After the first 31 games of the 2014 season, the Baltimore Orioles stand in first place in the AL East with a 17-14 record. Within these 31 games, the Orioles are yet to play with their full arsenal of players, as Manny Machado returned from injury just as Chris Davis was placed on the DL. Now, with Davis hoping to return soon, Matt Wieters is having his elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews.
Wieters is off to a career year, hitting over .340. The extended loss of Wieters would be major, as Wieters has played the most games of MLB catchers each of the last few years. Optimistically, if Wieters is able to play, it gives manager Buck Showalter some tough decisions to make regarding his day to day lineup.
With Manny Machado back, he is slated in the number 2 spot in the order, behind leadoff hitter Nick Markakis. From there, Showalter has the difficult decision to make regarding the order that Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters stack up the 3 thru 6 spots in the order.
Davis, coming off his monster year, is almost certain to bat third or fourth. Nelson Cruz is currently in the top 10 in the league in both home runs and RBI’s, making it difficult to justify moving him down any lower than fourth. Jones, who has been a staple as the cleanup hitter in the Orioles lineup, is struggling to start the season, although he showed power coming off of a two-home run game last night. Finally, Matt Wieters is hitting over .340, putting him in the top 10 in the league. It would be hard for Showalter to move the switch hitting catcher to sixth in the order while having such a great start to the season.
From there, the lineup seems to take place as shortstop J.J. Hardy will bat seventh, followed by a mixture of second baseman Jonathan Schoop, leftfielder David Lough, and designated hitter Delmon Young. The latter two seem to be changed from day to day, but they will most likely bat eighth or ninth.
Here is my prediction for the Orioles healthy lineup, versus a right-handed pitcher:
- RF Nick Markakis
- 3B Manny Machado
- 1B Chris Davis
- DH Nelson Cruz
- CF Adam Jones
- C Matt Wieters
- SS J.J. Hardy
- 2B Jonathan Schoop
- LF David Lough
These are certainly good problems to have if you are an Orioles fan, or if you are Buck Showalter, because no matter the resolution, he is in possession of potentially the best lineup in all of baseball. While watching the Orioles, it seems as though they have not even been playing up to their full potential, hitting, pitching, and fielding wise, but still hold first place in the division.
With the lineup taking shape, the pitching should align as well and even then, the struggling starting rotation of the Orioles does not have to worry as much about run support, as the lineup should provide plenty of it.
For the Orioles to be able to keep themselves in the race through this period of injury would be a major help to the team when they get all of their players back, making the hole they have to dig themselves out of smaller. But, for the team to be in first place through this period, they only seem poised to hold the lead they have given themselves upon the return of all of their players, and make a serious run for a pennant.