What to do without Nelson Cruz

Tyler's BylineNelson Cruz signed a four-year, $57 million deal with the Mariners on Monday, which ends his time as an Oriole.

Cruz quickly became a fan favorite for Oriole fans, as his mammoth home runs led to a league-leading total of 40 for the season and helped propel the Orioles into the playoffs. He also hit .271 on the year, which was his second best batting average in his 10-year career.

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Orioles and Marlins: Potential Trade Partners?

Byline BraydenWith a report coming out recently that the Miami Marlins are interested in trading for Chris Davis, that got me wondering what other trades the two teams could possibly do:

Every team needs a first baseman. You can’t just show up and have no one play first. The Marlins recently contacted the Orioles about Chris Davis, according to reports, because Miami could use a new first baseman. After his tremendous power surge in 2013, Davis became a fan-favorite despite his struggles in 2014. I decided to think of other possible trades that the Marlins and O’s could do that benefits both teams.

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Orioles ALDS Predictions

We gathered three of Baltimore Birds’ top writers to give their predictions on who will advance in the Orioles vs. Tigers series. Here are the answers, but what do you think?

Postseason

MattHamiltonHeadshotMatt Hamilton

The Orioles have made it their goal to prove the doubters wrong. It’s been this way since the start of the season, when many predicted them to finish fifth in the AL East. There’s way too much going in terms of luck for this team, right? We can’t possibly beat the last three Cy Young winners in a series, right?

This team has been doing what no one said they could since Day 1. Look for Nelson Cruz to be the Tiger-killer in this series, and Adam Jones to provide even more support. They’ll need every run they can get in this series, but so will the Tigers. I think our rotation will continue its success and the Tigers rotation will match it. Therefore, it will come down to the bullpen, which is clearly in our favor.

ALDS Prediction

orioles_logo_2012Orioles over Tigers in 5

 

 

 

meIan Jett

It is the first time since 1997 the Orioles have won their respective division, but how far will they go in the playoffs this time around?

All they have to do is get past the Detroit Tigers starting pitching staff with the last three Cy Young Award winners and Miguel Cabrera in the ALDS and then face the Los Angeles Angels or Kansas City Royals in the ALCS, easy right?

Detroit and Los Angeles have really good pitching staffs, it’s mainly why they are all in the playoffs, but so do the Orioles. They all, including the Royals, have good lineups, but the Orioles have a complete team and that’s why I think they will be able to go farther than they did in ‘97.

The Orioles have the best bullpen out of the American League playoff teams and Detroit probably has the worst. If the Orioles can get into the sixth or seventh inning with a two or three run lead, they have a really good change of taking the series.

The problem facing the Tigers is their starting pitching. With the addition of David Price at the trade deadline, the rotation is even better. However, the Orioles are very familiar with Price and have faced the other three likely starters this season, proving they can score against them.

Baltimore went 1-5 against Detroit this season but have played better in the second half of the year. If they Orioles play good defense, score at least three runs a game and the back end of the bullpen pitches like it has all season, the Tigers shouldn’t be a problem.

ALDS Prediction

orioles_logo_2012Orioles in 5

 

 

 

tyler beardTyler Beard

The playoffs have officially started, with one of the most exciting Wild Card games in history. The Royals set the tone, after they made multiple comebacks against the A’s and have moved onto play the Angels.

As for that series, I see the Angels winning 3-1 over the Royals. Kansas City has had a lot of magic this season, but the rotation won’t be able to handle the Los Angeles lineup. It will be tough for the Royals to keep up with Angels and the team will have to wait to pitch ace James Shields until later since he was used in the Wild Card game. It’s been a good run for the Kansas City, but I don’t see them making it past Los Angeles.

The Orioles and Tigers will have an exciting playoff series as well, and I see Baltimore winning 3-1. Oriole Magic is in full effect and the team has been fantastic in all parts of the game. Detroit boasts the Big Three in Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander, but Baltimore has good history against the last two. The Tigers are also going to have a tough time getting to an Orioles rotation that has sub-3.00 ERA since July.

ALDS Prediction

orioles_logo_2012Orioles in 4

Wei-Yin Chen’s Best Season

At this point in the season, it seems that all O’s fans are feeling that “Orioles’ Magic.” To those O’s faithful, this year has proven that “Orioles’ Magic” is definitely alive and well.

There are any number of players who have delivered in the clutch and have outplayed expectations. As a whole, the pitching staff has far exceeded expectations (with the exception of Ubaldo Jimenez). Consistency has been a theme for the pitching staff for most of the season. Largely thanks to the staff, the O’s find themselves seven games up in the AL East, despite a projected fourth place finish. Can we give some credit where credit is due though? Wei-Yin Chen is having the best season of his career and is continuing to play well as we head towards October.

Chen joined the Orioles prior to the 2012 season after spending four seasons playing in Japan’s Nippon Baseball League. Chen, who hails from Taiwan, has always been a consistent performer, but coming into 2014, he had a career record of 19-18.

This season, things have really come together for the Orioles’ southpaw and he’s put together a phenomenal season. Chen’s 13 wins lead all Orioles and, as of August 29, were 12th best in the majors. His 3.76 ERA is lowest he’s posted in his career, and Chen has nearly four strikeouts for every walk he’s allowed.

MLB 14 The Show (English Version)_Vita_CChen’s best season of his career is coming at the best possible time for the O’s, who are playing some of their best baseball as of late. There is increasing pressure being put on the pitching staff to keep runs off the board due to Manny Machado’s season-ending knee injury.

In his last 10 starts, Chen has posted a 6-2 record. He has not logged more than one loss in any month yet this season and his opponent batting average has dropped each subsequent month. For the Orioles to continue to win, Chen will be integral.

Pitching is what it takes to win in October and with the play of the Taiwanese ‘MLB Show’ cover athlete, Wei-Yin Chen, the O’s look poised to make a run at the AL pennant and possibly the World Series.

 

A Look at September Call-ups

Tyler's BylineIt’s almost Sept. 1 and that means it’s almost time for the Orioles to bring up a new line of players via call-ups.

Baltimore has a seven-game lead right now in the East, but could definitely use extra players to help secure the division and give some starters rest.

Some of the hitters that could be added to the roster are catcher Steve Clevenger, first baseman Christian Walker, infielders Steve Lambardozzi and Jemile Weeks, and outfielders Quentin Berry and Julio Borbon.

502182Clevenger has already been called up this season and posted a .305 average at Triple-A Norfolk, along with two homeruns and 30 RBIs.

Walker is the biggest longshot to be added to the team, as the Orioles have depth at first baseman.

However, Walker’s numbers are hard to ignore, as he has hit 25 homeruns and batted .291 between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk.

Buck Showalter may want to wait until next season to use the young first baseman, but it won’t be shocking if the O’s choose bring him up.

It’s a guarantee that either Steve Lombardozzi or Jemile Weeks will be called up in order to add depth to the middle of the infield.

Steve Lombar

Lombardozzi has a better chance of being called up over Weeks though, as he can play multiple positions.

He played well for the O’s at the beginning of the season; batting .288 in 20 games, but had to be sent down in order to make room for Manny Machado.

Lombardozzi has batted .280 at Norfolk since then and should provide solid depth as a utility man.

Weeks may be called up as well, as the Orioles are lacking speed and could choose to use him as a pinch-runner.

Quentin Berry and Julio Borbon are also options, as they also provide decent speed. Berry has 24 steals at Norfolk, while Borbon has 32 steals of his own.

As for pitching, the main options for the Orioles would be Joe Saunders and Ryan Webb.

Saunders, who is most memorable by O’s fans for his playoff win against the Rangers, has pitched well in Norfolk. He’s pitched 11 innings and has only given up two earned runs.

Showalter could call Saunders up in order to use him as a spot starter for the end of the season.

Webb has pitched most of this season for the Orioles and is also a guarantee to be called up.

Buck has a lot of options on he can bring up, as the O’s look to wrap up the East and get ready for a playoff run.

Keys to a Keys Postseason Run

Byline BraydenAs of August 16, the Frederick Keys were 56-64 after beating the Lynchburg Hillcats (Braves), 6-1. The Keys have been struggling this season despite having a handful of Orioles prospects on the roster.

KeysThe Keys can be a potential postseason team, but first, they need to put together the right talent to contend.

Although they haven’t made it to the postseason since 2011, the Keys could put it together soon with many of the O’s promising prospects on their way. I’ve watched a losing team of the Orioles quickly turn things around by having the right talent, so the Keys could easily make a great run. This is how I believe the Keys could make a future postseason run.

Pitching:

Pitching is everything. Pitchers are like quarterbacks. They do all the throwing and help lead the team to the postseason.

For example: Roy Halladay for the Phillies in 2010. That season, Halladay threw a perfect game and a no-hitter. One of his no-no’s was in the postseason and it was a big win to help the Phillies make a run at the World Series.

For the Keys, pitching prospects could lead the way. They have Branden Kline and Parker Bridwell already to help in the staff, but when Stephen Tarpley comes up from Short-Season Aberdeen, it could bolster the rotation. Who knows if Bundy will finish withe Keys, but it would help if he did.

A great Keys rotation in my mind features Bridwell, Kline, Tarpley, and the O’s first pick (3rd round) this past June, Brian Gonzalez. The bullpen should be good too; especially if they have a solid, reliable closer, at least one lefty specialist and one long-man.

Catching:

chance siscoA good team has a reliable everyday catcher. Take the Orioles No. 3 catching prospect, Chance Sisco for example. The young catcher has done well both behind and beside the plate for the Shorebirds this season.

At the beginning of the season, Sisco was ranked 10th in the O’s Top 20 prospects list. Sisco is hitting .337 with four home runs and 53 RBIs in 100 games for Delmarva (as of August 15). Sisco provides a good left-handed bat in the lineup and he is a good catch-and-throw guy.

Bench:

The bench is not a role athletes want to be in, but some favor it. Delmon Young has been solid off the bench for the O’s this season, leading the American League in pinch hits. The same is said for David Lough who has provided the Orioles with great speed of the bench and a good defensive replacement.

If the Keys can put together a good bench using players that have the potential impact of Young and Lough, they can rest regulars and swap in guys and still feel confident that they can help them win.

Prospect Watch: Lucas Giolito

Byline BraydenLucas Giolito was drafted with the 16th overall pick by the Washington Nationals in June of 2012 out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Southern California. Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, the hard-throwing righty was well under way for his future in baseball.

After signing, Giolito pitched for the Nationals’ rookie level team. In his first pro start, Giolito notched two innings, giving up one run (earned) on two hits and no walks, and struck out one before he felt a sharp pain in his pitching elbow. The Nats top prospect had to undergo Tommy John Surgery after making just one appearance to begin his professional career.

Lucas GGiolito began rehabbing in Florida soon afterward, where he shared a hotel room with injured catcher Spencer Kieboom. Both Giolito and Kieboom were not far in their pro careers when they needed Tommy John Surgery. They rehabbed together in Florida and became friends.

Later on, Giolito finally got back to pitching regularly for the Nationals’ rookie team in 2013. He pitched in eight games for the rookie affiliate, going 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA. Shortly afterward, Giolito was promoted to Class-A Short-Season Auburn to play for the Doubledays.

He finished the season with Auburn pitching in three games with a record of 1-0 and an ERA of 0.64 in 14 innings of work.

In 2014, the Nationals announced Giolito would pitch for the Class-A Full-Season Hagerstown Suns. The Suns had been an affiliate with the Nationals since 2007 and has had many prospects and rehabbing big leaguers come to the small historical town.

Giolito made his Suns debut on April 5 against the Rome Braves (Braves affiliate). Giolito pitched three innings giving up six hits, four runs (three earned), two walks and three strikeouts in front of a small crowd of 509 as the Suns lost to the Braves, 9-8.

Giolito rebounded in his first road start for Hagerstown. He pitched on April 10, going six innings giving up one hit, on runs, walking one and striking out six. Giolito got the win as the Suns beat the Lakewood BlueClaws (Phillies), 6-0.

Part of Giolito’s success is from having a familiar face behind the plate. His catcher was his rehabbing partner, Spencer Kieboom. Oddly enough, these two live together once again as they both received the same host family.

Kieboom has been behind the plate for most of Giolito’s starts and the two have done well together this season. Kieboom is hitting .308 with seven home runs and 52 RBIs in 76 games this season as the Suns’ starting catcher. Giolito is 9-2 with a 2.23 ERA, 28 walks and 105 strikeouts in 19 starts.

One of Giolito’s best starts came at home on July 25 against the Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox). Giolito only pitched six innings and gave up one hit as he walked none and struck out seven and was the winning pitcher in a 5-1 Suns win.

Another great start came in Charleston, South Carolina against the Charleston RiverDogs (Yankees) on July 31. Again, Giolito pitched six innings but he gave up only two hits, no runs again, walked one and struck out six. That was back-to-back quality starts from Giolito.

If Giolito pitches on normal four days of rest for the remainder of the season, he’ll will make three more starts for the Suns all on the road as the minor league regular season ends on Labor Day, September 1. Giolito was scheduled to make his next start on tonight at Lakewood.