Greetings! Remember when the Orioles were good?
Projected Starters - Matt Wieters (C), Chris Davis (1B), Brian Roberts/Alexi Casilla (2B), JJ Hardy (SS), Manny Machado (3B), Nate McLouth/Nolan Reimold (LF), Adam Jones (CF), Nick Markakis (RF)
Everything went right for Baltimore last year, but outside of Wieters and Jones, the lineup wasn't as good as you may have thought. Wieters is one of the best catchers in the league, and even if he never hits for average (career .260), he takes walks, has power (23 HR in 2012), and defends at a high level at the catcher spot. Adam Jones is one of the best outfielders in baseball, coming off a season where he hit 32 homers, stole 16 bases, and slugged over .500. His defense is a point of contention (bad by some metrics, but good by the eye), but there's no question that he's a build-around type of player. JJ Hardy and Chris Davis provide big-time power at the expense of batting average, and that won't change. Hardy is injury-prone, but they could shift Machado (a mega-prospect) to SS if he goes down. Davis hit 33 homers last year, and he could easily repeat that performance. There was a time when Markakis was a big-time prospect, but he's settled into being a guy who hits for big-time average (career .295 hitter) but with mediocre power and other skills. The upside of the lineup is probably on the shoulders of Machado (who performed very well after coming up last year) and the McLouth/Reimold combo. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Projected - Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton/Brian Matusz
I have no idea how Baltimore won 90+ games with their pitching staff last year... and they didn't upgrade it. Jason Hammel led the team in WAR last year (2.9), but his performance (3.43 ERA, almost 9 K/9) is probably unsustainable. Chen led the team in innings with over 192, and is probably the "safest" bet in the rotation for at least average production. I expect him to have an ERA around 4 with 160 Ks or so over 200 innings. After that, the question marks abound. Chris Tillman was unbelievably good down the stretch, but still only finished with a 4.25 FIP (vs. 2.93 ERA) in 86 innings, making him a prime regression candidate for this year. Gonzalez, Britton, and Matusz all have upside, but have exactly nothing as far as proven talents, etc.
Projected - Jim Johnson (closer), Pedro Strop, Darren O'Day, Luis Ayala, Troy Patton, Tommy Hunter
This is where Baltimore won games. They had absurd records in 1-run games and extra innings, and the bullpen was very good. Johnson saved a remarkable 51 games last season, finishing with a 2.49 ERA despite a laughably low K-rate for a closer (5.39 per 9). He's a good bet to perform well, but not nearly at the level of 2012. Strop and O'Day both greatly outperformed their peripherals with very low (low-2.00's) ERAs, and I'd look for a giant step back overall. If they are a league-average bullpen (and they should be), that greatly limits their upside as a team.
76 wins seems awfully low after last season's performance. I'm aware of that. With that said, they got some very, very nice performances from unlikely sources and still only finished with a +7 run differential for the season. Add in the fact that Toronto is much, much better and a rebound from the Red Sox? The tanking begins...
76-86, 5th in AL East