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March 4, 2014 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

2014 Fantasy Baseball Top Five Questions: Baltimore Orioles

2014 Fantasy Baseball Top Five Questions: Baltimore Orioles
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There are quite a few issues for the fading Orioles, and their off season moves reeked of a desperation approach. This is a team with question marks at virtually every spot in the pitching staff, from Ubaldo Jimenez at number one right through the back end of the pen. The staff questions have less fantasy relevance than these questions that follow:

5. Can Chris Davis repeat? As a general rule every outlier performance regresses. But what is an outlier performance? Mike Trout appeared to be an outlier, until he showed he was really that good. In Davis’ case it is easy to say that 2013 was an outlier, as he almost doubled his prior best fantasy season. His adherents will point to 2012 to show that 2013 was not an outlier, but a continuation of a new level of performance and they might be right. In my view you can be 100% certain that last year was an outlier and he will not repeat. His HR/FB rate was an insane 30%. Barry Bonds’ averaged 25% for his career and no one is particularly close to 30% for a career. Davis is a good power source, but a 30-35 HR season with a .270 BA is more likely than another 53-homer season. That is not a first round player. On the other hand, I traded Davis in May last year, so my opinion may just be sour grapes.

4. Is Matt Wieters going to perennially disappoint? Now 28 years old, it is clear that Wieters is never going to fulfill the promise of his historically good minor league career. His skill set is remarkably consistent, so we know what we are going to get, right? If you squint you see the signs of a regression, not a breakout into the upper echelon. Though he is a switch-hitter, Wieters’ OPS has badly regressed versus lefties in the last three years. His BB/K ratio is also on a three-year decline and his overall OPS barely cracked .700. He has always struggled versus righties, but a .628 OPS in 2013 is horrible for anyone. He is reaching his peak, has pedigree and has been a solid contributor and those are marks on the plus side of the ledger. These assets do not seem to counterbalance the minus side of the ledger, at least to these eyes.

3. Is Chris Tillman ready for Prime Time? He just might be. 2012 was a breakthrough season of sorts for Tillman, as he rode a big velocity increase to a surprising season after getting batted around in 2011. We did not know what to expect in 2013, but Tillman did not disappoint. He consolidated his 2012 gains in the first half of 2013 and then built upon them in the second half. We are not believers in the parsing of a season into halves, but the point that you pick to divide the season in Tillman’s case is almost a red herring. The fact is that he made a big skills gain in the later part of 2013 and the question is whether it was real or not. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s, which is why this is one of the top five questions.

2. What will Nelson Cruz do? We said at the time that Cruz was nuts to reject the qualifying offer and test free agency. Most people do not realize that he is already 34 years old, and he may very well be finished as we speak. So, why would anyone think someone was going to give a .260 hitting 34-year-old with no speed a multi-year contract and give up a first-round pick for the privilege? Cruz is close to the top of the Most Overrated Players list. He is in the midst of a multi-year skills erosion, losing dollar value every year. Toss in PED’s and a changing park, and it looks to me like a sub-$10 season is in the works. Or worse.

1. Is Manny Machado a potential Hall of Famer? With apologies to Troy McClure, he sure is, Billy. At age 21 Machado put up a season that was worth $22 and played the best defense in the league to boot. He was an All-Star, a Gold Glover and finished in the top ten of the MVP race. The most similar players to him through age 20 include three Hall of Famers plus Adrian Beltre and Ken Griffey Jr. That is a potential future Hall of Famer.To be sure, we do not know what Machado is or will be. He rode a huge first half BABIP to the All-Star game, but it regressed badly in the second half, and he does not have good strike zone control. If he is a Hall of Fame caliber talent then he will improve his skills across the board in year two, so the traditional way to analyze him may be as irrelevant as it was for Mike Trout.

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