Baltimore Orioles 2015 Preview
2014 in Review (96-66, 1st in AL East, Eliminated in ALCS)
2014 appeared to finally be the chance the Baltimore Orioles had been waiting for. It seemed they would have their opportunity to represent the American League in the World Series, with a powerful offense and reliable pitching staff. Unfortunately, after sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the Divisional Series, the O’s ran into the freight train known as the Kansas City Royals in the Championship Series, getting swept themselves to end their season of high hopes. The Baltimore offense was led by the league’s leader in home runs, Nelson Cruz, who crushed 40 long balls in the 2014 campaign. The team has lost some of their big bats in the off-season, but look forward to the return of some key players who missed a majority of 2014 due to season ending injuries.
Key Off-Season Losses
OF Nelson Cruz, OF Nick Markakis
Nelson Cruz has departed after leading the team with 40 home runs and 108 RBI. Production like this is nearly impossible to replace in an era where 40 home runs becomes more rare as every season passes. The front office was hesitant to commit four years to the aging outfielder – the eventual terms agreed to with the Seattle Mariners. The lineup will take a hit, but by no means suffer, thanks to the balance of hitting talent from top to bottom. The departure of long-time Oriole Nick Markakis will also prove to be a hit to the offense. Despite declining power numbers and injury issues the past few seasons, Markakis always remained a steady presence in the lineup thanks to his ability to get on base. He once again led the team in this category with a .342 on-base percentage. There are no replacements for these two, but the offense will benefit from the return of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters who missed a majority of last season. If they can return to form, these two will help, along with Adam Jones, in providing a once again stellar offense.
OF Travis Snider
While the signing of Snider isn’t exactly a splash for the Orioles, it is a low-risk, high-reward type of move that could prove to make the front office look very smart. Beyond his days as a touted prospect, Snider quietly put together a solid second half of the season in 2014, and the O’s hope he will be able to continue the momentum with his new club. If he can provide a healthy season and produce 15 home runs from the middle of the lineup, his addition will soften the loss of both Cruz and Markakis.
Despite missing two key bats from last season’s explosive offense, the Orioles still have plenty to be excited about when putting their lineups together. With the return of young phenom Manny Machado and the powerful Matt Wieters, the Baltimore offense is in line to continue a healthy run production. Centerfielder Adam Jones has been nothing but consistent as a star in the league and looks to continue to benefit from having plenty of power hitters to protect him in the lineup. This offense will be in the mix for the highest scoring team in all of baseball once the season comes to a close, and will be able to carry the team if the pitching staff has an off night. Combine this talent with that of their crafty manager Buck Showalter and the O’s look poised to repeat as the AL East champions.
One of the biggest questions surrounding this pitching rotation is their lack of an “ace” type pitcher. As the O’s showed last season, an ace isn’t necessary, assuming everyone in the rotation picks up the slack. While they do lack that “go-to” pitcher on the roster, the rotation is filled with five established pitchers who know how to win in the big leagues. With a loaded offense behind them, this team doesn’t necessarily need someone to go out and throw shutouts every fifth day. Simply keeping the team in the game and giving the lineup a chance to do their damage has proven to be successful thus far for the Orioles. Chris Tillman And Wei-Yin Chen will top the rotation followed by Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, and Kevin Gausman. These five provide consistency that is needed in the always tough AL East division.
Looking to 2015
As the 2015 season begins, the Baltimore Orioles appear to have all the tools in place to once again make some noise. Their season ended against a team that was so hot they likely would have beaten any opponent on their way to the World Series. With the pitching staff and lineup the Orioles have in place, they could very well find themselves as that same streaking team come October. Of course, a revamped Boston Red Sox team will have something to say about the division title as they look to battle all year long in what is sure to be a great divisional rivalry in the making. While a repeat of last season’s runaway division crown is not as likely, the O’s will need to trust in the system they have in place. On paper, they still look to be the best team coming out of the East.
Next team preview: New York Yankees
Stats provided by ESPN.
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