With Opening Day nearly upon us, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.
Hyun Soo Kim
SP Chris Tillman
Opening Day age: 28
Contract status: Under club control through the 2017 season
2016 stats: 16-6, 3.77 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 19 HR, 172 innings
Why to be impressed: The veteran made at least 30 starts for the fourth straight season and registered his highest strikeout rate since the 2013 season. Using his slider more than twice as much as he ever had in any previous season, Tillman registered the highest swinging-strike percentage of his career and was on his way to producing arguably his best season before going to the disabled list in August.
Why to be concerned: The shoulder issue that cost him the better part of a month late in 2016 resurfaced in the offseason, prompting him to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in December and a cortisone shot last month. His velocity was down over his final two starts of last year, another sign making you wonder whether the cortisone shot will allow Tillman to perform at a high level for long upon returning.
2017 outlook: Manager Buck Showalter said Tillman’s bullpen session on Saturday was “real encouraging” and has indicated that he could be back as soon as early next month if all goes well. Given the long-term nature of his shoulder problem, however, the right-hander being able to make even 20 starts at a solid level would have to be viewed as a win for the Orioles in his contract year.
2017 not-so-scientific projections: 9-7, 4.12 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 16 HR, 116 innings