Baltimore Orioles 2018 Season Preview

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the strangest teams in baseball. They were the epitome of “Baseball in 2017” and, offensively, they proved that by finishing 5th in the MLB in HR, 27th in OBP, and 8th in Ks. Having not done a ton in the offseason (anything) to improve after a 75 win campaign, the future in Baltimore seems pretty flatlined. They now find themselves in a huge flux where they start the season with huge trade chips like Machado, Brach and Britton. They can hit homeruns, but in the hitter heavy AL East, their pitching could have a rough year.

Key Additions: None

Key Losses:

Wade Miley, LHP

Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP

Wellington Castillo, C

Why they can win: Although the O’s are not an efficient offense when it comes to getting men on base, they can mash. They have a lineup that should easily hit over 200 HR and have guys like Machado, Schoop, Mancini and Austin Hays who have pretty high ceilings.

Why they can lose:This is a relatively easy one. They can’t get on base, they strikeout a ton, they have no one who can steal bases, and their rotation is pretty far from average. In a division with two elite teams, it could be a long year if none of those things are sorted out.

Bottom Line: Baltimore needs to figure out an identity more than anything. It feels like a team that doesn’t know if they want to rebuild or compete. Maybe they’re a team that tries to go get a starter later in Spring or early in the year but that wouldn’t cut it. They have such big trade pieces and could come out with a top 10 farm system if they got rid of the three mentioned before. They do have some good prospects that will get a chance this year in Chance Sisco (C) and Austin Hays (OF) but other than that, I don’t think the playoffs is super realistic for the O’s this year.

Major4 Numbers Game:

Stud: Manny Machado, SS

Note the position change. Machado will be playing at short this season. Whether that was an internal decision to coax him to stay or the team truly feel is his best position is up for debate. What is not up for debate is Machado is a beast. Turning 26 in July, he’s one of the premier 5-tool players. He has high end exit velo (91.2 MPH) and a slugger’s launch angle (14.35 degrees and the counting stats to back it up (3 straight 30 HR seasons and averaging 90+ RBIs). Even with an extremely slow first half, he posted a 2.8 WAR, on the heels of 2 straight 6+ WAR seasons. Defensive metrics were down on him last year, but expect it to bounce back with a return to his natural position.

Sinkhole: Backend of the Rotation

You could make the argument that the whole rotation is in rough shape, but at least Gausman and Bundy have quality stuff and upside. After those two, it gets scary. They are projected to run out: Gabriel Ynoa who doesn’t miss bats in a tough pitchers’ park (17% K-rate, 48% Fly-ball rate), converted reliever Miguel Castro who combines poor control with a lack of whiffability (3.8% K-BB rate), and Alec Asher who loves giving up hard hit fly balls (1.5 HR/9). Those 3-5 starters will get rocked in the bat-heavy AL East. Hot take: none of these guys make 20 starts and will have a combined WAR <2.

Regression Candidate: Tim Beckham Jr., 3B

Tim Beckham turned in a hot 50 game stretch for the Orioles after they acquired him from the Rays (.306, 10 HR, 36 runs). He has pedigree (1st overall pick, 2008), but has never lived up to his draft status until this stretch. My guess is small sample size doesn’t allow this production to continue. During this stretch he walked too little (5.2%), struck out a lot for a contact batter profile (24.8%), with league average exit velo (87.6 MPH). He will be better than he was during his Tampa days, but don’t count on his production to continue at the rate similar to his late season hot streak.

Impact Prospect: Chance Sisco, C

The Orioles got bit by the slow offseason bug, like many other MLB teams. In lue of a lack of acquisitions, we’ll take a look at top prospect Chance Sisco. Sisco made his MLB debut last year with 10 solid appearances, hitting a couple jacks. Don’t expect this to continue (24 career minor league HRs), his plate patience (>10% walk rate), and hit tool . He has a clear path to playing time with Wellington Castillo leaving for the Chi Sox and Caleb Joseph isn’t what you’d call elite. His left-handedness should open up a platoon with Joseph, at worst.

Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):

Chance Sisco, C (45)

Austin Hays, OF (89)

Ryan Mountcastle, SS

DL Hall, LHP

Why We Love Them: We love them because they can murder baseballs, have an awesome logo and a great park. Also, Seth Smith, who was on the 2017 Roster was in Home Alone 3 which is bizarre but awesome.

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