The Orioles exceeded anybody’s wildest expectations last year. They made the playoffs as one of the wildcard teams. Beat a Texas team that had represented the AL in the last two World Series and then nearly beat the Yankees in the Divisional series, losing 3-2. The Orioles had the moniker of luck hanging over them all season and they did come up on the sunny side of the average. They won 93 games but were only projected to win 82 based on run differential. They were 29-9 in one runs games and 16-2 in extra inning games. That’s probably not going to happen again this year. Baseball being good in Baltimore is a good thing. The ballpark is great and it’s a team with some nice tradition.
Did they make moves to take the next step?
Major Off-Season Moves:
The Orioles took it easy this offseason. They have been building a solid team with Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. They didn’t really need to add much to the offense – there is plenty of capability there. They could have added a top line starter, but you can’t just go out and pick one off the shelf. I’m assuming Baltimore figured it out and stood pat.
So they if they didn’t do much in the offseason, who’s left.
Likely Starting Lineup:
This lineup will hit. The team batted .247 last year and scored 712 runs which wasn’t very good enough to rank in the top half of the league, but I expect at least some improvement from every player in the lineup except Adam Jones. And he’s the only exception because he had such a great year last year, it’s hard to predict improvement. Matt Wieters should keep building on his progressively better seasons. Nick Markakis has shown flashes of being something more than a decent 3rd OF, but the cap seems to be back on the bottle. JJ Hardy is probably the top power hitting SS in the game. Chris Davis is a swing and miss or hit a home run type player. Which is fine to have him now that Mark Reynolds id gone to Cleveland. Can’t have too many of those guys in your lineup with turning in a team BA under .230. Brian Roberts is a cagy veteran who has simply had a bad run of real or nagging injuries. At his peak he was a top 2B in the majors, and there is some hope he can show some signs of that player. If not, Robert Andino will step and probably not do very well either. (Update: I’m an idiot. Without Andino, the Orioles will lose every game) The bright young star on the offense is Manny Machado. He came up last year and hit .262 with 7 home runs in 51 games. He’s only 20 and this year might not be the breakout year, but he’ll put up solid numbers at the hot corner.
Likely Starting Rotation:
Not a lot of star power on this side. Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Tillman all pitched respectfully last year. The surprising thing is that none of these guys started the one game wildcard playoffs. Any three of these guys (most likely Hammel or Chen) could be the “ace”. Miguel Gonzalez posted a 3.25 ERA and 1.2o WHIP last ear in 110 IP. He should be the 4th starter. If I’m honest, I have no idea who the fifth starter will be. The Orioles have some serious starting pitching depth. Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Dylan Bundy, and Kevin Gausman. Britton has experience at the major league level as does Matusz. Matusz had some decent hype coming in, but has definitely underperformed and has mostly been pitching out of the bullpen. Bundy and Gausman are both top draft picks that could probably start right now and be good. If they aren’t going to be clearly better than what the Orioles have now, then it’s better for them to not start their FA clock. I have a feeling Bundy will be pitching out of the bullpen later in the year or starting if the Orioles happen to be out it.
85-77, 3rd place in AL East
As I said earlier, the Rays have done great. They continue to compete despite clear disadvantages. Unfortunately, the AL East is always tough and the Blue Jays took a big step forward. I have the Orioles edging out the Rays for 3rd place this year, but it will be close. Even if most of the pieces fall into place, I can’t see the Rays making the playoffs this year. The good news is they can still finish in 4th place and have a winning record.