This is the first part of a five part series where I will tell you why each American League East team will win the division. First up is last year’s division champion, the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles won the American League East by 12 games with a record of 96-66. They swept the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series before being swept by the Kansas City Royals in the Championship Series. Despite the losses of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters to season-ending injuries and Chris Davis to a suspension the Orioles managed to run away with the division and breeze into the ALCS.
However this offseason Baltimore lost three key components that led them to their deep run into the playoffs. One year stopgap Nelson Cruz came into Baltimore last year and hit 40 home runs. They also lost long-time Oriole Nick Markakis to the Atlanta Braves during free agency. After acquiring Andrew Miller during the deadline, he led the Baltimore bullpen during the playoffs, as he was almost unhittable. However, he entered free agency and signed a lucrative contract with the New York Yankees.
With the loss of these three key components, the Orioles did not make any noise during free agency. They acquired Travis Snider to replace Markakis and are hoping for bounce back years from Machado, Davis and Wieters. Adam Jones is one the premiere players in the league and will need to have another big season if Baltimore wants to return to the postseason.
This Baltimore team will be better than last year’s team even though they will not win 96 games again. Their lineup is one of the deepest in baseball with Machado, Davis and Wieters all healthy again. Their pitching, led by Chris Tillman, will surprise people and the Orioles will once again capture the AL East crown with 90 wins. Zach Britton has fortified himself as a solid closer, and along with Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz, the Orioles have a deep bullpen once again.
They will win the division with their defense and offense. J.J. Hardy should hit better than he did a year ago and despite the loss of Cruz the return of Davis, Machado and Wieters will make up for the loss of power. Snider should fit in nicely in right field and provide more power than Markakis. We all saw Steve Pearce have a breakout season a year ago and though he might not have that type of season again a DH platoon of him and Delmon Young gives manager Buck Showalter options.
In order for the Orioles to win the division they will have to hit. Luckily for Oriole fans with everyone back and healthy this lineup is going to score a ton of runs. However, a lot is going to have to go right for Baltimore. They will need Davis, Machado and Wieters to play a full season healthy and contribute at All-Star caliber levels. If that happens another AL East Division Championship banner will be raised in Camden Yards.