(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 12th of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Saturday, the Arizona Diamondbacks).
If Baltimore is to be a player in a top heavy American League East, then Manny Machado has to have an MVP season. And he’s oh so capable of that.
Machado is the face of the franchise who in the spirit of Cal Ripken Sr is making a major transition in the infield, only in his case it’s from third base to shortstop. With Ripken it was the other way around. As a hitter Machado doesn’t need to change a thing, off to a monster spring batting .556 (10-for-18).
And yet through all the switches, the Orioles’ best decision with Machado becoming a free agent after this season may be to trade him as Miami did with their big part Giancarlo Stanton. Word is the Birds are listening to offers, but normally they don’t usually follow through. So for now Machado is their marketing chip, off a 33 homer, 95 RBI season.
At 25, Machado would be perfect at third base to join Stanton with the Yankees, but don’t bet on Baltimore wanting to deal him to a rival team in their division especially the Evil Empire.
As usual the Orioles have plenty of pop in their lineup and Buck Showalter is as good as it gets as a manager. But they are 50-1 to win the division and 100-1 to win the World Series. First baseman Chris Davis is hurt again, but this time it’s not that serious and he should be ready for Opening Day. However closer Zach Britton (Achilles) is on the 60-day DL and his return is anyone’s guess.
Tim Beckham who hit 22 homers last year is penciled in at third base. Trey Mancini and veteran Adam Jones are 20-homer players in the outfield and Davis is capable of hitting 50 if he can stay healthy at first. Jonathan Schoop (32 HR, 105 RBI, ,293 BA) had a monster year at second base at age 26 and DH Mark Trumbo is fully capable of 35 homers.
Plus the Orioles have Camden Yards, the American League’s top launching pad. So, there will be plenty of offense. The problem is Baltimore can’t bat all the time.
Pitching used to be a hallmark of the Orioles, but not lately. There really is no established ace although Dillon Bundy (13 wins) could blossom. That uncertainty and the huge salary Machado will command next season, is why the Orioles could have a different look in 2019.
Encore: Looking at the past three years, the O’s could be good, bad or mediocre in 2018. The early schedule is a beast – Minnesota at home, then at Houston and the Yankees.