Buck Showalter’s 8th season at the helm of the Orioles is definitely one to forget. The 2017 campaign saw his squad go 75-87 finishing dead last in the AL East. The main rumor swirling around the clubhouse is how will the front office handle the 3x All-Star and soon to be free agent Manny Machado. Depending on how the situation is handled will then determine whether the Orioles will push to contend or begin the rebuild.
The Orioles front office has remained very quiet this offseason. The only moves they have made have been the signing of Andrew Cashner and resigning Chris Tillman. The O’s inked Cashner on a 2-year, $16 million deal. Cashner has made his way around the league.
In 8 seasons, Cashner has played for the Cubs, Padres, Marlins, and Rangers, and will now suit up in Black and Orange for the 2018 and 2019 Seasons.
Cashner’s 2017 campaign with the Rangers was a very good one, recording a 3.40 ERA in 28 starts. The O’s hope that he can duplicate those number while at Camden Yards.
As for Chris Tillman, the O’s bring the 9-year vet back on a one-year deal. Tillman has never been a consistent pitcher, as it’s as if he’s good one year and not so good the next. So, after having a 7.84 ERA during 201, I would greatly hope that number vastly shrinks.
The O’s are a team that relies on the long ball, and they have the lineup to do it. As a team they hit 232 home runs which was 5th among all 30 ball clubs. The O’s boasted 7 player who recorded 20 or more long balls during 2017.The O’s are lead by SS Manny Machado who has 3 All-Star game appearances and 2 Gold Glove awards. Machado didn’t have the greatest 2017 but he is still one of the modern day superstars who will hit free agency at the end of the season at the age of 26. In the past 3 seasons machade has hit 30-plus long balls and should be chalked up for 30 more this year.
Another vital piece to the O’s is the man patrolling center field Adam Jones. Jones is a 5x All star and a 4x Gold Glove winner spending all but 2 years of his career in the city of Baltimore. Jones has never hit above .300 in his career and strikes out roughly 18% of the time. All those go out the window since Jones has averaged 28 long balls since 2011.
After being traded from the Rays to the O’s Tim Beckham started one of the best stretches of his career. In his 50 games with the Orioles he tallied a .306/.348/.454 slash line and finished with 10 longballs. The O’s gave up a small price for the 28-year old shortstop and he has produced and looks to continue his success and hopefully live up to being the 1st overall pick he was drafted as back in 2008.
While star closer Zach Britton is on the 60 day DL and isn’t expected back until midseason, that creates the opportunity for Brad Brach who saw the closer duties while Britton was battling injuries last season. Brach finished with a 3.18 ERA and picked up 18 saves in 24 opportunities. Brach is a much better pitcher at home as opposed to on the road. It is also worth noting that last year Brach did not enjoy pitching on turf. In the nine games he played on turf last year he gave up 6 ER. Now that is definitely a very small sample size but that explains why his numbers look a little inflated. Brach will be the closer until Britton returns and he should have to problems holding onto the job.
O’s top prospect Austin Hays sent some time in the majors toward the end of the season. He played in 20 games and didn’t really make a splash. After batting .329 in 128 games in the minors he finished the year with a .217 BA in 60 big league at bats. Hays has some pop in his bat, hitting 32 long balls while in the minors. Now we can chalk up Hays as another hitter in the Orioles lineup that can hit 20-plus home runs. Hays will most likely start the season at Triple-A Norfolk and will get a call up at some point in the season pending on how Joey Rickard is doing.
Expect Trey Mancini to patrol the left side of the outfield. The Notre Dame product spent his first full year in the majors during the 2017 season and made the most of it. Mancini batted .293 with 24 home runs. You should expect a slight decline for Mancini as he enters his sophomore season. I’m not calling for a sophomore slump but he did have a .352 BABIP, so as those number regress expect him to hit around .270 but we all still expect him to hit 20-plus home runs.
Here is a look at a projected Orioles power hitting lineup with projected HR total:
|1. Tim Beckham||3B||21 HR|
|2. Manny Machado||SS||33 HR|
|3. Jonathan Schoop||2B||28 HR|
|4. Chris Davis||1B||29 HR|
|5. Adam Jones||OF||25 HR|
|6. Mark Trumbo||DH||26 HR|
|7. Trey Mancini||OF||25 HR|
|8. Caleb Joseph||C||7 HR|
|9. Joey Rickard||OF||4 HR|
The projected opening day lineup is projected to hit 198 home runs throughout the course of the season. If Austin Hays gets called up you can probably expect around another fifteen. It is no doubt the O’s have a power heavy lineup and that is where they will rely on the majority of their offense.
The biggest question surrounding the O’s is what to do with Manny Machado. Machado will become a free agent at the end of the season and he’s made it clear he intends to test the free agent waters. Machado has voiced that he prefers to play shortstop. The Orioles would love to extend him but the feeling doesn’t seem to be mutual. It is in the O’s best interest to try and find a trade partner for Machado. There are numerous teams that would love Machado’s business but can those teams afford the price? Machado, who would only be rest of season rental will come at a hefty price tag, The O’s who are not that deep in the pitching prospect pool will probably ask for two top arms and another prospect whether it be another pitcher or position player. Whichever way the boat floats the O’s will get what they want for the young stud who they will probably lose in free agency so cash in on him while you can.
Call me crazy but I think this team can hit 250-plus home runs, in addition to the power heavy starting lineup they already possess, the O’s also signed outfielder Colby Rasmus who is capable of hitting 15-20 home runs himself. Adding on to the overall total that gets a boost playing at the hitter friendly Camden Yards.
Unfortunately this does not look to be a great year for the O’s. The offense is definitely there, but the pitching isn’t. The O’s held a 4.97 ERA which was the 4th worst behind the Mets, Reds, and Tigers. If the O’s really want to contend this year, they will need help from the whole pitching staff especially Dylan Bundy who has yet to impress us. However if I were a gambling man I would not put any money on the O’s this year.
Record Prediction: 72-90
(Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun)