The annual Silver Slugger Awards will be announced at 6 p.m. tonight on MLB Network, and the Orioles should be well represented.
The awards are decided by a vote of major league managers and coaches, and lean heavily toward run-production numbers.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis might be an underdog for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, but it’s safe to say he’s a favorite to win a Silver Slugger at first base. He led the major leagues in 2013 in home runs (53) and RBIs (138) and led AL first basemen in slugging percentage (.634) and OPS (1.004) and tied the Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion for the best on-base percentage (.370).
Center fielder Adam Jones appears to be a lock to win one of the three outfield positions after leading all AL outfielders with 33 homers and 108 RBIs.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy led all AL shortstops with 25 homers and 76 RBIs while hitting a respectable .263. His only real competition would be the Oakland Athletics' Jed Lowrie.
Matt Wieters could also have a chance to win. He led AL catchers with 22 homers, but the Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez had a .292/.323/.433 batting line, which tops Wieters in all three categories. Perez's 79 RBIs are tied with Wieters for the most among AL catchers.
*** The move might not get much attention, but the Orioles are excited about the addition of former Orioles third baseman Jeff Manto as minor league hitting coordinator.
Manto was relieved from his duties as the Chicago White Sox hitting coach, a post he had held for the past two seasons, but he has an accomplished history of helping young hitters improve.
He has a long history with Orioles player development director Brian Graham, who managed Manto as a player in Triple-A and later hired him as a minor league hitting coordinator with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Graham said Manto was instrumental in the development of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan as they were coming up through the Pirates’ farm system.
Manto was also the Pirates’ hitting coach in 2006 and 2007 before moving on to Chicago, where he was minor league hitting coordinator before becoming the White Sox's major league hitting coach.
The Orioles realize that player development will be a key to sustaining success. It is a must, so making the right hires in positions like Manto’s are, in some ways, just as important as those on the major league staff.
*** Expanded instant replay was tested for the first time during last night’s televised Arizona Fall League game.
In the matchup between the Salt River Rafters and the Mesa Solar Sox, managers were given unlimited challenges. There were only two in the game, and both confirmed correct calls.
To be honest, watching it was fascinating. It was interesting to see the home plate umpire, with a headset, talking to two major league umpires who were reviewing plays in a television truck beyond the outfield wall. Reviews were limited to three minutes, but neither review -- both challenges were on close plays at first base -- came close to that. They were fast and, most importantly, correct.
MLB will continue to experiment with the review system throughout the week in the AFL. No matter what, balls and strikes will continue to be unreviewable, as will check swings. Expanded review is still a fluid situation, but major league owners will vote on it during this month’s owners meetings in Orlando, so it could be implemented this season.
That’s pretty interesting. I think, at this point, most fans would like to see expanded review. If it is implemented, it will be interesting to see how managers are affected. They’re already second-guessed enough. Now they will be open to additional second-guessing on whether they should have called for for a review on a certain play, much like in the NFL.
And it will also likely mean that you'll see Orioles manager Buck Showalter shoot out of the dugout to argue a call less often when he can simply challenge a call. But hey, you can't have it all.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun