How could the Orioles possibly improve on last season?
They’re eager to prove they can, and with that in mind, we present five players who could have better seasons in 2013.
1) Nick Markakis
Markakis missed 54 games after averaging 160 over the previous five seasons. Once he was moved to leadoff, the team started clicking, and fortunately for them, Nate McLouth seamlessly moved to the leadoff spot in the last three weeks of the regular season.
In 2012, he had three surgeries, to repair a torn muscle in his abdomen, to remove his hamate bone in his right hand, and to repair his broken right thumb.
A full, injury-free year in right field could give the Orioles a nice start. He was badly missed in the Division Series loss to the Yankees.
2) Matt Wieters
Defensively, Wieters is superb. He picked up his second straight Gold Glove. Fewer runners try to steal on him each year, and he throws out a higher percentage of them.
Offensively, Wieters could get better. His batting average was only .244 though his on-base percentage moved up a tick to .329. He strikes out far too often, which is the case for many of the Orioles.
He had 22 home runs and 83 RBIs. Those numbers are excellent for a catcher, but a .270 average with fewer strikeouts than the 112 of last season would be ideal.
3) Jason Hammel
Hammel was part of the fans’ vote for the final spot on the American League All-Star team. He won eight of his first 10 decisions, lost four straight, and then pitched little because of surgery on his right knee.
He started Games 1 and 5 of the Division Series against the Yankees.
Hammel thrived under pitching coach Rick Adair and could easily have won 15 games last season. For the Orioles to contend next season, they’ll need a season like that out of Hammel.
4) Manny Machado
His third base play was terrific. He hit well, too. The Orioles are ready to see how well he’ll play for an entire season. At 20, he has a lot to work on.
Machado walked just nine times in 51 games. He struck out more than four times as often as he walked.
Despite no background at third base, he showed wonderful instincts and he should get stronger in the off-season, too.
5) Jake Arrieta
It’s hard to believe that Arrieta was the Orioles’ Opening Day pitcher. He was brilliant that day, but not many after that. Three months after the season started, Arrieta was back in Norfolk.
After he was recalled in September, he pitched out of the bullpen. Lots of teams covet his arm, and the Orioles are reluctant to part with him because they think he’ll be a fine major league pitcher.
They just don’t know when.
-Jim Johnson, Adam Jones and Buck Showalter were given Legacy Awards by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Johnson won the Hilton Smith Award, presented to the top relievers in each league. Jones picked up the John Henry “Pop” Lloyd Award for his community service, and Showalter won the Charles Isham “C.I.” Taylor Award as the American League’s top manager.
The awards will be presented on Jan. 12 in Kansas City, Mo.
-Miguel Socolovich, who pitched in six games for the Orioles last season before he was placed on waivers, has signed to play for the Hiroshima Carp. Socolovich was taken off the Chicago Cubs’ 40-man roster.