Over the past month, we have been reaching out to speak with some of the most respected baseball analysts and reporters in the league to talk about the Baltimore Orioles and the AL East, and in today's segment we sat down with MLB Lead Writer for the Bleacher Report and MLBDepthCharts founder Jason Martinez.
Martinez is well regarded for his knowledge of baseball statistics and his work is highly regarded. He is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of MLBDepthCharts and is a full-time Lead MLB writer for Bleacher Report. You can view Jason's profile on Bleacher Report by clicking here.
Now let's get to the interview with Jason, and if you read our interview with Jason Catania yesterday, you will notice we asked Martinez the same questions, and we have done that will all the analysts we have interviewed for this series in order to see how each of them answer the same questions.
Even if Cruz is somewhere between 2-3 wins above a replacement level player, his presence in the middle of the lineup could actually mean much more. Nolan Reimold, David Lough and Delmon Young likely lose the 500-600 at-bats that Cruz will get and the O's can now go with a combination of those players to fill one spot and continuously try to go with the "hot hand" or hope that one steps up and wins the job outright.
By adding Jimenez, who can be plugged into the No. 1 or 2 spot in the rotation, they've not only added a much-needed innings-eater and a potential ace if he can carry over his success from 2013, top prospect Kevin Gausman can start in the minors and be eased in to the big league rotation. They're also in better shape depth-wise to compete over a 162-game season.
The combination of both moves takes them from being a near-lock to be a 4th or 5th place team to a playoff-caliber one with a shot at winning a very tough division.
Orioles101: In your opinion, which acquisition is more important to the Orioles, Jimenez or Cruz?
They were a good team with a couple of black holes in the lineup last season. If they were to take a drastic fall in the standings, a failure to add another bat is unlikely to have been the reason.
A lack of overall pitching depth and pitching talent is what would make this team struggle. Adding Jimenez reduces their chances of a major drop-off in 2014 while Cruz was more of a luxury.
Orioles101: Most people around Baltimore believe Ryan Flaherty is the odds on choice to start at second base for the Birds, but is there a legitimate argument for Jemile Weeks? Or is it simply the fact Weeks has to out-play Flaherty in Spring Training?
With Manny Machado a DL candidate to start the season—he's expected back in early-to-mid April—this competition could likely extend into the regular season with Flaherty filling in for Machado at 3B and Weeks getting time at 2B.
Flaherty had a strong finish in 2013. Weeks was terrific as a rookie in 2011 before struggling the past few seasons. It could really go either way.
But it probably doesn't matter. Prospect Jonathan Schoop is good enough to take the job by mid-season.
Orioles101: Closer, basically a question in itself, but how does Tommy Hunter project, and should the Orioles be considering someone else in their bullpen to be the closer?
Even if Hunter thrives in the closer's role, the O's will have to fill his spot with one of several unproven candidates. That may be a bigger concern that isn't being discussed.
Hunter at closer should be a concern, as well, because he's struggled against left-handed hitters. Top setup man Darren O'Day is also much better against right-handed hitters.
If neither can hold down the job, it's anybody's guess as to who is next in line. And this isn't the division to be auditioning closers mid-season. A few bad weeks and they could get buried in the playoff race.
The O's will need to feel extremely confident about Hunter by the time the season starts or go shopping on the trade market for someone they can trust.
Orioles101: Who is the early odds on favorite to win the division and why?
The Red Sox, because they don't appear to be worse than when they won the championship in November.
Orioles101: Of all the teams in the division, and all the players, who would you predict is the breakout player of the year in the division?
Wil Myers won the AL Rookie of the Year award so maybe he already broke out. But he only played in 88 games after being called up so maybe not. Manny Machado has also drawn a lot of attention but hasn't had a breakout season at the plate. He should be considered.
I'd put my money on shortstop Xander Bogaerts, though. He could have a Troy Tulowitzki-like impact for Boston as a rookie.
We would like to thank Jason for taking the time to give us his take on the Orioles and the brutal AL East and we encourage you to check out his work on Bleacher Report and MLBDepthCharts.
So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Martinez on his thoughts on the Orioles and the AL East? Let your voice be heard by posting a comment!
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