As the annual projection models roll out, the numbers are once again unkind to the Baltimore Orioles. The PECOTA rankings from Baseball Prospectus are the most damning of all, projecting the Orioles to finish with a 72-90 record, nine wins lower than 2015 (and ahead of only the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies). FanGraphs is a bit friendlier to the Orioles, projecting a 78-84 record but still 13 games behind the Boston Red Sox. Call me crazy, but I don’t think David Price and Craig Kimbrel add 13 victories to a team that will still employ four starting pitchers who are either inexperienced, oft-injured, or just flat-out average. Dealing with a full season of Hanley Ramirez defense at first base is also a good problem to have.
The American League East remains a wide-open division, with every team having more than a few major holes. Boston’s rotation is a question mark, as are their young outfielders who have flashed brilliance but also inconsistency. The New York Yankees are old and have big health concerns in their rotation. The Toronto Blue Jays can score in bunches, but their rotation is just as thin as Baltimore’s behind Marcus Stroman. Can the Tampa Bay Rays score enough runs to make use of their great pitching staff? Yes, the Orioles have some big questions in their starting rotation and corner outfield positions.
The projection models never love teams that do not draw a ton of walks or feature rotations that generate a ton of strikeouts. For that reason, the defending World Champions are projected to finish in last place in the American League Central, 16 games behind a team that is not going to score many runs, but whose pitchers will strikeout a ton of batters.
Entering the season, expecting the PECOTA predictions to play out as gospel truth is silly. The predictions show which teams will have to get a little “lucky” to make the playoffs. Clearly, a computer model devalues certain parts of the game that are harder to quantify. There is not an algorithm on the planet that would have predicted the 2012 or 2014 Orioles would make the playoffs. The 2012 Orioles were projected for 71 wins, while the 2014 Birds were given a shot at 75 wins. That’s not exactly how either season played out, was it?
The Orioles have found a way to buck (yes, pun intended) the odds greatly over the past four years. They will have to do the same thing again this year, as the current roster has undergone very little change from last year’s .500 edition. If the trend is to continue again this season, here are five players who can help make it happen (excluding possible free-agent signees Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler).