Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Final Predictions

Posted by Mike on March 31, 2006

Be forewarned, the nature of overviewing an entire team (or at least most of the starters) precludes this from being extremely detailed.  Still, I wanted to get up a final set of predictions that I could re-visit after the season (and maybe at the all-star break).  Feel free to comment on the things you particularly agree or disagree with and we'll re-visit those as well.

First, let's make our way around the diamond:

Infield 

Ramon Hernandez- Should play solid defense and post a SLG in the .470 range.  He's not going to be a walk machine, so the .335 OBP I'm predicting will be heavily propped up by a .290ish BA.  I think it is likely that he misses up to 20% of the season with injuries, prompting Eli Whiteside to get a call-up at some point in the season. 

Javy Lopez- Expect his name to be bandied about in trade rumors come July.  The O's will likely split him pretty evenly between C, 1B, and DH until then to keep his trade value high.  He should match Hernandez with the bat: .280/.325/.475

Kevin Millar- I expect he will continue to look bad in the field, but will see some rebound with the bat after a dismal 2005.  Unfortunately, being away from the friendly confines of Fenway keeps that from showing up in his batting line. .275/.355/.400

Brian Roberts– The good news is that  Roberts looks good so far in spring training.  The bad?  Well, you know the adage about lightning striking twice.  I still expect him to be one of the better 2B in the league and a competent leadoff hitter:  .290/.360/.420

Miguel Tejada- He isn't as bad as his second-half last year, but I still expect a slight regression overall.  His name could also pop up in trade rumors if things don't break the O's way early in the season.  .295/.340/.490

Melvin Mora- Here's another candidate for trade rumors, if the O's aren't able to come to terms with him on a contract extension.  He should still be below average at 3B, but I don't expect his offensive numbers to dip lower than they were last year.  The O's will be crossing their fingers that he doesn't get hurt before July 31st, but it's unlikely he makes it the whole season without a trip to the DL.  .285/.365/.490

Outfield

Jeff Conine- He'll probably see just as much time, if not more, at 1B considering Javy's inability to stick there in ST and Markakis starting to force his way into the OF picture.  His power numbers were abysmal last year and, even moving away from Pro Player Stadium, it's unlikely they will rebound much in his age 40 season.  .280/.350/.400

Corey Patterson- As much as I really did like this trade, the fact is that the odds are against Corey Patterson ever becoming a useful major leaguer.  Certainly, Terry Crowley and the O's organizational tendency to overlook a player's proclivity towards making outs are not going to help matters much.  I'll be the first guy to be happy if this prediction underestimates him, but .240/.280/.390 is all I can muster with a straight face.  Should that happen, expect him to have many springs filled with NRI's ahead of him.

Luis Matos- As much as Matos represents the kind of false hope and, ultimately, disappointment that recent Orioles teams have been all too willing to dole out, we shouldn't be too quick to forget that he is still a useful major leaguer.  As lackadaisical as it might seem, his defense is above average and he makes for a very solid 4th option in the OF:  .280/.340/.390.  Look familiar?  Expect him to see significant time this year as attrition and disappointment reign supreme in left- and center-field.

Jay Gibbons- In some recent posts, we've learned some interesting things about Gibbons.  He doesn't walk much, but hits for power without striking out.  He also had a ridiculously low BABIP last year.  Nevertheless, as a player with an old player's skill set, it's likely that he'll have a short peak.  For 2006, though, I'll go along with the believers: .290/.340/.525

Nick Markakis- Markakis has been all the rage in the last few weeks.  It's looking quite possible that he makes the team out of spring training.  I see that as bad roster management, many of you seem to disagree- but that's a topic for another day.  I don't doubt that he could hold his own in the majors right now.  By the end of the year, he could even be pretty good.  I'll go with .275/.350/.410 with a noticeable split in his SLG before and after July.

Starters

Rodrigo Lopez- As much as is being made of some of the younger guy's getting to work with Leo Mazzone, I'd expect his influence will be felt by Lopez as well.  I look for Lopez to keep his K/9 around 6, but lower his BB/9 down to sub 2.5.  All in all, a 4.40 ERA while once again topping 200 innings is in his reach.  His name is another that could pop up in trade discussions if the O's fall out of contention fast.

Erik Bedard- My favorite Oriole going into last year (and my friends heard plenty about it after he got off to a hot start).  After battling a knee injury and struggling after his DL stint, I piped down quite a bit.  Still, I expect Bedard to enter his peak and be Baltimore's best starter (as long as he's healthy) in 2006.  8.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 3.45 ERA

Kris Benson- Despite having his lowest ERA since 2000, Benson hinted at some possible regression last year.  Specifically, his K/9 rate dropped to a career low 4.9.  Fortunately, he did make marginal gains in his BB/9 rate.  Still, the analysts that hint at his as yet untapped potential are a little too wrapped up in his status as the #1 overall draft pick of 1996.  Even with Mazzone, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for a breakout season from this 31 year old: 170 innings, 5.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.65 ERA

Daniel Cabrera– I'll spare you the extended version that you've no doubt heard over and over this off-season.  100 mph + lots of K's + lots of GB = Good Stuff.  I do see Cabrera breaking out in some respects this year; I just think it's more likely that he sees his first all-star game in 2007: 190 innings, 9.2 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 3.90 ERA

Bruce Chen- Baltimore's most valuable pitcher last year (as measured by VORP) will have a tough time duplicating last year's success without improving his peripherals.  He gives up a lot of home runs (1.51/9 last year) and likely always will.  But, close to league-average pitchers that can throw a ton of innings don't grow on trees, even if they don't often get the respect they deserve: 190 innings, 6.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 4.50 ERA

Hayden Penn- The first name that will be called in case of an injury or a Lopez trade.  Penn badly needed a consolidation season in 2005 and did not get it.  He lost a big chunk of the season to his premature call-up and then struggling in AA in the immediate aftermath of his demotion.  Hopefully, he will get left alone in AAA until July, at the earliest.  He shouldn't have much trouble in Ottawa but I think he will have a tough 10-15 start transition to the majors.  Predicting his usage is tough, given the uncertainty of the circumstances, but if you'll allow me to be sufficiently vague:  AAA= Real pretty; MLB= ~5.00 ERA, but watch the K rate.  Around 7 K/9 ip (in the majors) or more would help him get some recognition as a sleeper for 2007.

Bullpen

Chris Ray- Quite possibly my favorite Oriole right now.  I am bullish and expect him to be a league-average closer immediately, but his ERA was a little misleading last year.  He'll need to cut his BB/9 rate to 3 or lower.  I don't think it'll be a problem and coupled with a 9.5 K/9 rate, that should net him a ~3.00 ERA.  Watch out for injuries, though.  He's young and has had his mechanics questioned by more than a few scouts.

LaTroy Hawkins– You mean the O's actually got something useful for Steve Kline?  Yup, and the Giants even gave them $900K to even out the salaries.  He doesn't walk many batters and generally keeps the ball in the park.  7.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, ~3.30 ERA

As for the rest of the pen, I have gone on record as saying that I thought it's shortcomings were being overblown.  That was before two key cogs, Todd Williams and Aaron Rakers, went down with injuries.  I do expect Ray and Hawkins to be a decent 1-2 punch at the end of the pen, but after that it gets a little thin.  Here are some players either on the roster or in the minors that could surprise this season: Orber Moreno, Sendy Rleal, Chris Britton, Ryan Keefer, and I'm a bigger believer in Tim Byrdak than most.

One caveat: I have to admit it's a little silly to forecast ERA's, since pitchers generally have about as much control over it as a batter does over his RBI total.  Since relievers often enter or leave games with runners on base, their ERA is even more out of their control.   

AL East Standings

  1. Boston Red Sox, 96-66
  2. New York Yankees, 92-70
  3. Toronto Blue Jays, 87-75
  4. Baltimore Orioles, 78-84
  5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 75-87

Sorry folks.

That's all for now.  I'll get to a minor league overview in the next couple of days. 

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8 Responses to “Final Predictions”

  1. Dave said

    Good stuff. So many of the guys seem interchangeable. And if you are right then it looks like we might as well give Markakis some time in the minors.

  2. Sans Grata said

    Hey Mike

    Love the site but this is my first comment. This is a nice preview. If you find the time, how about a profile of some of the more fringe players? Like the Newhans, Browers, etc. That kind of detail is probably my favorite part of this site!

    Re: this post; I am not as big of a believer in Conine. I could see him completely falling off the map this year. Maybe a 240/300/350 season.

    Thanks!

  3. Mike said

    Thanks SG. I’ll get working on it.

    Re: Conine, you could be right. I think it’ll be a moot point by the second half of the year after Markakis is up for sure (Majewski potentially as well). My hunch is that Millar has passed Conine on the depth charts if only one of them gets the nod on OD.

  4. Eddie said

    With the sending down of Halama, Markakis is now in Baltimore…YES!

  5. kilbs said

    78 wins? Wow, that seems pretty high. I’m hoping for 70. I see an aging Mora and Tejada, an over-rated Rodrigo and Chen, and a questionable Millar and Conine as well as Matos and Patterson.

    But today was a nice start.

    I am pretty peeved that Markakis made the OD roster because:
    – it’s not going to matter in 2006 and
    – why start his clock now instead of next year? doesn’t that mean he’ll be a free agent one year earlier because management couldn’t wait two months? (Shocking, i know…)

  6. Mike said

    Fair enough. I had a range of wins in mind and sort of just went with the upper end. It’s funny because the few emails I got in response to this post told me I was being too negative.

    As for Markakis, you’re preaching to the choir.

  7. Kilbs said

    re: Markakis…it seems strange…at the various message boards I read (birdsinthebelfry.com being the best, imho), virtually no one seems to see the long term consequences of promoting him now. It’s very, I don’t know, anti-Moneyball, in terms of maximizing your assets.

    Then again, a good # of twenty something prospects totally flame out too. But that’d be even worse…

  8. Mike said

    I suppose it’s tough to think in terms of 2009 (arbitration) or 2012 (FA) all the way back in 2006, but if Markakis reaches his potential, this decision will have serious consequences.

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