The baseball blogging world mostly shuts down on the weekend, especially when it's not during the regular season, because nothing happens over the weekend. No one gave this memo to ESPN, who has been continuing to unveil their BBTN500 player rankings. Saturday saw 151-200 released and today we get 101-150.
The BBTN500 rankings are the composite of ESPN's panel of 34 baseball experts ranking the players in the game based on their expected performance in 2013. Last year's panel included three Orioles in the 101-200 range: Hardy (169), Nick Markakis (149), and Adam Jones (131). I guess they missed a little bit on Jones. Well, I'll forgive them this time. I missed on Jones too. Another player they missed on was current Oriole Jair Jurrjens, who was ranked 121 going into last season. Whoops.
Now on to this year:
Hardy actually moved up the ranks a small amount despite a serious down year at the plate. I guess winning a Gold Glove will do that for a guy. No doubt there are a number of people on that panel who are impressed by the hardware. As I've discussed elsewhere, Hardy may not have been the most-deserving of the Gold Glove, but it's no embarrassment for the award that he won either. (Now, Jones, on the other hand...)
It's not crazy to believe that Hardy could have a bounce-back year at the plate since he may have suffered from bad luck on balls in play last season. Either way, he should once again find his name in the Gold Glove conversation and while he may not be one of baseball's greatest stars, Orioles fans should be glad to have him as the shortstop.
The panel was decidedly not a Hammel believer last year. Just who is on the panel, I'm not sure, but it probably includes one Keith Law, who, at the time of the trade for Hammel, said something along the lines that it would take "contortions" to see how the trade makes sense for the Orioles. In fairness, no one here really believed in that trade either, with our headline being "Orioles trade Jeremy Guthrie for two players not likely to be better than Guthrie." What am I always telling you about baseball writers?
Hammel surprised us all by bringing his new-found sinker pitch to the Baltimore rotation. He battled knee problems, and may battle knee problems again. He has never thrown 180 innings in a single season, which did not stop many people from picking him to lead the O's in innings pitched in our contest. The ESPN experts believe now, and I believe too.
This is the most surprising ranking of any of the Orioles players so far, for me. People have really been brought around on Machado - he was always supposed to be great, but nobody expected to see him this soon. Now that he's here they expect him to get better and better. He sparkled in the field and if he steps forward at the plate, well...
I think this is a bit of an aggressive ranking as well. Dang it, ESPN, how am I supposed to complain that you're disrespecting the Orioles if you're here possibly overrating some of their players? There is something of a pattern of players seeming to be getting ranked on name recognition and past success. Markakis certainly could earn this ranking - he looked like he was bouncing back last year from whatever mysterious power outage afflicted him the years previous, then a Sabathia fastball ran into him. I have no idea what to expect from him this year.
It's amazing what a difference 51 saves can make. Johnson pitched great late in games for the greatest Orioles team in a decade in a half, and now suddenly everyone knows who he is. Is he 117th-best-player-in-baseball good? For those who fetishize saves, he may very well be. If he's as good as he was last year, he could be again as well.
Will that happen? The dreaded BABIP demon could catch up to him. Hitters had a .251 BABIP against him last season, below his career number by nearly thirty points. That's on one hand. On the other hand, he's a ground ball pitcher, ground balls are mostly good things, and he may have an even better defense behind him than last year, now that we should (hopefully) never see Wilson Betemit wearing any glove other than batting gloves.
FORMER ORIOLES THUS FAR
Previously: B. Chen (493), Scott (475), Hairston (453), Lindstrom (449), Guthrie (379), Saunders (368), Reynolds (318)
Today: David Hernandez (179)
I remember an inning where Hernandez pitched for the O's against the Nats and three different major league hitters had a 0% chance of getting a base hit off of him. He was smoking high-90s fastballs past them. I guess he figured out a few things in the desert.
ORIOLES THUS FAR
Previously: McLouth (487), Roberts (472), Reimold (394), Gonzalez (374), Strop (333), Bundy (292), Davis (247), O'Day (246), Tillman (241), Chen (239)
Today: Hardy (164), Hammel (148), Machado (141), Markakis (135), Jim Johnson (117)
That leaves Matt Wieters and Adam Jones for the top 100.
Carlos Ruiz ranks 123 even though he has a 25-game suspension yet to begin. Eric O'Flaherty, the Patron Saint of Birdland, ranks 199. Who ever would have imagined that guy would turn into one of the 200 best baseball players in MLB? Derek Holland, last seen letting the O's blow open the wild card game, is 155th. Joe Nathan, whom I will forever hate for blowing the game where the O's were watching on the Jumbotron and could have clinched in front of their fans, is 150th.
ESPN will reveal 51-100 on Monday. I expect we will see Wieters in that range, but not Jones.