Baltimore Orioles: A Crazy Year for Predictions

Sep 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo home run during the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo home run during the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Making predictions about the Baltimore Orioles is a difficult proposition every year, but it is especially so for 2016.

There are so many variables, along with a totally mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses.

The biggest of all question marks for 2016 was on display throughout spring training in the form of a porous starting rotation. If the Orioles can have a better than expected year from their starters, it will likely be a successful season.

Likewise, the strengths of the team were evident in the display of power and run scoring potential. If the Orioles can manage to prevent a very high percentage of strikeouts along with a horrifically low on-base percentage, the Birds can enjoy a very successful season.

And bolstering both of the items above is the above-average bullpen, preserving early leads and holding down opponents in the hopes of significant comebacks with the powerful lineup.

Every year I have been doing this writing about the Orioles, I have included a preseason article that summarizes the major baseball writers and outlets across the world of MLB, highlighting what they say about O’s predictions. I am leaning toward skipping it this year. Actually, all I would need to do is basically dust off a previous article. They are always the same; they will be the same next year and in 2018. While throwing out a couple of nice comments about a few star players, they will ultimately say that the weaknesses are bigger, thereby predicting the Orioles to finish fourth or fifth in the AL East.

Of course, this is possible; but it is also as if they have forgotten that the Orioles rank among the very best teams in baseball for total wins over the past four seasons.

Looking around the AL East, there are many very fine players in what is again a strong division. Even so, I don’t see a clear-cut favorite who stands out. Though the Rays have somewhat improved their offense, it remains rather anemic. The Yankees look so old and so questionable in so many ways (other than the bullpen), though they always seem to find a way to compete. I don’t get the enthusiasm placed in the Red Sox, as they depend so heavily upon their starters. The Jays look to me to be the team to beat, having a powerful lineup and what is an under-rated pitching staff.

Rather than go with numbers of wins, let me predict that the teams will be fairly closely aligned throughout much of the season. I’ll pick the Jays as the favorite, with the Orioles second, Red Sox third, Yankees fourth and Tampa Bay fifth. It will be a close call if the O’s will have enough wins for the playoffs.

Beyond team predictions, let us make some statements about the varied position players, saving pitchers for another day and another article…

Matt Wieters — Again in a final year before another run at free agency, look for Wieters to have a quality season. Because of the effective nature of Joseph as a backup, Buck will be able to rest Matt more often than most first-string MLB catchers. He’ll end up hitting in the .280 range with the best OBP of his career along with some power. The season will prove that his arm is fine and set him up for a decent contract in 2017.

Caleb Joseph — Now more than a young and inexperienced catcher, Joseph is actually a veteran with advanced defensive and pitch-calling skills, along with decent offensive pop. He provides frequent good starts to relieve Wieters and hits in the .270s along with some occasional power. Orioles catchers combined are among the top teams in baseball in total homers from that position.

Chris Davis — We will predict a decent year, but short of a great all-star season. His on-base percentage will remain high, as will his strikeout total. He will be in the first handful of home run hitters, totaling about 40 on a .260 average.

Jonathan Schoop — Predictions here are for Schoop to have a monster season, apart from some unfortunate injury. He will hit about .290 with home run totals in the upper 30s.

J.J. Hardy has an improved season over the past couple of years. His average will improve to the .250s with some recovery of previous power. Hardy will provide some critical runs in RISP situations. And again his steady defense will be his primary contribution.

Manny Machado — We will call for Manny to have essentially a repeat season from the breakout of 2015. He is now an elite player in MLB and will not be denied hitting around .300 with 30+ homers and significant doubles as well.

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Ryan Flaherty — Feeling optimistic and uncharacteristically positive here at the beginning of the year, calling for FlareDog to have his best season yet, which is not a tremendously high bar. Look for him to play more by giving Hardy in particular a break to keep the O’s shortstop healthy for a full season.

Hyun Soo Kim — Who knows what to say about Kim? Will he even be around long enough for the time it takes for this article to cool? I think he can learn to be a productive MLB left fielder if he will follow the advice of the Orioles.

Joey Rickard — One of the biggest questions is if he can sustain spring training metrics. I will predict him to have a very productive first season, beyond that of most Rule 5 types of players. He will have some times of adjustments and slumps to overcome, but will do so rather well in the big picture of things.

Nolan Reimold — Presuming he is kept, his success will depend upon how regularly he plays. If it is fairly often, he can have a very good season. If it is only occasional, his production will be rather limited and intermittent.

Adam Jones — He will want to play every day, and Showalter will be tempted to accommodate that. If Rickard is as good as he has looked and can sub in center field once a week or so, Jones can have the sort of breaks he now needs as a veteran player. If not, his production will take another single click lower, just as it has each year now for multiple seasons.

Mark Trumbo — I think the big power hitter has found a good fit and perfect home in Baltimore. Look for him to have what will be one of the best seasons of his career with about 30 homers and lots of RBIs. His play in right field will be short of a Gold Glove but better than expected.

Pedro Alvarez — While hoping to be wrong, and while seeing the big guy hit some homers for sure, I have doubts that this will turn out to be a great move for the Orioles. If he is good enough to run out there most days as the DH throughout the season, he may well surpass Chris Davis in total strikeouts.

So indeed, overall, this season could go in multiple directions, but I do think we can depend upon it to be both interesting and entertaining.