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2018 MLB Preview: Baltimore Orioles

A look at the Baltimore Orioles with fantasy baseball in mind.

Sep 19, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (39) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Basic Stats:

Final Record: 75-87
Runs: 16th
Home Runs: 5th
Stolen Bases: 30th
ERA: 27th
Saves: 21st
Strikeouts: 23rd

The Orioles landed at the bottom of the AL East in 2017 but had plenty of fantasy value on their roster. Unless you needed stolen bases! The Orioles ranked dead last with just 32 steals all year. That is 21 fewer than the next lowest team. As a team, they would tie with Jose Altuve for 6th in baseball! They made up for the lack of speed with a lot of power. Led by Manny Machado (33) and Jonathan Schoop (32) the Orioles had the 5th most home runs as a team in 2017.

Let’s take a look towards 2018.

The Superstar: Manny Machado

Barring any offseason moves, Machado enters 2018 as the best fantasy option on the Orioles. He finished 2017 as the #95 overall player. This was considerably lower than his ADP to start the year. The batting average was the big disappointment. A career .284 hitter prior to 2017, Machado had just come off a career high .294 average in 2016. This caused the rest of his numbers to suffer. The positive outlook is in his season splits. His 1st 80 games of 2017 resulted in a .215/.283/.418 slash line but still had 16 HR and 41 RBI. In his last 76 games (which happen to fall after his July 6 birthday), Machado had 17 HR and 54 RBI. The difference, he had a .303/.338/.525 slash line. Expect Machado to be closer to his 2nd half stats and draft him inside the top 20.

The Sleeper: Kevin Gausman

A huge chance this pick blows up in my face. Gausman was streaky in 2016. He started the year off with a dreadful 6.39 ERA over his first 20 starts. He finished the year with a 2.70 ERA over his last 14 starts. A tale of two seasons to say the least. Looking more into the two splits. His early season performance yielded a 7.92 K/9 and 3.96 BB/9. He also had a .323 batting average against and a .902 OPS against. Over the final stretch of the year, Gausman posted a 9.45 K/9 and 2.80 BB/9. This resulted in a much lower .230 batting average against and a .683 OPS against. In short, Gausman got more strikeouts, walked fewer batters, and stopped giving up a lot of hits. All positive signs. If he can put up those numbers over the course of a full season, Gausman will be a steal in drafts where he is likely to go outside the top 150 overall.

The Guy to Avoid: Chris Davis

With power at an all time high, I just don’t see the appeal of players like Davis. He is hitting .218 over the past two seasons. His ISO, for those who look at that stat, was just .208 last season. That’s the lowest it’s been for him since 2014. He also had 3 year lows in HR% (5.0), XBH% (8.0), and HR/FB (16.8%). All of this coming with a new career high strikeout percentage of 37.2%. I said this with Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista before him; in today’s fantasy baseball landscape, these players aren’t worth rostering. I’m not taking Davis inside the top 200 next season.

The Prospect To Watch: Austin Hays

The prospect everyone will be talking about on this team is future everyday catcher Chance Sisco. Sisco is a fine player. He is a great hitter and plays one of the toughest position to get value out of. That being said, catchers tend to take time to develop at the big league level. Sisco is just 22 years old and I see numerous seasons of a .275 average with 8 or so home runs and that just doesn’t help fantasy owners much. Hays on the other hand, absolutely raked in the minors last season. Over 128 games between A+ and AA, Hays hit .329 with 32 HR 95 RBI and a .958 OPS. The downside to Hays is the low walk rate. This is countered by a pretty low strikeout rate though. Hays is a power/contact hitter who could put up numbers similar to what his teammate Trey Mancini did in 2017. Mancini was a top 150 overall fantasy option last season.