With Opening Day under four weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.
LHP Zach Britton
Opening Day age: 27
Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season
Minor-league options remaining: None
2014 stats: 3-2, 37 saves in 41 chances, 1.65 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 7.3 K/IP, 4 HR, 76 1/3 innings
Why to be impressed: A year ago, Britton was out of minor-league options and responded by embracing a relief role and producing one of the best seasons ever from an Orioles closer with 37 saves from May 15 through the end of the season. His 5.68 ground out to air out ratio reflected how incredibly successful he was with his heavy sinker in his new role.
Why to be concerned: Because he relies on inducing so many grounders, Britton will be prone to stretches of bad luck more often than your typical closer that relies on the strikeout. His heavy workload in his first year as a reliever makes it worth monitoring the southpaw’s health this spring as he prepared this offseason as a regular reliever.
2015 outlook: Asking Britton to post a 1.65 ERA again might be asking too much, but his reliance on his sinker (he threw it 89 percent of the time last season) should save some wear and tear on his arm and allow his impeccable infield defense to continue to record outs. If he stays healthy, Britton should have few problems approaching 40 saves with an ERA below 3.00.