Overview - We’re tired of selling the Orioles short. Every year we pick them for the bottom of the division based on their lack of depth in the farm system and the paucity of their rotation, but three of the last five years they have still made the playoffs. This year could be the last season for Oriole greatness with the departures of Manny Machado and Adam Jones on the horizon. They have lost Nelson Cruz and still won. Perhaps it doesn’t matter who they have on their team. Buck Showalter knows how to get the best out of any lineup he presents. One thing about this Orioles iteration, no team will outslug them.
Strengths - Jonathan Scoop broke out last year and is ready to improve upon the 2016 season giving the Orioles three infielders with the potential to hit 30 or more homers. Chris Davis hits the ball a long ways with 40 plus homerun potential, but he also swings and misses a lot with 200 plus K’s a year not unusual. They also have one of the best players in the game in Manny Machado at third base. He can also do a very good job at shortstop as well once he becomes a free agent. What team would not sign a potential 40 homerun player as a shortstop? As a third baseman he is a gold glover but as a shortstop he is not quite as spectacular. At 31 Adam Jones is slowing down. He doesn’t cover quite as much range as he did as a centerfielder and his stolen base numbers have dropped but he also has the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns. And finally, the Orioles were able to re-sign the American League homerun leader in Mark Trumbo. The nice thing about this signing is they have a hole at DH so this is a perfect place to put his bat while hiding his glove in the dugout. On the pitching front the Orioles have the potential to have a decent starting staff. Most baseball experts thought Kevin Guasman and Dylan Bundy would be co-aces. That may not be true anymore but as they gain more experience they will become close to that categorization. If Chris Tillman stays healthy he is the veteran presence that will guide the two youngsters to their potential. The Orioles also have a decent bullpen with the best closer in baseball in Zack Britton. Darren O’Day and Brad Brach are two good arms to work as setup men with Mychal Givens giving teams two sidearm looks in the bullpen.
Weaknesses - Losing Matt Wieters will hurt, no matter what the metrics people say about his pitch framing. The pitchers loved pitching to him, though with his injuries his availability was becoming less needed. Caleb Joseph lost his bat but plays solid defense and Wellington Castillo has a chance to hit for power but is not known for his defense. If they could combine their two skills it would make for one pretty good catcher, but as is they will always be lacking in one category. Still having Ubaldo Jimenez in the rotation is a downer. When he had sizzling stuff and couldn’t find the plate he was good. His stuff is not sizzling anymore and not finding the plate is not helping (Is that too many nots in a sentence?). When Trumbo is missing from the outfield the corners lack power. Seth Smith and Hyun-Soo Kim will platoon and hit only against righthanders. Both are line drive hitters that get on base, but balls rarely carry over the fence. That leaves Joey Rickard another line drive hitter who at least has speed to hit against lefthanders and may give Trey Mancini an opportunity to DH as Trumbo moves to the outfield, once somebody locates his glove.
Breakout Prospects - The Orioles finally gave up on Christian Walker. They now need to give Trey Mancini an opportunity to play. He will DH against righthanders and may play some first base to give Chris Davis a rest. Last year he clubbed three homeruns in a 14 at bat major league debut. He has nothing left to prove in the minors. His defense is lacking so like Trumbo DH is the best place for him. If Caleb Joseph continues to struggle with the bat Chance Sisco could see some opportunity behind the plate by mid-season. Defense is not his strong suit, but he has a good bat that hits the gaps. Joe Gunkel has an opportunity to make the rotation by mid-season as does Mike Wright (who is no longer considered a prospect). Wright has nice velocity to his fastball but it travels too straight. Gunkel has the stuff to fit in the back end of a rotation, but no higher. Both my be a better alternatives than Jimenez.
Prospects to Watch - The Orioles have not had a lot of luck with their arms drafted in the first round. Cody Sedlock was the Orioles first round pick in 2016. While drafted out of college would seem to indicate a fast rise to the majors, he was a reliever and the Orioles want to convert him to a starter. That means building up his innings. Hunter Harvey is one of those first round picks who has not really pitched in the last couple years because of injuries. If he pitches this year it will be in September. Don’t know if we are enamored with any of the other prospects to spend time writing about them. Preston Palmeiro has name value being the son of Rafael but he has average tools across the board. Jomar Reyes could be a potential replacement for the departure of Manny Machado. He won’t be Manny but he’ll offer glimpses with his power.
Expected Finish - We pick them for second. Last year both wild cards came from the East. This year as we’ve looked at the Divisions both wild cards will come from the West.