There have been quite a few surprises throughout the 2017 Orioles season, so much so that it’s pretty difficult to sum up the year so far in just one word. After a hot start in which some of us optimistically penciled in the Orioles for the American League’s World Series representative, things are murky for the time being in Birdland as the All-Star break is upon us.
Surprise performances — both good and bad — have been evident throughout the season, but five stand out significantly above the rest. Below, the top five surprises of the Orioles’ first half.
5. Trey Mancini (.312 average, 14 HRs)
I almost didn’t add Mancini on the list of 2017 surprises because you could argue that his performances throughout his time in the minors shed light on what was to come. Ultimately though, I thought it was fair to include him in the top five.
For a rookie, Mancini has been everything you’d want to see and more. He’s provided a spark when the lineup has needed it most, given Buck Showalter some versatility and most importantly has posted a .538 slugging percentage that leads the team. If not for that Aaron Judge guy, Mancini would be your front-runner for American League Rookie of the Year.
No, he’s no Aaron Judge. But for a guy who hasn’t done anything but tear the cover off the ball in professional baseball, I think it’s safe to say the future is bright for Boom-Boom.
4. Jonathan Schoop (.295/.347/.536, 18 HRs, All-Star)
The entire fan base in Baltimore couldn’t be happier for Schoop representing the Orioles in Miami this week. He’s a staple of this team and deserves all the recognition he’s received. This season, Schoop has been nothing but reliable.
The 18 home runs are notable and have propelled him onto this list, but it’s the true totality of his game that lands him on this list. Over the first half, it’s almost felt as though Schoop is a new player. He’s matured at the plate with his approach and is getting plus contact more often than he has throughout his young career in the pros. Add in the fact that he’s boosted his walk numbers and the team is getting plus performances from Schoop on a nightly basis.
He’s a fan favorite and deserves to be on this list. Though he’s not been the most notable surprise, his performances have been a breath of fresh air throughout a tough year.
3. Chris Tillman (11 starts, 7.90 ERA, 2.14 WHIP)
Those numbers aren’t good — they don’t lie and are very representative of how Tillman has pitched over his first 49 innings in 2017.
With an early 4.7 BB/9 numbers, it’s clear to see why Tillman hasn’t performed well thus far. The command has suffered, and with balls regularly catching the middle of the plate, batters are hitting .359 against with massive power numbers. Tillman’s ground ball rate is under 40 percent and with fastball velocity down, a switch needs to be completely flipped for a second-half turnaround.
Considering 2016’s start, I almost put Tillman as the most surprising storyline of the season. Unfortunately for the Orioles however, there have been worse situations on the roster.
2. Kevin Gausman (19 starts, 5.85 ERA, 1.76 WHIP)
While Gausman hasn’t performed as poorly as Tillman, the overall disappointment feels a bit larger. We entered the season with high hopes — now at the break, we’re facing the reality of Gausman not being a part of this rotation’s long-term future. Not exactly a great situation to be in if you’re Dan Duquette.
What do we make of this situation now? The walk numbers are up, so perhaps we can call it a mere command problem that can be fixed with a few adjustments. But for now, Gausman’s drop-off is concerning and most definitely surprising as we approach the middle of July.
1. Manny Machado (.230/.296/.445)
Yes, Machado is number one on this list. As mentioned before, Tillman was initially slated as the top surprise of the season, but only having 11 starts to his name this year dropped him down a bit. And at the end of the day, Machado’s performance has been the development that might be the most puzzling of them all.
Not much needs to be said other than the fact that Manny hitting .230 at the break is not just surprising, but it’s something that would’ve been absolutely unpredictable before the season. Call it bad luck all you’d like — the .741 OPS through 83 games is bad for the Orioles in every way, especially considering the upcoming trade deadline.
He’s still Manny Machado, but the early-season struggles have been more than surprising.
Be sure to head to the comments section below to weigh in on the options above. And of course, add on the storylines that have surprised you throughout the first half of the year.
Which player has been the biggest Orioles surprise in 2017?
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