Early-Season Grades for Baltimore Orioles' Offseason Acquisitions
The Baltimore Orioles have gotten off a rough start in this 2014 season.
After winning on Opening Day, the team proceeded to lose four straight games until a win against the Detroit Tigers halted that skid.
It's still very early in the season, so it would be ridiculous to make judgments on any team's record at this point. Needless to say, though, the O's do need to get going in the right direction.
The new additions to the team have already been right in the thick of things as they try to prove their worth.
Let's take a look at how these new additions have performed.
David Lough: C -
Outfielder David Lough has already worked his way to the leadoff spot despite a low batting average and OBP. Manager Buck Showalter likes Lough's speed at the top of the order, and having him there makes the rest of the lineup deeper.
Through eight games, Lough was the only Orioles player to record a stolen base, swiping two. It's likely that the speedster will lead the team in steals, provided he gets enough playing time.
Where Lough is making his presence known the most is on defense, as he has been spectacular in left field. Showalter will try to work him into games as often as possible to keep his glove on the field.
Lough is going to have to do better offensively, but it's early. He'll have plenty of time to even out his numbers. Part of why he's struggled to .105 batting average could be attributed to an injury. MASN's Rich Kubatko reported on Tuesday that Lough appears headed to the disabled list.
Due to Lough's great defense and the possibility of an injury slowing him at the plate, I'll cut him some slack on his grade.
Steve Lombardozzi: B -
The Orioles dealt veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez to the Tigers late in spring training for utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi, adding an above average defensive player and an option to back up all infield positions, and even left field.
Much like Lough, Lombardozzi has been exceptional in the field. The switch-hitter is likely to stay on the roster for most of, if not all of the season due to his defensive versatility.
Lombardozzi isn't going to set the world on fire with his bat, but he's actually been exceeding expectations, hitting to a .333 average at the bottom of the order. While it would be silly to expect him to maintain that throughout the season, you can't ask for much more from the bat of a backup infielder.
As long as he keeps doing his job on the field, he'll have a job with the O's.
Ryan Webb: D
Being a reliever, Webb hasn't had much time to prove himself as he's only made three appearances, throwing 3.2 innings. That reason alone is why he receives a 'D' rather than an 'F' grade.
Webb has had plenty of success in his career, so his ERA of 9.82 shouldn't alarm O's fans. It's an inflated number due to his limited innings.
Obviously Webb will need to improve his numbers to justify his signing and his spot on the roster, but he'll have plenty of opportunities to do that.
An encouraging sign is Webb's four K's on the young season, while walking only one batter.
Ubaldo Jimenez: F
Jimenez will need to pitch much better to justify that big contract. In losing both decisions, the righty has pitched just 10.2 innings, allowing 13 hits and eight walks, while posting an ERA of 6.75
A bright spot for Jimenez is his 10 strikeouts, pointing to the possibility that his stuff is good, and that he just needs some time to settle in after spring training.
April has historically been Jimenez's most troublesome month, as Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun points out. A career 10-10 record and 5.02 ERA during the first month of the season exemplifies that. Jimenez's career ERA post-April sits at a very solid 3.86.
The O's are relying on Jimenez to pitch to his potential and provide a plus option at the top of the rotation along with staff ace Chris Tillman. If he can be reliable, he'll help make the rest of the rotation that much deeper and the team as a whole that much better.
Nelson Cruz: A
Designated hitter and corner outfielder Nelson Cruz has probably made the biggest impact of any O's acquisition. The right-handed hitter leads the team in home runs with a pair of timely bombs.
He has provided solid protection for Adam Jones and Chris Davis in the middle of the lineup. If he keeps hitting at this pace, he'll prove that his one-year, $8 million deal was a bargain.
After Tuesday's action, Cruz sports an average of .286 with two doubles, two homers and six RBI. He's doing exactly what the team envisioned when it signed him at the beginning of spring training.
And while Cruz's defense is rarely pretty, he's been holding down the fort in left field when called upon. Obviously the team would rather have him DHing than in the field, but it's always nice to know that the lineup versatility is available.