Trying to figure out who is going to play in the Orioles outfield besides Adam Jones is simply a mess. The talent is tightly bunched with no one standing out. To add to the mess, the Orioles designated hitter will likely also be an outfielder. Stepping through the available information sort of makes the situation clearer, but no one will know for sure until the season starts.
This position is set with Adam Jones. The 29-year-old righty has been about as steady as can be over the past three seasons with about 160 games, 30 home runs and a .285 AVG. His only trait on the decline over those three years is his stolen bases going from 16 to seven. His defensive numbers have him as an average to below average center fielder which means he is a safe bet to stay there for the entire 2015 season.
Right Field, Left Field and Designated Hitter
Now the mess. Here are the candidates for the other three positions with their handedness, career UZR/150 value for the corner outfield spots, projected wRC+ and career handedness wRC+.
|Name||Bats||pwRC+||vs RHP (wRC+)||vs LHP (wRC+)||UZR/150 career in COF|
|Alejandro De Aza||L||103||103||85||9|
Less of a mess. Here is how I see these hitters getting plate appearances against each handedness of pitcher.
COF: Snider (Lough)
COF: De Aza
DH: Pearce (Snider)
I think the Orioles will ride the 2014 hot hand in Pearce to start the season. I am not sure if Pearce can come close to his 2014 production though. I went back and looked for hitters who hit more home runs (min 15) in their age 31 season than the previous three seasons combined. Since 1980, only seven players have achieved this feat*. In the breakout season, they hit on average 24.4 home runs and had a 131 wRC+. The next season their average number of home runs was 14.8 (40% drop) and a 116 wRC+. Currently projection systems have Pearce getting more home runs in 2015 than in 2014, but this increase has not historically happened. The more I look the more I think a .255 AVG (career mark) and 15 HR may be a reasonable level for his 2015 season.
Snider and De Aza may get the first shots in the corners, but either one could struggle and open a door for David Lough. Defensively, the Orioles may need to keep Lough on the team for his ability to play center field if Jones gets hurt.
COF: Snider/De Aza
Delmon Young now shows up as a platoon option at DH which is not the best road for playing time. I think the other outfield corner position is Snider’s job to lose after one of his best season’s last year.
Looking at both options combined, Pearce and Snider look to have a leg up on full time at bats if they can stay healthy and productive. De Aza looks face righties for about 400 PA and Young can get 200 PA against LHP. All of these hitters have struggled in the past and some will struggle in 2015.. None of these hitters can afford to struggle with in house replacement available to take over.
Adam Jones in center field is the only outfield (and DH) position set going into 2015. The other three positions are up in the air with Steve Pearce and Travis Snider looking to have the inside track for playing time. If either one of the pair struggles, Alejandro De Aza, David Lough and Delmon Young could step up. I really don’t see the situation clearing up during spring training unless there is an injury. If an injury does happen replacements are in place. I think the outfield situation is good for Baltimore with several options, but it may drive fantasy owners crazy until it finally shakes out.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.