Last season was certainly one to forget for the Baltimore Orioles. Not only did they finish with an MLB-worst 47 wins, they also gave up the most runs in the league and had the worst run differential (and to be frank, it wasn’t even close). Three of their best players — Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Jonathan Schoop — won’t be there this year. If one thing is clear: they are in full rebuild mode.
When I was first assigned to preview the Baltimore Orioles, this is what came to mind:
Was asked to write a preview for the Baltimore Orioles as part of the AL East series for @BronxPinstripes . Here it goes.
Baltimore Orioles: They're gonna suck. But they'll probably beat the Yankees 50% of the time.
Is that good @Andrew_Rotondi @ScottReinen ??
— Tyler Dencker (@T_Danks_) March 26, 2019
So in short, that’s your 2019 preview for the Baltimore Orioles. But let’s break it down…
Out with the old, and in with the new… quite literally. In December, the Orioles announced Brandon Hyde as their new skipper, who became the 20th manager in the franchise’s history. Hyde will replace Buck Showalter, who had been managing the team since 2010.
Hyde was the first base coach on the 2016 championship-winning Chicago Cubs, and he has a lot of minor league managerial experience before that. Fun fact about Hyde: he is the first MLB manager to be named Brandon. So if there’s one thing you take away from this preview, let it be that.
Last season, the Orioles offense was one of the worst in baseball. They were fourth-worst in runs scored, seventh-worst in batting average, and second-worst in OBP. There isn’t anyone currently in their lineup scary to pitch to, so it will likely be more of the same this year for the O’s offense.
Losing Machado means the Orioles will be missing the biggest bat in their lineup. Last season, Machado led the team in batting average, home runs, RBI’s, walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, and more (and he only played in 96 games!). The O’s also lost Adam Jones, who was another integral part of their offense. Jones led the team in hits, and was second in RBI’s and batting average.
The Orioles will be forced to move on from those guys and they won’t be easy to replace. The next best offensive option could be 27-year old Trey Mancini. Last season, Mancini played in a team-high 156 games, co-led the team in home runs, and was second in hits. He was down in multiple statistical categories from his sophomore season in 2017, so if he can return to that form he just might be the most reliable part of the offense.
On the other hand, Chris Davis continues to be painfully terrible and is a large reason why the Orioles are where they are. Last season, Davis played in the third-most games for the team but ranked seventh in hits and had a brutal .168 batting average, which was the worst of his career. May I remind you that he made $21 million last season, and will continue to make that each year until 2022? Ouch.
Finally, here are the Orioles ZiPS projections from Dan Szymborski. Spoiler: It’s not good.
Sneak peek at the upcoming #Orioles ZiPS projections. pic.twitter.com/SpEqwOmsFP
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 22, 2019
They have multiple positions on the depth chart projected to produce negative or close to zero WAR.
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, THEY HAVE SOME EXCITING MINOR LEAGUERS
It’s pretty clear just looking at the roster that there are a ton of holes on the Orioles. However, as Orioles podcaster Paul Valle discussed on today’s episode of The Bronx Pinstripes Show, there are some minor leaguers in the system that are worth getting excited about.
The top prospect in the Orioles system is outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who was part of the Manny Machado trade to the Dodgers. Diaz’s biggest strength is his pure hitting ability, but he has the potential to succeed in all five tools. The biggest question mark for Diaz is his power, as he has not hit more than 11 home runs in any of his three pro seasons.
Another guy to look out for this season is third baseman Ryan Mountcastle, the second-best prospect in the Orioles system. Mountcastle’s strength is his bat, as he has displayed great contact, impact, and power in the minors. Last season, he batted .297 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 102 games.
Both of these guys figure to see some playing time this year, so it will be exciting for Orioles fans to see how their talents reflect in the big leagues.
THE PITCHING COULD BE REALLY BAD
At the moment, the core of the Orioles rotation is Andrew Cashner, Nate Karns, Dylan Bundy, and David Hess. Last season, the average ERA between these guys was 4.95, and all of them had double digit losses (besides Karns, who only pitched in nine games). Their closer will likely be Mychal Givens, who had a record of 0-7 with a 3.99 ERA last season.
The sample size of pitching isn’t as big with Hess and Karns, but all of the other guys have decent MLB experience. With that being said, it appears the pitching staff could be historically bad.
The unfortunate reality for the Orioles is that they are going to be one of the worst teams in baseball once again. There aren’t many things going for them right now, but the one thing that they do have is the future. The organization is going in the right direction by hiring a new manager and focusing on developing their prospects. It may take some time for the Orioles to start being competitive again, but as long as there is light at the end of the tunnel, 2019 will be a success for Baltimore.
We’ll get to know these Orioles quickly, as the Yankees play them six out of their first nine games, including Thursday in the Bronx for Opening Day.