Leading up to the start of the 2017 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of baseball’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Baltimore Orioles. Stay tuned until Opening Day as Diamond Hoggers previews every team one by one until the beginning of the 2017 season.
Bombs, bombs, bombs galore. The 2016 Baltimore Orioles were such a weird team. They hit 253 home runs as a team, struck out 1324 times, and stole just 19 bases. They were caught stealing 13 times. They attempted 32 steals all season long. They are unique to any team that has ever been constructed in the history of the game.
They still went 89-73 under Buck Showalter, earning a spot in the American League Wildcard Game in Toronto; which they may have won if their boob manager had used his best arm in the bullpen rather than trusting Ubaldo Jimenez with the game on the line.
They have one of baseball’s best all-around players in Manny Machado at third base, and he should again contend for an MVP award. Behind him they have two of the best home run hitters the game has to offer in Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. And really you can make a case for any guy in the lineup knocking 25 to 30 home runs out of Camden Yards.
They’re a good watch, but what does the 2017 season hold in store for the Birds?
Major Off-season Moves:
Projected Starting Lineup:
Adam Jones is like clockwork; leading off another year and playing center field. He is no longer what he was, just a 1.1 bWAR player last season but he had a Jones-esque .265/29/83 season. It’s hard to believe he’s only going to be 31, because he seems ancient.
Manny Machado fell short of winning the MVP award last year like we predicted – confidently – but still scored 105 runs, hit 37 home runs, drove in 96, and OPS’d at a clip of .876 on the year. He is a sure bet to surpass .900 in OPS in 2017 and we like him again to be in the mix for Most Valuable Player. Of course a big storyline with Machado is that the Orioles can’t seem to sign him long-term, and he’s probably going to be rumored in some trades a year from now in anticipation of his walk year following 2018.
Chris Davis hit .221 but added 38 homers and 84 RBI. His OPS was not good – just .792 – he’s become a two true outcomes guy; home run or strikeout, something he did 219 times on the year. A huge question of how far the Orioles can go is which Davis shows up. It is easy to forget the incredible years he put together in 2013 and 2015. If that guy walks through those doors and stays locked in all season long, look out.
Mark Trumbo picked up the Davis slack, homering 47 times and hitting .256. It seemed like he was locked in all year long, maybe more so than Brian Dozier in terms of a power stroke. It’s hard to believe a guy with Trumbo’s upside has bounced around as much as he has in his career. He avoided one more stop this offseason by returning to Baltimore with an extension.
Jon Schoop was such a pleasant surprise. He hit 25 homers and .267; his .752 OPS at second base most teams would sign up for. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether it’s Schoop in the box or Adam Jones if you’re watching on television.
Because they didn’t have enough power, they added one of the biggest power hitting catchers in baseball in Wellington Castillo. Castillo should be the next Oriole to surpass 30 home runs, and they obviously don’t care about his lack of defensive ability. Matt Wieters is no longer part of the roster after his addition.
Seth Smith has always been able to rake righties. He homered off our buddy in college, too. He’s a great addition that should work out as well as some of the rumored guys the Orioles were in on like Jay Bruce. J.J. Hardy is kind of boring, but he’s got power too. Big things are expected by us out of Hyun Soo Kim, the guy can flat out hit and to think he’s in the nine hole is pretty scary for opposing pitching staffs. He hit .302 in his debut campaign in 346 plate appearances.
Projected Pitching Staff:
There are two guys we are really excited about in this rotation: Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. We’ve seen stats that paint Gausman in the role of Max Scherzer when he was in Arizona before he really morphed into the Scherzer we see today. In fact, Gausman has out-performed Scherzer at the same points in their careers relatively.
Sites like Fangraphs are bullish on a Bundy breakout, and we’re interested to see if it takes form. He’s worked on a cutter to add to his repertoire and another year removed from having major arm surgery should bode well for him. He may never be the Bundy he was prior to injury but there are indications that the Orioles have something big brewing with him.
Let’s be honest, in between those two are three arms that don’t excite. Chris Tillman always seems to be solid and keep his team in the game, but he’s no stopper. The Orioles are just short a stopper. Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley are the most likely 3-4 and it’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of effort they supply each time they take the mound.
The Orioles have one of baseball’s best closers. Zach Britton showed he was a household name last season with 47 saves and a sparkling 0.54 ERA. His last three seasons have been three of the best reliever seasons ever compiled together by a player.
Brad Brach and Mychal Givens remain as two flamethrowers you will see towards the end of an Orioles game if they have the lead, and they have a ton of stuff and upside.
Fangraphs has them at a 84-78 projected record. Perhaps they don’t see them being quite as lucky as last season. Perhaps they don’t like the construction of the Orioles ‘play for the three run homer and never run’ strategy. Or perhaps they don’t think there’s enough in the rotation to really get them over the hump.
They’re in a pretty tough division that beats up on itself, and we see them in a dogfight with the Yankees for second place in the division. They won’t surpass the mighty Red Sox without adding some type of help at starter, but man will it be fun to watch them light the scoreboard on fire when the weather warms up.
Buck Showalter will never be given his due by us, he’s such an ass. But he’s a winning manager. If this group shows up and gets similar production as they did in 2016 from a similar cast of characters, they’re probably a Wildcard team. We will go out on a limb and say a few fall short, Britton drops off a bit, only one of Bundy/Gausman develop properly and the Orioles finish around .500 on the year.