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2018 MLB preview: Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles 2018 season preview

2017: 75-87 (fifth place in AL East)

Last postseason appearance: 2016

Last World Series title: 1983

2017 Recap

After winning 89 games and clinching a spot in the 2016 American League Wild Card game, the Orioles won just 75 games in 2017 and finished last in the AL East.

The Orioles came out of the gates hot and started the season 15-8, but proceeded to go 36-46 from May-July. A good August run of 17-12 was spoiled by a miserable 7-21 performance to end the regular season. Baltimore finished with a winning record at home, but won just 29 of 81 on the road.

The main reason for this debacle was the pitching. The Orioles finished 29th in WAR for starting pitchers. Out of 15 AL teams, Baltimore ranked 14th in ERA, hits, runs, home runs allowed and walks allowed.

Baltimore Orioles 2018 season preview
Kevin Gausman and the entire Orioles staff struggled all 2017. (Photo from Baltimore Sun)

Statistically, Baltimore’s best starter was Dylan Bundy, who had a 1.196 WHIP, which is above average. The O’s star closer, Zach Britton, missed a solid chunk of time with forearm problems, but Baltimore’s bullpen stayed somewhat afloat. They finished sixth in the AL in bullpen ERA, mostly because of Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day and Richard Bleier, who all had an ERA below 3.50.

 

Offensively, Baltimore finished second in hits, fourth in batting average and fifth in slugging percentage and home runs. Unfortunately, they finished eighth in runs scored and 13th in OBP. The O’s actually finished first in the AL with 149 solo home runs, but with runners on, Baltimore generated just 594 runs, which was 11th in the AL.

The offensive MVP ended up being Jonathan Schoop, who batted .293 and hit 32 home runs. Schoop was the Orioles lone All-Star.

2018: Around the Diamond

The big question of the offseason was whether the Orioles should move star 3B/SS Manny Machado, or keep him in hopes that he stays long term.

Machado, who will hit the free agent market after the 2018 season, recently agreed a $16 million deal to avoid arbitration. However, Baltimore can still trade him either now or during the season if they choose. Although Machado had somewhat of a down year, hitting just .259 and a below average .310 OBP, he still hit over 30 home runs for the third straight season.

Baltimore Orioles 2018 season preview
Machado will play shortstop in 2018 (Photo from Call to the Pen)

The other question surrounding Machado was what position would he play if he remained on the Orioles. When J.J. Hardy was injured in 2016, Machado played 45 games at shortstop, the position he claims to be his most natural. However, he has mostly been at third base since he arrived in the big leagues, and has won two Gold Glove Awards manning the hot corner. On Saturday, manager Buck Showalter confirmed that Machado would be playing shortstop in 2018, while Tim Beckham, who hit .306 with the O’s last year, will play third base.

The right side of the infield features Schoop and Chris Davis, who hit 26 home runs, but hovered around the Mendoza line at .215 in 2017. With Welington Castillo now on the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore has a pair of catchers, Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco, that could fight for the starting role. Sisco, the Orioles second-round draft pick in 2013, has hit .311 in his minor league career and is considered the catcher of the future in Baltimore.

Left to right we have Trey Mancini, Adam Jones and Joey Rickard. The 32-year-old Jones, who has been the face of the O’s for quite some time, will be a free agent after this season. Mancini, who is only 25, had a fantastic 2017, hitting .293 with 24 home runs and 78 RBIs.

After erupting in 2016 with 47 home runs during his first year with Baltimore, designated hitter Mark Trumbo came back down to Earth in 2017. Last season, the big fella hit only .234 with 23 home runs, but is a very solid option at the DH position, as Baltimore hopes to have Trumbo play the majority of games at DH.

On the BUMP

Fortunately for Baltimore, they parted ways with both Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez. In 2017, Miley finished first in the league in walks allowed, while Jimenez gave up the sixth most runs, and the eighth most home runs in the MLB. They also made a wise decision to not re-sign Chris Tillman, who went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA.

Sadly though, Baltimore will still be relying on Kevin Gausman, who allowed the fifth most hits and finished 10th in walks allowed. Baltimore will need Gausman to figure it out, as well as Bundy to continue to progress if they hope to improve.

The back end of the rotation is the epitome of suspect. With guys like Gabriel Ynoa, Miguel Castro and Alec Asher in line to start, Baltimore fans should continue to keep Camden Yards empty.

Because of his ruptured achilles, Britton will miss the start of the season, which is a huge loss for the O’s. Luckily, like stated earlier, the bullpen is full of solid names. Both Brach and O’Day will be returning in 2018.

The Future

The future looks bright for the Orioles. Austin Hays, one of the best outfield prospects in the minors, had a tremendous 2017 between A+ and AA. In 128 games, the 22-year-old hit .329 with 32 home runs. He appeared in 20 games for Baltimore and hit just .217, but he has a legitimate shot to take over right field for Baltimore in 2018.

Baltimore Orioles 2018 season preview
Austin Hays is one of the best outfield prospects in the game. (Photo from Camden Chat)

We mentioned Sisco, but have yet to talk about Ryan Mountcastle, the 20-year old SS/3B, who could take over down the road if Machado leaves. Last year, Mountcastle hit .287 with 18 home runs in A+ and AA.

In the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Baltimore selected DL Hall, who they hope can fix the pitching woes at some point. Hall is just 19 years old, but is considered Baltimore’s top pitching prospect. Hall is a lefty whose fastball can get up to 95.

 

 

 

2018 Prediction: 77-85

Can’t imagine the O’s sticking with Machado farther than the Trade Deadline. Schoop will continue to be one of the best 2Bs in the game, Mancini might take a step back, and maybe we will see Hays at some point. Expect a good year from Bundy, but other than him, look for the rest of the staff to struggle. Baltimore will finish dead last in the tough AL East.

Featured image by MLB.com

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