Five Players Who Can Help the Orioles Beat the Projections

New York Mets v Baltimore Orioles

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J.J. Hardy, SS
Steamer Projections: .239/.280/.363, 11 HR, 47 RBI

Hardy’s health rendered him almost non-existent on offense last season. He had a wRC+ of 49 in 114 games. For reference, Zack Greinke turned in a wRC+ of 55. By the time Hardy was shut down for the season, he just looked flat-out old on the field. Watching him run was painful, as was watching him struggle to do anything but ground out weakly. Hardy revealed at the end of the year that he had been dealing with a torn labrum, which would explain his inability to get the ball in the air.

Hardy was never a great on-base threat, nor did he possess great speed. His power made him an asset for the Orioles, but that appears to be gone. Unless a long offseason of rest has allowed Hardy to recoup his ability to lift the ball, his days as an elite offensive shortstop are behind him. Hardy is never going to hit 25-30 home runs again. Over the past two seasons, he’s managed only 17 in 255 games. Given a full season, Ryan Flaherty may approach the output projected for Hardy. That’s not good.

The Orioles’ decision to extend Hardy is still defensible. He was still one of the better offensive shortstops in the league at the time. He’s not the same player anymore, unless he can reverse the sands of time in a big way in 2016. In hindsight, Nick Markakis may have been a safer investment for the Orioles. If Hardy’s labrum has healed over the winter to the point where his swing is close to its old form, the Orioles will get a big bump in production from the shortstop position in 2016.

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