Every baseball fan, last year, watched the Baltimore Orioles be solely beaten by Raul Ibanez in the 2012 playoffs. The Orioles claimed a wildcard spot in the 2012 playoffs and knocked off the power packed Texas Rangers, stunning most of America. However, it is not 2012 anymore. The Bluejays now have a star-studded line-up, the Rays brought in new young talent, and the Orioles didn't change a thing. Many individuals thought that this offseason the Orioles were going after a huge name player; this never happened.
The thing is... The Orioles have the most balanced and talented line-up in MLB. Yes, this is a huge accusation I know. I have been to most of the 2012 homegames in Camden Yards and have watched every spring training game, meaning I have been studying the way the Orioles have been playing with this line-up.
Pitching. The pitching of the O's was not consistant during the 2012 season, mostly because of injury. If we ignore the injury factor the Orioles rotation is no-name strong, but deep in talent. The predicted rotation is... First pitcher is Jason Hammel. Overcoming an injury last season the Orioles should see plenty of strong starts from him. The second pitcher in the rotation is Wei-Yin Chen, who started off the season strong last year and toppled down nearing the end of the season. Chen is equipped with a dangerous fastball, not in speed, but in movement. He doesn't have movement like R.A. Dickey or some other crazy Knuckleball or 2-seam fastball pitcher; yet it is still frenzy movement. This offseason the Orioles have been working on finding that consistency in Chen's pitches and command, so he should be fun to watch if he can master this breaking balls. Third in the rotation is Chris Tillman. Tillman only started 15 games last season before struck with injury, he had 9 wins and 3 losses in those games with an era of 2.93. He had a quality start in spring training against the Phillies yesterday. Tillman is only 24 years old so the Orioles should be excited that he is developing well as a pitcher. Fourth in the rotation is Miguel Gonzalez. Last season no one was more clutch then Miguel. In 18 games pitched he had 10 quality starts and 9 wins last year. He got his first start in late June after Jason Hammel was injured, and immediately made an impact on the team. He wasn't a speedball pitcher but he had command over most his pitches. Although he only had 6.58 K's per 9 he paired that with a 1.21 WHIP. This number is deceiving though. Miguel had 92 hits against in 105.1 innings. He pitched most counts into full count and gave up some walks, yet his WAR was the best on the pitching staff even over Jim Johnson. Now finally the fifth starter in the rotation is currently up for grabs, between Dylan Bundy, Brian Matusz, and Jair Jurrjens. Personally I think the starter will be Jurrjens because of his success with Braves (excluding last year).
Lets take a look at the opening day lineup. Since there is no more Mark Reynolds and no more Jim Thome the O's will have to find their power in Chris Davis and Adam Jones. Luckily this is what Buck Showalter is best at. Making a team out of consistant hitters. Starting at first base is Chris Davis who will most likely bat 5th in the lineup. Second base is a toss up. Brian Roberts is fighting for his spot back over young guns like Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop. I think that Buck will give Roberts the start because he is a veteran and has been overcoming injury, but that spot in the lineup will be changing a lot. At shortstop will be without a doubt J.J. Hardy. The best power hitting shortstop in the league, leading the league in homeruns and extra base hits. Third base is also a lock in the 2o year old phoneme in Manny Machado, who had an amazing rookie year, both offensively and defensively. The Orioles Catcher as we all know is going to be Matt Wieters, the most worked catcher in the league. This year, we will see a lot more of Taylor Teagarden in order to keep Wieters healthy enough for a playoff run. Now here is the part that is always changing... Left Field will most likely be given to Nate McLouth because of his job at leadoff last year. He saved most of the season for the Orioles because of his clutch speed and extra base hits in need. The other candidate is Nolan Reimold. A scrawny homerun hitting machine. He was injured last season for most of the year, however, he still nocked in 5 homeruns in 14 games played. He also tallied 21 hits in those 14 games with 6 doubles. So this position on the team is still up for grabs. Adam Jones, the captain, has Center field all locked up. A superstar in waiting if Jones can follow up his 2012 performance. Playing in ALL, let me repeat, ALL 162 games Jones hit 32 Homeruns with 82 RBI's and batted .287 BA with 16 steals. His WAR was the highest on the team with a 3.4. The All-Star will have another appearance as an All-Star if he repeats this season. In Right Field is Nick Markakis. Markakis is back with a vengeance for missing the playoffs from a broken wrist/hand. We should see a completely dominant baserunner with speed and an extremely consistant hitter for average. He has the talent to be an All-Star so we will see in the future where his talent can take him. Now for the Designated Hitter. Right now Buck has been using Wilson Betemit as his DH. He didn't have a great season last year but it wasn't poor. He only batted .261%, but in his past he has constantly hovered the .300% mark. This is his 11th season so we will see if Reimold is given the DH spot or McLouth, right now Betemit is the best option.
The Orioles should be happy with their lineup and so should all the fans. Being honest the only team to be scared about in the AL East is the Bluejays. The Red Sox haven't changed, the Yankees got worse, the Rays added some names but are still ONLY going to be in the hunt for a while, and the Jays have a brand new team so who knows what will happen with team chemistry and output. And one more thing....
LETS GO O's