Saturday, April 1, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Baltimore Orioles


The Baltimore Orioles have been on the brink of being great a several seasons now.  Will 2017 finally be the year they push over the edge?

My 2016 Predictions
4th in AL East
Manny Machado will be playing shortstop by the end of the season.

2016 Results
89-73, 2nd in AL East, WILD CARD, lost in Wild Card Game
The Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs in 2016, only to lose in their one and only game (seriously, how did Zach Britton never see the field?!?).  They had a dynamite lineup with just enough pitching, as well as a dominant bullpen.  It seemed to be the ticket to get them in the postseason, but it didn't serve them well once they got there.

Additions / Subtractions
The Orioles are notorious for making very few moves in the offseason.  They let Matt Wieters walk in free agency, and signed Welington Castillo to replace him.  They also traded Yovani Gallardo to the Mariners for Seth Smith.  Outside of these, the biggest move the Orioles made was re-signing Mark Trumbo after his career year.

Most Important Hitter
Mark Trumbo
The Orioles hit the jackpot with Mark Trumbo in 2016.  They traded a backup catcher to the Mariners for the slugger that turned into the home run champ.  Trumbo went into free agency with a high price, but ended up coming back to Baltimore when everyone realized he might be a one hit wonder.  Now, the Orioles are hoping last season was a sign of things to come as he anchors their 2017 lineup.

Most Important Pitcher
Dylan Bundy
If there has been one knock on the Orioles during the Buck Showalter years, it has been the starting rotation.  Dylan Bundy has been someone the Orioles have counted on to fix the rotation when he burst on the scene.  However, he went from phenom and can't miss prospect to injury plagued to almost being released to now finally taking his spot in the rotation.  Now Bundy has the potential to anchor a weakening staff as Chris Tillman is starting the year injured, Wade Miley is injured, and Ubaldo Jimenez continues to deteriorate with age.  Bundy's success is fairly closely tied to the Orioles' success.

Player to Watch
Chance Sisco
One of the reasons the Orioles let Wieters walk this offseason was the upcoming debut and emergence of Chance Sisco.  Sisco, the only Orioles' prospect in the Top 100 Prospects in the game, is a great hitting prospect that the Orioles hope to see behind the plate for years to come.  Bringing in Welington Castillo is a short-term solution, as he will also work as a mentor for young Sisco throughout the season.  The questions is not if, but when Sisco takes over behind the plate.

2017 Prediction
2nd in AL East
The Orioles are going to have a very similar season to 2016.  The problem is I don't think it will be enough to get them into the playoffs this season.  Trumbo can't repeat his performance from last year.  The rotation, if possible, will take a step back.  Britton will be dominant again, but it just won't be enough.  Look for them to be the last team to be eliminated from playoff contention in the American League.

Fearless Prediction
Manny Machado will be starting at shortstop by the end of the season.
This is the same prediction as I made last season.  In 2016, Manny Machado did play for a good portion of the season at shortstop when J.J. Hardy was injured.  However, when J.J. Hardy got healthy again, Machado moved back to third.  He is one of the best defensive third basemen in the league, but he could also be one of the best shortstops in the league.  Let's face it, Machado is one of the best in the league no matter where he plays.  Eventually, the Orioles are going to move on from J.J. Hardy.  He is entering his age 34 season, and his offense has declined.  He is still a decent glove man, but if they decide they need more than that, they may try and upgrade at third while moving Machado to short.  Either way, if Machado doesn't move to short this season, it probably will never happen.

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