Home Ballpark: Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
2014 Finish: 1st AL East · (96 – 66)
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 84.5 · Over
What We Love:
- A full season of Kevin Gausman helping impact an already sneaky good starting rotation: The Orioles had four starters reach 10 or more wins in 2014 (Chen, Tillman, Norris and Miguel Gonzalez) and they will need to rely heavily on their rotation if they want to reach the post season again in 2015. Nothing against Chris Tillman or any of the other blue collared starters in the Orioles rotation, but Gausman has the stuff (94-96 mph heater, nasty split finger) that could translate into a legitimate number one.
- The potential of a Dylan Bundy appearance in same rotation sometime in 2015. Bundy has been at the top of the Orioles and MLB top prospect list since the Orioles drafted him out of high school with the 4th overall pick, back in 2011. After reaching Baltimore with a September call up in 2012, Bundy had his fast track to the MLB derailed by the all too familiar Tommy John surgery in 2013. Despite being shut down for a lat strain in late 2014, Bundy showed great promise, and some of his 2012 form, following the TJ surgery. His 2015 will be spent focussing on increasing his workload, but we could see him up in the MLB sooner rather than later.
- The throwback managerial presence of Buck Showalter. Showalter won his third Manager of the Year in 2014 and has helped shape the Orioles into a perennial contender. Despite injuries to key cogs of his lineup, Showalter has proven to be able to get everything out of career journeyman and minor leaguers, Steve Pearce and Caleb Joseph being the latest to benefit from his whispering ability.
- The return of three All Stars (Machado, Wieters and Davis): Injuries limited Manny Machado to just 82 games, while Matt Wieters played in only 26 contests before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, the man formerly known as Crush (Chris Davis) was suspended for 25 games following a positive test for PED’s (perhaps that was the reason for the dismal season). When healthy, and non juicing, these three help give the Orioles one of the more potent lineups in the AL. Given the Orioles lack of bench and OF depth, they will need these three to be healthy and in the everyday lineup in order to return to the postseason.
- The Golden standard for defense: 2015 marked the third straight year that the Orioles had three players win Gold Gloves at their respective positions (Jones, Hardy and Markakis). The Orioles franchise has now had 70 Gold Gloves awarded, which is the most in the American League by 6 awards. In fact, they only trail the St. Louis Cardinals (85) for the all time record. One would have to imagine that with the return of former Gold Glove recipients Machado and Wieters that the total can only continue to climb.
- The back end of the Orioles bullpen (O’Day, Hunter and Britton).
- Everything that Adam Jones brings to the table.
- Jonathan Schoop’s pop – 16 HR’s as a rookie.
What We Hate:
- Manny Machado’s knees and future as a SS: Machado, who is still only 22 years old, has proven to be one of the games more exciting younger players since he made his debut back in 2012. At 22, he already has one All Star appearance and one Gold Glove to his name. Unfortunately he also has two major knee injuries to his name too. Not only have these injuries robbed Machado of paying time and post season experience, but they also could be robbing Machado of fulfilling his potential of being one of the games elite shortstops. Machado was drafted as a SS and only moved to 3B to accommodate for JJ Hardy… and spell the end of Wilson Betemit. It’s hard to imagine Machado’s knees holding up under the rigours of playing a physically demanding position like SS. It also doesn’t help that JJ Hardy inked a 3 year extension in the offseason to stay and play SS in Baltimore either.
- The Orioles corner OF situation or lack thereof: The 2014 offseason saw the Orioles lose two starting corner OF, when their management failed to bring back either one of Nick Markakis or Nelson Cruz. Cruz, the reigning HR champ, decided to take his big bat to Seattle, while the long time Oriole, Markakis, ended up in Ted Turner land (Atlanta). It’s not surprising that the Orioles chose not to resign either of the players, it is surprising however that they did not go out and sign any replacements for those departed players though. If the season were to start tomorrow, the Orioles would be looking to fill their corner OF positions with some combo of Alejandro de Aza, Travis Snider and Delmon Young. Not to mention that one-baggers, Steve Pearce and Chris Davis, have also been rumoured to be in the mix to get some reps in the outfield this season.
- Everything to do with the Dan Duquette situation: To be honest, everyone involved in this situation needs to give their head a shake. The Blue Jays organization should be embarrassed how they approached this situation and should count themselves blessed to not have had a tampering charge filed against them. Peter Angelos, the Orioles owner, despite taking a stand and refusing to let Duquette out of his contract and demanding the ENTIRE farm in return for him, still loses in this situation because he clearly has a guy who DOES NOT want to be there, making important decisions for HIS team. But I really question what the hell Duquette is doing. He lets Cruz and Markakis walk. He doesn’t find replacements for them. And he doesn’t do anything to add depth to a very thin bench. Luckily he has Buck Showalter in the dugout to patch up any leaks that Duquette puts in the ship.
- Matt Wieters nagging UCL.
- Steve Pearce replicating 2014 numbers – .293/21/49.
Player to Watch: Travis Snider. The Orioles traded for Snider in the offseason and a lack of OF depth could help Snider slide into an everyday, or a platoon role. Still only 27, the former first round selection by the Blue Jays could benefit under the tutelage of baseball guru, Buck Showalter, who has had success in the past unlocking hitters potential. The man known as Lunchbox has some definite pop in his bat and it could play up in a HR happy park like Camden Yard. Honourable Mention: Kevin Gausman.
Top Pitching Prospect: Dylan Bundy · RHP · MLB ETA: 2015
Top Positional Prospect: Christian Walker · 1B · MLB ETA: 2015
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=bal
Final Prediction: 3rd AL East