Also, now that career Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts signed with the New York Yankees, Ryan Flaherty is the favorite to start at the position in 2014. He could share time with Jemile Weeks as well.

Even though he missed significant time with a hamstring injury, Roberts had one of the best defensive seasons of his career in 2013. His seven total zone runs were a career high. Still, if you compare Flaherty’s defensive stats at second base, Roberts graded out better in just one category.

Flaherty at 2B

Defensive WAR: 0.0

Total zone runs: 7

Defensive runs saved: 3

UZR/150: 14.1

UZR: 5.9

Roberts

Defensive WAR 0.1

Total zone runs 7

Defensive runs saved 0

UZR/150: 5.1

UZR: 2.0

Obviously, defense doesn’t score you runs. It only prevents them.

But there’s no secret of how much impact the Orioles defense had last season. It helped starting pitchers get deeper into games and helped relievers through late innings because of the ability to cover more ground and convert rally-killing double plays. And that same defense will be depended on to do more this season.

Machado's recovery from offseason knee surgery will impact the Orioles defense greatly.

Both Machado and the club hope he can return in time for Opening Day. Not only does Machado's presence on the field make the Orioles defense exponentially better, his timely return would also allow Flaherty to concentrate on being a regular at second base rather than a fill-in at third base.