Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles are coming off an American League East title last season, but they have a tough road ahead of them to repeat in 2015 with some question marks on their roster and other teams in the division improving in the offseason . They lost two of their best hitters from last season — OF Nick Markakis and DH Nelson Cruz — to free agency, And C Matt Wieters is coming off Tommy John surgery that he underwent last June after playing just 26 games.
Thankfully for the Orioles, they had a good offense last year so losing the production of Markakis and Cruz may not be as big of a problem as it would be for other teams. Their batting average was fifth best in the American League last year, they led the AL in home runs with 211 — although 40 of those are heading off to Seattle this season with Cruz — and they were third in the league in OPS at .734. Their ERA (3.43) was also third best in the AL.
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, the key to the offense could be the corner infielders, 1B Chris Davis and 3B Manny Machado, who each missed significant time last season due to a suspension and injury, respectively. Davis still has one game remaining on his 25-game suspension from last season, but once he starts playing he should be able to produce in the power department — he hasn’t hit fewer than 26 home runs since an injury-shortened 2011 — but his .196 batting average from last year should concern the team. Machado, meanwhile, is coming off a knee injury that limited him to just 82 games last season. He is playing in spring training games and should be ready in time for the start of the regular season. SP Chris Tillman, who has thrown more than 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, leads the rotation that also includes young SP Kevin Gausman, who showed some promise in his rookie season in 2014 by posting a 3.57 ERA in 113.1 innings.
As mentioned, it likely won’t be easy for the Orioles to repeat as AL East champs this year with the Blue Jays looking like they have a good team and the Red Sox having made improvements to their roster in the offseason. It should be a close race in the East this year, and the Orioles look to be right in the thick of it.