The Orioles had a very quiet off season. Infielder Mark Reynolds (.221, 23, 69) left to play for the Cleveland Indians. For the exception of re-signing Nate McLouth (.268, 7, 18, 12 SB in 55 games), the team is going with the same look for this season. It may not be a bad thing as they have built a relatively young team that should be competitive for years to come. But to win 93 games again would be a bigger miracle than the 2012 version.
Adam Jones had a breakout season last year (.287, 32, 82, 39 2Bs, 103 RS) playing every game in CF. A healthy Nick Markakis (.298, 13, 54 in 105 games) will be key as well as having 3B Manny Machado (.262, 7, 26 in 51 games) for a full season. Catcher Matt Wieters (.249, 23, 83) and SS JJ Hardy (.238, 22, 68) help make the lineup a little more dangerous than outsiders may think. Chris Davis (.270, 33, 85) led the team in HRs in 2012 and will likely man 1B. Nolan Reimold will play an important role as he was injured for the majority of the 2012 season. I expect to see him playing LF everyday with McLouth being more of a forth OF. Reimold hit 15 HRs as a rookie in 2009 and 13 in 2011 in just 87 games. If Brian Roberts can return to form of a couple years back, this lineup is as deep as any in the AL East. I'd line them up like this: Markakis RF, Hardy SS, Jones CF, Davis 1B, Wieters C, Machado 3B, Wilson Betemit DH (.161, 12, 40), Reimold LF, Roberts 2B. Roberts has been a lead off batter for a while, but he has fallen off considerably. Expect to see Ryan Flaherty getting a fair look at the position. Also look at 23 year old OF Xavier Avery as a player who can develop as an every day type player. He has the tools.
The Orioles amazed the AL last season mainly because of their starting pitching. Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02 in 32 starts, 192 IP, 154 Ks) was their top pitcher, mainly because he was the only one who remained in the rotation for the entire season. Jason Hammel got off to a tremendous start, only to have his season halted by injuries and bad performance. By June 22, Hammel was 8-2 and had just given up an unearned run over 17 IP in his last two starts. He would lose his next four decisions, getting hit very hard and missing the two proceeding months of the season. Chris Tillman (9-3, 2.93 in 15 starts) and Miguel Gonzalez (9-4, 3.25 in 19 games, 15 starts) unseated Tommy Hunter, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz in the rotation. Matusz (6-10, 4.87 in 34 games, 16 starts) had more success as a reliever as Hunter (7-8, 5.45, 33 games, 20 starts) could fill a spot there as well. Zack Britton (5-3, 5.07 in 12 games, 11 starts) is likely to fill the fifth spot in the rotation with Arrieta still option. The goal is for the Orioles to be joined this season by #2 overall prospect (according to MLB.com) Dylan Bundy at some point this season. Bundy is expected to be an ace, and his presence would be better than acquiring a top of the rotation starting pitcher early on. Until then, Hammel, Chen, Tillman, Gonzalez and Britton will have to hold things down until then. I think they can; it is important to figure out which Hammel is taking the ball.
The bullpen could not have been better last season, which in itself is a concern. Bullpens tend to change considerably each season, as a relief pitchers are inconsistent from season to season. Jim Johnson (2-1, 51 saves, 2.49 in 71 games) leads a pen that also has Pedro Strop (5-2, 2.44 in 70 games), Darren O'Day (7-1, 2.28 in 69 games), Troy Patton (1-0, 2.43 in 54 games) and Luis Ayala (5-5, 2.64 in 66 games). 25 year old Steve Johnson is a sleeper, as he is a hard thrower who can be an important arm in this pen.
Many are not buying the Orioles as a legitimate threat this season. Some think the 2012 season happened because everything went right. The thing that keeps the Orioles from winning as many games as they did last season is the fact that the AL East will be beating each other all over the place this season. I think Vegas is under estimating them putting their over/ under at 76 1/2. I take the over, and see the Orioles going 83-79, 2nd place in the AL East. Unfortunately, 2nd in the AL East will not be good enough for a playoff spot this season.