The Baltimore Orioles 2016 season came to a screeching halt after a heartbreaking 5-2 11 inning loss to the rival Toronto Blue Jays in the Wild Card game. Most of the offseason was centered around resigning 2016 Major League home run leader Mark Trumbo. It took most of the offseason, but the Orioles were able to ink Trumbo to a 3 year deal. Other offseason additions included, catcher Wellington Castillo from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and outfielder Seth Smith from the Seattle Mariners. There is plenty of reason for optimism this season as the Orioles return the core of a team that lead the league in home runs and won 89 games. The only real loss was Matt Wieters to the Washington Nationals.
The 2017 Baltimore Orioles will again be at the top of the home run leader boards as this line up still features names like Manny Machado (37 homers/96 RBIs), Mark Trumbo (47 homers/108 RBIs) Chris Davis (38 homers/84 RBIs) and Adam Jones (29 homers/83 RBIs). The Orioles will also look for similar production from second basemen Jonathan Schoop again this year after he had his best year last year hitting 25 homers and driving in 82 runs. Look for these names to be at the top of offensive leaderboards at the end of the year.
Last year was the first since 2010 that the Orioles did not have a player win a gold glove. Look for that to change this year as Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop are among the best fielders at their respective positions. Last year the Orioles finished tied for 2nd in the league with a .987 fielding percentage. This year will look a little bit different for the Orioles defensively as Manny Machado will be at his favored position shortstop for the start of the season as everyday short stop J.J. Hardy deals with back spasms. Look for the dynamic due of Machado and Schoop up the middle as they will for sure be flashing the leather and turning mind blowing double plays. Machado played well at shortstop last year while Hardy dealt with a broken foot injury that kept him out for the better part of the first half of the season. There are questions in the out field in the corners. Three out fielders are vying for the two corner positions. Hyun Soo Kim, Joey Rickard and Seth Smith are all battling for those 2 positions. Kim is one of the few Orioles that hits for average. Look for him to be the Opening Day left fielder. Joey Rickard started last season on fire before an injury derailed his season as he did not play a game after July 20th. Rickard did hit .303 in April and .313 in May before the injury. Rickard with most likely be the fourth outfielder. Seth Smith is the new addition to the outfield. Smith hit .249 with 16 homers last year with Seattle. Look for him to be your Opening Day right fielder.
The Orioles starting pitching is scary and not in a good way. After ace Chris Tilman the Orioles do not have consistent pitching. Tilman was 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 172 innings pitched. Tilman will be on the DL to start the season which breaks his streak of 3 consecutive opening day starts. The Orioles are hoping that young guns Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy can improve on last years campaigns. Gausman was 9-12 with a 3.61 ERA in 179 and 2/3 innings. Bundy (14 starts) spent most of the year as a reliever, but became a starter towards the end of the year. He finished the year at 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 109 innings. The back end of the rotation is worrisome. There 3 pitchers competing for 2 spots. The Orioles hope last years number 4 starter Ubaldo Jimenez can reagin his end of season form. Ubaldo who struggled most of the year (8-12/5.44 ERA) finished the season going 3-1 in his last 5 starts with an ERA of 2.91. The other two pitchers fighting for the last rotation spot are mid season acquisition Wade Miley and current reliever Mychal Givens. Miley went 2-5 with a 6.17 ERA in 11 starts with Baltimore. Givens went 8-2 out of the bullpen for the Orioles and deserves a shot at the starting rotation.
Now to the Orioles bullpen which is one of the best in the league led by closer Zach Britton. Britton made history last year by going 47 for 47 in save opportunities with a 0.54 ERA. The Orioles also have two of the best late relievers in the game in Brad Brach and Darren O’Day. The bullpen again is shaping up to be the Orioles best weapon this year. If the Orioles can get 5 or 6 solid innings out of their starters then they can be a deadly team this year.
Overall I expect the Orioles to be challenging the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. The Orioles will make the playoffs either as the AL East winner or the 1st Wild Card. The Orioles will go as far as their bats and bullpen arms can take them. An ALCS appearance is not out of the picture. Look for the Orioles to have multiple gold glove winners again as well, Machado, Schoop and Davis will challenge for Gold Gloves.
Record Prediction- 93-69 (2nd Place in AL East)
Opening Day Line-Up
- Hyun Soo Kim (Left Field)
- Adam Jones (Center Field)
- Manny Machado (Shortstop)
- Chris Davis (First Base)
- Mark Trumbo (DH)
- Jonathan Schoop (Second Base)
- Seth Smith (Right Field)
- Wellington Castillo (Catcher)
- Ryan Flaherty (Third Base)
- Chris Tilman
- Kevin Gausman
- Dylan Bundy
- Ubaldo Jimenez
- Wade Miley
- Mychal Givens (#5 Until Tilman gets back)
Team Award Predictions
Team MVP- Manny Machado
Not only is Machado the franchise player, but he is one of the better players in the league. Look for Machado to have another big year. He is probably the Orioles most complete hitter and is one of their best defenders. Look for Machado to challenge for AL MVP as well.
Home Run Leader- Chris Davis (45)
It was no secret that Chris Davis was not himself last year. Now it has come out that he was dealing with a wrist injury for most of the year. Look for him to have a bounce back year offensively. He will return to 2015 form.
Pitcher of The Year- Zach Britton
Last year Zach Britton was the best closer in baseball and was the reason the Orioles made the playoffs. Look for more of the same this year as he has the motivation of being snubbed by the media last year in the CY Young race.
Breakout Star- Jonathan Schoop
Look for second basemen Jonathan Schoop to have a really big year this year as he looks to build off of last years 25 home run campaign. He could surprise some people and be named the AL starter for the 2017 Allstar Game. He will challenge for best second basemen this year with the likes of Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano.