This week’s spotlight is on a likely Opening Day starter who is flying well under the radar. Chris Tillman of the Baltimore Orioles has evolved into the current staff leader of the defending AL East champions, but over the last two seasons he has gone mostly unnoticed. The 2015 season could be a very important one for Tillman, and if he can continue his upward progression, big things may be in store for the right-hander.
Tillman will be entering his seventh season in the big leagues. After spending his first four years getting just small cups of coffee, the last two seasons have seen Tillman really turn the corner. From 2009-2012, Tillman collected 51 starts total, and in the last two years, he has turned in 67 starts. Tillman was also an All-Star in 2013. The 26-year old will likely get the ball on Opening Day a few weeks shy of his birthday with the goal of turning in a third consecutive season of 30+ starts.
While he may not be an over powering pitcher with big strikeout numbers, Tillman is a very efficient worker on the mound. He turned in 21 quality starts last season and finished in the top 15 among AL qualifiers in ERA and innings pitched. If Tillman is able to continue with this production, he could also be in store for a payday as well. After this season he will become arbitration eligible, and three consecutive years of quality numbers just may result in Tillman getting that next-level recognition.
Looking at the potential number one starters for the five AL East teams, an argument can be made that Tillman is the most stable of the group that includes R.A. Dickey, Masahiro Tanaka, Clay Buchholz, and Alex Cobb. He may not be flashy, but Tillman has developed into a reliable arm for the Orioles. This season, Tillman will be in the spotlight to see if he can reach that next level of ace capabilities and start to fly above the radar.