Aug 25, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles teammates Ryan Flaherty (3) and Nick Markakis (21) celebrate after a game against the Oakland Athletics at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Athletics 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: A Pitcher's Worst Nightmare

The Baltimore Orioles, in my opinion, have the best lineup in baseball.  Sure, the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Anaheim Angels all might disagree, but I believe it to be true.

The Orioles led the majors in home runs last year, and it wasn’t even close.  They also were near the top in runs scored. And this year’s lineup will be better.  Last year was a black hole at DH, which has been massively upgraded by Nelson Cruz.  Second base was a position of weakness all year, but Ryan Flaherty will solidify that, or at least provide his numbers last year over a full season.

Nick Markakis almost certainly will have a better year than last year, because last year was his worst as a pro and he is in a contract year.  Markakis also showed up to camp in great health and 15-20 pounds heavier.

Projected lineup

Nick Markakis RF

Manny Machado 3B

Adam Jones CF

Chris Davis 1B

Nelson Cruz DH

J.J. Hardy SS

Matt Wieters C

David Lough/Nolan Reimold LF

Ryan Flaherty 2B

This team is one that will be prolific at mashing home runs, even if Chris Davis doesn’t lead the majors again this year.  Cruz will love the friendly confines of Camden Yards.

But, they also are a team that can get the big hit or the sacrifice fly.  Wieters has been effective at getting sacrifice flies over the past few years, something stressed last year by hitting coach Jim Presley.

They aren’t going to run all over the place and steal a ton of bases, but there is also a lot of sneaky speed from players that other teams don’t consider to be all that fast.  Cruz, for example, had five stolen bases last year in his shortened season.  Reimold is also a player who always hustles and is known to catch other teams napping.

Finally, there is no one to pitch around in this roster.  The Orioles could have 20 home runs from every position but second base in 2014.  In fact, other than the LF duo, the only other player on this projected lineup who has never hit 20 home runs in a full season is Manny Machado. Reimold certainly has power, he just has to stay healthy and platoon with Lough, who will have a chance to hit more HRs playing at Camden Yards instead of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas city.

It may not quite be the Bronx Bombers of the 1920s, but this Orioles lineup ranks right up with any in the major leagues in 2014, and is going to be tough for even the best pitchers to face.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis Nelson Cruz Nick Markakis

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