I typically try to stay away from making bold predictions or speculative claims (except that Chris Tillman thing, guess that shoulder is fine). I do not particularly like trade speculation articles because the players and teams involved never seem to be correct or really be helpful in any discussion. Teams value players differently than fans and assessing deals after the fact brings more value to the conversation. I usually do not enjoy prediction articles as well because baseball can be so hard to predict and predictions—most of the time—seem so worthless after the fact. With all that being said, here are some random predictions and outlandish speculations about the Orioles in the (nominal) second half.
Chris Davis will end the season with 30 or more home runs
He currently sits at 15 home runs and the orioles have 68 games left to play, so he does have to pick the pace to reach 30 home runs. However, Davis looked much better going into the all star break. There were at least three occasions in which he hit the ball in the air to the opposite field including one sacrifice fly and one home run in the rain shortened win against the Yankees. This is the key for Davis moving forward. He has prodigious power, but his ability to lift and pull the ball lacks severely. He rushes his top half and either swings and misses or tops off a ball on the ground to the right side into the shift. The last week or so going into the break he started clearing his hips earlier, dragging the bat behind him, and lifting the ball in the air to left field where his power is unreal. His brute strength and massive leverage allow him to push fly balls over the short left porch in Camden Yards. Therefore, I believe Chris Davis is going to finish with 30 or more home runs. (Expect the batting average to come up as well, even with the shift issues)
Adam Jones will finish with a .300 BA, 200 hits, and 30 home runs, he will also receive MVP Votes.
Adam Jones has been great and is easily on pace to put up the most productive season of his career. A little secret about Jones to date this season, he is seeing 3.70 pitches per plate appearance which would be his highest rate since 2009. Since June 1st he has been walking slightly higher than his season to date number (3.5 % compared to 2.7%, which is still abysmally low) however he has only been striking out 12.3% of the time since June 1st. He is making better contact, taking more pitches, and adapting his style of game to be more productive. He is already on pace for 30 home runs and 200 hits so he will have to keep up his exact pace in the second half. Also, if the Orioles win the AL East, he will easily receive top 5 AL MVP votes (He currently has the 6th best fWAR in the AL, by the way). If the Orioles fall out of the race, he still has a chance to receive some top 10 votes, he has been that good. That would be four straight All Star Games, including two consecutive years starting, and three straight seasons receiving MVP votes. But he swings a lot and doesn’t walk so I guess he’s not any good….
Nelson Cruz will not reach 40 home runs
Nelson Cruz is good and he has been great for the Orioles thus far. However, I see him slowing down, even though he has yet to truly take advantage of Camden Yards short left porch hitting more home runs on the road than at home. He is way above his career HR/FB rate and I expect him to slow down post All Star break. He is walking more and striking out less than he has in his last couple of seasons, so I would not say the overall production is going to drop significantly, but the home run rate will.
The Orioles will not trade for a second baseman
Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter have had all season to remedy their atrocious offensive output at second base. Jemile Weeks, Ivan De Jesus Jr. and even Steve Lombardozzi have all put up numbers at AAA that would warrant a possible move from within to at the very least attempt to improve the production from second base. However, they have yet to take advantage of that internal depth. This leads me to believe that the defense provided by Schoop and Flaherty make the front office content to stick with them and hope one steals the job from the other. Both of their defensive skills are impressive and above average to me, however, I hate the complacency that Buck and Duquette have shown in their offensive output. The only move that I believe will be made for the offense is going to be acquiring a left handed bench bat.
The Orioles will trade for a starting pitcher
The starting rotation is crowded, but it is not crowded with quality. Kevin Gausman stands out among the rest, he has been and will be the best starting pitcher for the Orioles going into the second half. He has the best stuff and is learning more and more about how to finish at bats and get big league hitters out. Tillman and Jimenez figure to stay in the rotation as well, for stature and salary reasons, even if they try to hide Ubaldo (who I think will be critical part to any second half success the team has) on the DL. That leaves Norris, Gonzalez, and Chen. One could be put in the bullpen and one could be traded. I think this makes the most sense. I think Norris should probably stay, even if he is not terribly good, he has been the most consistent to date. Chen and Gonzalez both tend to struggle late in games and lose their command and stuff after about 75 to 80 pitches. One would move to the bullpen and the other would be included in a trade for either another starter along with prospects or for a left handed bench bat. I do not think any pitcher acquired will be a top of the line starter, but will add some stability to the rotation.
The Orioles will win the AL East
The Orioles are four games up on the Blue Jays and five games on the Yankees with 68 games left to play. I think that 88 wins will win the division and the Orioles have to go a mere 36-33 to finish with 88 (I predicted 88 to in my season preview…okay I guess I do like predictions sometimes). The rest of the teams in the division have less games left on their schedule and would have to go on some serious runs to get to 88 wins. Much has been made about the Orioles second half schedule and it starts off brutally with a 10 game west coast road trip, 26 consecutive against teams at or above .500, including 16 straight against the vaunted AL West. However, after that, the schedule lightens up considerably with 23 of the next 26 against teams at or below .500 currently. The only series with a winning team in that stretch is against the Reds at home. After that it is seven against the Yankees, six against the Blue Jays, and three against the Red Sox. If the Orioles can weather the storm admirably in the first 26 games to start the second half, say 13-13 or even 11-15, they have the time and the weak schedule to make up some wins. My prediction is the Orioles will be raising another banner at Camden Yards next year, I just hope its better than AL East champs.