A factor that is seldomly discussed with the Orioles is their manager Buck Showalter. He is the most underrated manager in the game of baseball over the past 20 years. Along with Gene Michael, he deserves credit for improving the Yankees to where they were ready to win. He did the same for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Coincidently, the year after he was let go, the Yankees won 4 out of 5 World Series and the Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001. I'd be reaching if I was to give him credit for the Rangers success, that goes to Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and Ron Washington. I ranked him the 6th best manager in MLB right now, but unfortunately, you can't win without the best talent.
The key to the Orioles this season is the development of their young pitching staff. They signed little known starting pitcher Yei-Yin Chen who has the potential to be pretty good. Zach Britton and Jake Arieta have the most upside when it comes to their young pitchers who will be on their staff. Tommy Hunter, who was acquired along with 1B Chris Davis in the trade for RHP Koji Uehera, figures to have a big role in the Orioles rotation. Newly acquired RHP Jason Hammel (who came over along with RHP Matt Lindstrom in the trade for RHP Jeremy Guthrie) will battle with former top prospect LHP Brian Matusz for the 5th spot in the rotation. Guys like Hammel and Hunter had no chance facing lineups like the Yankees and Red Sox last season and it is a question of how much they can improve. Britton and Arieta have the stuff to become very good pitchers and Chen is an unknown at this point. If the Orioles can get solid starting pitching, they could surprise this season, but this is unlikely.
The bullpen looks deep, though there is a good possibility they will trade RHP Kevin Gregg before the start of the season. Jim Johnson looks to be the closer, though newcomers Lindstrom, Luis Ayala and Darren O'Day will give the bullpen the depth it hasn't had in a while. Alfredo Simon is a wild card, they used him as a starter last season and he closed for them a little bit in 2010. He has more upside as a reliever and can help bridge the gap if the starters cannot go deep into games.
Without looking at the lineup, its easy to say they are not any good. That could not be further from the truth. If everybody is healthy, they have as good of a 1-6 as there is in the AL. (Yes, I said that!) CF Adam Jones may be on the verge of becoming a star. Last year he hit .280, 25, 83, but could see his numbers increase this year. JJ Hardy had a big year last year (.269, 30, 80) and Mark Reynolds rebounded somewhat after a bad 2010 season with Arizona by hitting .221, 37, 86. RF Nick Markakis (.284, 15, 73) and C Matt Wieters (.262, 22, 68) give the lineup some depth that few talk about. 2B Brian Roberts should be healthy giving them a lift in the leadoff spot. They let 1B Derrick Lee go after his disappointing 2011 season and are hoping Davis could increase his average a little bit and regain some of the power when he hit 21 HRs in 2009 with the Rangers. The O's will probably figure out what they have in Nolan Reimold letting him play for a full season. They signed utility player Wilson Betemit to a 2 year deal and he may to split some time with 1B Nick Johnson in the lineup as the DH.
The over/under for the Orioles is 69.5. That is right on. I have them winning 69 games this year, which is just about a push. It will be hard to keep them out of last place in the AL East. They could surprise if the young pitching comes around, but it will be tough if they are getting beat up by the Yankees and Red Sox 36 times. The development will come, but probably not this year. I like the offense and I think they bullpen can keep them in games. 69-93 sounds realistic, but could be better. This is without a doubt, Showalter's biggest challenge as a big league manager.