MLB Season Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Is Manny Machado the next Brooks Robinson?

 

The Baltimore Orioles started off 2013 in solid fashion, but a less than stellar second-half did not allow the club to return to the postseason for a second consecutive year. A shocking down year from Matt Wieters was balanced out by an amazing season from Chris Davis – who smacked 53 HRs and 138 RBI. The O’s went 20-31 in one-run games,  so they’ll need to figure out how to win the close ones in 2014 if they want a shot at toppling the defending champion Red Sox in the AL East.

Off-season transactions:

1/14 – Signed OF Delmon Young

1/15 – Signed RHP Alfredo Aceves

2/19 – Signed RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

2/24 – Signed OF Nelson Cruz

3/4 – Signed LHP Johan Santana

(The Orioles did not re-sign Scott Feldman, Brian Roberts and Nate McLouth)

Always hurts to see a guy like Brian Roberts leave the team after a successful 13-year career in Baltimore, but it looks like the decision was made from the Orioles side to move on. Nelson Cruz could be a big coup for the team, getting him at a discount after he had to serve a 50-game suspension for steroids last season. Cruz hit .266/.327/.503 for Texas in 2013, and you can expect something close to that this year. Ubaldo Jimenez figures to jump to the top of the rotation right away, while Johan Santana was a low risk-high reward gamble that could pay off big time for the O’s.

2014 Lineup:

  • Matt Wieters, C
  • Chris Davis, 1B
  • Ryan Flaherty, 2B
  • Manny Machado, 3B
  • J.J. Hardy, SS
  • Nick Markakis, RF
  • Adam Jones, CF
  • Nick Reimold, LF
  • Nelson Cruz, DH

Rotation:

  1. Ubaldo Jimenez
  2. Miguel Gonzalez
  3. Chris Tillman
  4. Bud Norris
  5. Wei-Yin Chen

Closer: Tommy Hunter (?)

This team in another division could be a frontrunner, but not in the AL East. I would guess a .500 season for Showalter’s crew, but it all depends on what we get out of the Yankees and Jays this season.  I’m going to guess the O’s win 80 games in 2014.

MLB Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

Will the Upton brothers lead this club to another division title?

 

The Atlanta Braves had a very successful 2013 season, breaking out with a 96-win season and a division title. The Braves owned the best pitching staff in baseball, allowing only 3.3 runs per game. Andrelton Simmons proved to be one of the best defensive players in the game from the shortstop position, and the youngster will look to have an even bigger impact in 2014.

The Braves also made a few moves in the off-season, highlighted by the following:

12/16 – Signed RHP Gavin Floyd
12/18 – Traded minor-leaguer Sean Gilmartin to Twins for C Ryan Doumit.

(The Braves also did not re-sign Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Reed Johnson)

The loss of McCann to free agency (and eventually the Yankees) hurts, but a solid season from Evan Gattis can go a long way towards replacing McCann’s production behind the plate.  Ryan Doumit will be a serviceable backup catcher (along with Gerald Laird), as well as spot-start for the corner outfielders.

2014 Lineup:

  • Jason Heyward, RF
  • Justin Upton, LF
  • Freddie Freeman, 1B
  • Evan Gattis, C
  • Chris Johnson, 3B
  • Andrelton Simmons, SS
  • Dan Uggla, 2B
  • B.J. Upton, CF

Rotation:

Mike Minor
Kris Medlen
Julio Teheran
Brandon Beachy
Alex Wood

Closer: Craig Kimbrel

Anything less than a division crown for this team would be a disappointment, as the Mets, Marlins and Phillies still look to be off the pace of competing in the NL East. Gavin Floyd and Alex Wood could be two key pieces as the season goes along and injuries start popping up. The Braves should win 94-95 games this season.

MLB Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Can Mark Trumbo bring another 30 HR, 100 RBI season to Phoenix?

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks are coming of their second consecutive .500 season, and they’ve made some moves in the offseason to make sure it’s not lucky number three in 2014. Manager Kirk Gibson got an extension, as did GM Kevin Towers, so this team has invested in the future and think this group could be good enough to give the Dodgers are run this fall. First, the major transactions:

  • 12/3 – Traded RHP Heath Bell to Tampa Bay Ray as part of 3-team trade. Received minor leaguer Justin Choate.
  • 12/10 – Traded Adam Eaton and Taylor Scaggs as part of 3-team trade, receiving Mark Trumbo from the Angels.
  • 12/20 – Re-signed Eric Chavez
  • 2/12 – Signed free agent RHP Bronson Arroyo

The big pieces there are Trumbo and Arroyo, who will both bring stability to a lineup that sorely needs it. Arroyo had a typical year for him in 2013, throwing 202 innings at a 3.79 ERA. The righty gives up the long ball often, but had the best year of his career in limiting walks. Trumbo is a big power-low on base guy, and the Angels could definitely use 34 HRs in the middle of their lineup.

Here’s the current depth chart:

C: Miguel Montero
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Aaron Hill
3B: Martin Prado
SS: Chris Owings
LF: Mark Trumbo
CF: A.J. Pollock
RF: Gerardo Parra

SP: Patrick Corbin
SP: Bronson Arroyo
SP: Trevor Cahill
SP: Wade Miley
SP: Brandon McCarthy

CL: Addison Reed

Currently, I believe Brandon McCarthy could be the the missing piece in the puzzle. He can’t seem to stay healthy (line drive to the dome aside), but as we saw in his last two years with the A’s, he’s a solid pitcher when he’s on the mound. If McCarthy can throw 170+ innings, this could shape up to be one of the more reliable rotations in major league baseball.

The Strongest Big Four Fan Bases in 2013

As we look back at the world of professional sports in 2013, TicketCity’s newest study ranks the big four fan bases that had the biggest impact last year.  Using an algorithm based on  social media metrics, game attendance and ticket demand we’ve identified the MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL fan bases that were the most active and most vocal in 2013, whether they were at the game or supporting their team on social media.

The data used in the study is based on the 2013 season, with data for NHL accounting for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. To control for factors that influence ticket prices, including total number of games played & stadium size, average ticket price was scored based on the league average.

Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Strongest Big Four Fan Bases in 2013.  The full ranking of every team can be found here.  Do you agree with where your favorite team stacked up? Do the Lakers really belong at the top? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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2013 MLB Home Run Derby

Thousands of fans turned out for the Home Run Derby at Citi Field last night to watch second-year slugger Yoenis Cespedes take the win. And while Citi-Field can hold nearly 45,000 people, it wasn’t until we saw the photo below submitted by Mets Bro blog that we realized the sheer size of that crowd as fans scrambled to get on the 7 train.

Click through the photo gallery below to see some of the best fan-submitted photos from the game. Thanks to everyone who shared their pics, and congrats to @METS_BRO for sending us the winning shot!

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