The 2015 season was an up and down season for the Orioles as they finished the season .500, going 81-81, and 12 games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays. The 2016 season will be another dog fight type of season in the American League East and the Orioles will be in the mix as they look to rebound from an average 2015 season.
Baltimore has had a fairly quiet offseason but they did resign their slugger Chris Davis to a 7 year/161 million dollar contract. They also acquired Mark Trumbo from Seattle as they hope to add some more power to an already strong lineup. This will be Trumbo’s 4th team heading into his 7th big league season. The Orioles lost two main contributors to last years team in Gerardo Parra and Wei-Yin Chen.
The Orioles finished 9th in all of baseball last season in runs and 3rd in all of baseball in home runs with 217. There is no question that the lineup for the Orioles is and will continue to be the best part about this team. They basically return their entire lineup with Machado, Jones, Davis, Wieters, and Schoop. Machado is only 23 years old and had a breakout season last year hitting .286 with 35 home runs. His OBP (.359) and his SLG (.502) also were way up from a year ago. Despite only walking 24 times last year, Adam Jones put together another strong season and continues to show that he is one of the best center fielders in all of baseball. Orioles fans know what they are getting in Chris Davis. Lots of power, but a lot of strikeouts. A full season of a healthy Matt Weiters will help this not only on offense but the pitching staff. My breakout performer for the Orioles for the 2016 season is Jonathan Schoop. The 24 year old second baseman only appeared in 84 games last season but had a solid season. His .279/.306/.482 numbers were impressive and he had 15 home runs in a limited number of games. I expect a big year for Schoop if he can stay healthy and play 140-150 games.
The starting rotation has been the issue for the Orioles over the past few seasons. If there rotation is even average in 2016, they have a shot to be a good team. The problem is I would not feel confident with the group they currently have right now. Last season, they finished in the bottom half of all of major league baseball in quality starts (72). I am not a huge fan of quality starts but it does show the ability to give quality innings. The loss of Wei-Yin Chen is a significant loss. Chen in my opinion is a quiet gem because it seems like every time he pitches he is in the 6th or 7th inning only allowing 2 or 3 runs. Chen led the Orioles in innings pitched (191.1) and era (3.34). No one else in the Orioles rotation had a sub 4 era. Chen will be difficult to replace. Returning for the Orioles is Chris Tillman, the erratic Ubaldo Jimenez, Miguel Gonzalez, and Kevin Gausman. The 25 year old Gausman has the stuff to be a front end starter but needs to put it all together. The easy fix for this rotation is for the Orioles to go out and sign Yovani Gallardo to stabilize the rotation. Will they give up the draft pick to sign him?
The bullpen is a strength for this team with Zach Britton leading the way. Britton had a 1.92 ERA last season and converted 36 of 40 saves. The Orioles spent a lot of money to keep Darren O’Day giving him 4 years/36 million dollars. O’Day was tough on both righties and lefties last year which is why he got the deal he did. Adding to the pen is Mychal Givens, who is a power arm that had 38 strikeouts in only 30 innings. Lets not forget about Dylan Bundy. Bundy was one of the top prospects in baseball a few years ago but injuries have delayed his career. I don’t know if Bundy has the makeup to be a starter anymore because logging 180+ innings is no easy task. Bundy may become a valuable piece to the Baltimore pen.
Prospect to Watch:
In December, the Orioles signed Hyun-soo Kim, a Korean outfield to a 2 year/7 million dollar contract. Kim will be a 28 year old rookie that has a clause in his contract that he cannot be assigned to the minors. I believe the Orioles brought in Kim to help immediately. Kim put up good power numbers in Korea (28) home runs, but that does not mean a lot to the pitchers in America. Kim could be a guy to watch out for since the O’s lost Parra to free agency.
The 2016 season for the Baltimore Orioles will likely be determined by their rotation. Their offense is going to score a lot of runs. No question about that. There is a ton of home run power in that lineup and the rotations in the A.L. East are sub-par. The big question is can their rotation be average and pitch deep into games so the bullpen is not overused come August? Let’s see if Buck Showalter can lead the O’s to a postseason birth in 2016.