The biggest thing the Orioles had to address this past off season was their starting pitching. They made a trade with the Seattle Mariners, moving right handed pitcher Yovani Gallardo in a deal that netted them outfielder Seth Smith. The Orioles currently possess two very good starting pitchers in Chris Tillman, fresh off a 16 win season, and Kevin Gausman, 174 strikeouts in just under 180 innings pitched. 24 year-old Dylan Bundy made his return to the major leagues last season and hope is he can make a major impact on a thin starting staff. The fact that left handed pitcher Wade Miley (fresh off his 5.37 earned run average in 30 starts) and right hander Ubaldo Jimenez (5.44 ERA in 29 games pitched last season) are penciled in as their fourth and fifth starters shows the team did not succeed in upgrading the most questionable part of their team. Even more of a concern is the list of potential replacements if they have to deal with an injury. That group includes Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright, both of whom recorded ERA's well over 5.00 last season, and right handers Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa, both acquired in separate deals involving the New York Mets during the off season. If the Orioles can play consistent and winning baseball this season, it would behoove them to make a deal to add at least a number three caliber starting pitcher. Otherwise, they made have difficulty advancing through the postseason.
Of course, the strength of the Orioles lies in their bullpen where they have the most dominant reliever of 2016 in Zach Britton. His 0.54 ERA is unlikely to be duplicated but his stuff has proven to be nearly flawless. Right handers Brad Brach (92 strikeouts in 79 innings pitched) and Mychal Givens (96 K's in less than 75 IP) allow for manager Buck Showalter to start closing the game in the 7th inning if needed. Almost forgotten about righty Darren O'Day is healthy this season and should be expected to pitch as well as he did prior to last season. Left handed pitcher Donnie Hart will battle with Vidal Nuno to be the situational loogy. The Orioles also have pitcher Oliver Drake, who also has strong strikeout potential. Similar to other teams I have previewed to this point, the Orioles may be looking to shorten the game by having a deep bullpen. Perhaps, especially after Tillman and Gausman, the goal may be to get a starting pitcher through five innings and use their accumulation of power arms to get them through the final four (at least) innings to hold on and win a game. The only problem with that is the potential of wearing out guys like Britton, Brach, Givens, and O'Day. If that happens, the possibility of injury increases and opposing teams (especially division rivals who play the Orioles 19 times each season) will get more comfortable at the plate knowing they are facing the same relievers night in and night out.
The Orioles have one of the best overall players in the game in third baseman Manny Machado. His 37 home runs and 40 doubles are only part of what makes him what he is; Machado is also one of the best defensive players in the game. Baltimore would have missed the 47 home runs they got last season from Mark Trumbo, but they ended up re-signing the American League home run champion to a three year contract prior to the start of pitchers and catchers workouts. Also having former AL home run champion Chris Davis is part of the reason the Orioles led the AL in home runs last season with 253. Baltimore had six players hit over 20 home runs and only one of those (Pedro Alvarez) is not back for 2017. (Alvarez is still a free agent.)
The Orioles brought in catcher Wellington Castillo as a free agent replacing the home grown Matt Wieters. Smith comes with a .828 career on base plus slugging against right hand pitchers. Right hand hitting Trey Mancini hit three home runs in his 14 MLB at bats last year and left fielder Hyun Soo Kim hit over .300 last season even though the Orioles wanted him to start the season in the minor leagues. Center fielder Adam Jones has been the heart and sole of the Orioles franchise for the past nine seasons and continues to be as important as ever. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop is coming off a breakout season where he played in all 162 games and hit .267 with 25 home runs and 82 runs batted in.
Shortstop JJ Hardy is questionable to start the season and if he does not, Machado will slide over to his more natural position. Left hand hitting Ryan Flaherty will play third in Hardy's absence. The Orioles lineup opening day would look like this if it were me- Kim LF, Machado 3B, Davis 1B, Trumbo DH, Jones CF, Schoop 2B, Castillo C, Smith RF, Hardy SS. Mancini will either DH or play first base against left hand pitchers, either moving Trumbo to the outfield or Davis to DH.
Catcher Chance Sisco has the best chance of any Orioles minor league player to impact the major leagues this season. The left hand batter has managed very good plate discipline during his time in the minors and has hit for a high average and on base percentage. Pitchers Hunter Harvey and Cory Sedlock will not be pitching in Baltimore this season as the former underwent Tommy John surgery last year and the latter was just selected in the first round of the 2016 amateur draft. Anthony Santander was selected in the MLB Rule 5 draft from the Cleveland Indians this off season, coming off a 20 home run season in the Carolina League. He can reasonably make the team if it is proven he can be a platoon option against left handers, which could lead to both Kim and Smith sitting against all left hand pitchers. The most intriguing young player in the Orioles farm system is left hand pitcher Tanner Scott, armed with a 100 mile-an-hour fastball. If Scott can improve on his control issues, he will add to an already great Baltimore bullpen.
On paper, the Orioles have the ability to compete with anybody in the American League. Their starting rotation, though- if unimproved- opens the door for many of the lesser (on paper) AL teams to surpass them in postseason position. I believe the Las Vegas number for the Orioles was a little high as it was put at 84.5. To me, it seems to be a number that assumes the starting staff will hold up, I am not sure I believe. However, it is impossible not to be excited about the team's two strengths, the bullpen and their offensive power. Having one of the game's best managers does not hurt at all either. I have the Orioles finishing the season at 83-79, second place in the American League East division.