from here on out, and for good reason: They just aren’t very good. They can’t hit, their abberant 2014s notwithstanding, and their gloves don’t turn any heads (or in the case of Young, it does, but not in a good way). The Orioles will probably let these two go, in favor of younger and/or cheaper options.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.