Posted on March 4, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Baltimore Orioles were the worst team in baseball last season, finishing with a record of 47-115. Under first-time manager Brandon Hyde, they now begin the long rebuilding process. Expectations are low, but that could end up working in their favor. Can the Orioles surprise people in 2019 or will they continue to be the worst team in baseball?
Baltimore’s rotation had the highest ERA in the American League last season, so they have nowhere to go but up. The Orioles actually have the makings of a solid rotation; it’s just a matter of getting better performances from their top starters. For instance, Alex Cobb was expected to lead the rotation after posting a 3.66 ERA with the Rays in 2017. However, he was just 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA in his first season in Baltimore. Rising star Dylan Bundy also took a huge step backward last year after a breakout season in 2017. Last season, Bundy was 8-16 with a 5.45 ERA. Surely, both Cobb and Bundy are better than what they showed last season, but both have to prove once again that they can be frontline starters.
Sign up for a FREE Trial Consultation to start working with Legendary Sports Bettor Jon Price
The Orioles also have a couple of decent mid-rotation candidates in Andrew Cashner and Nate Karns. Cashner is another example of someone who followed up an impressive 2017 campaign with a disastrous season in 2018, going 4-15 with a 5.29 ERA. The Orioles are also taking a chance on Karns, who has flashed plenty of potential but sat out all of 2018 due to elbow trouble. He was a high risk-high reward signing by Baltimore the club hopes will payoff. Of course, with question marks surrounding all four of their more established starters, the Orioles will have to lean on youngsters like Yefry Ramirez, David Hess, and Luis Ortiz, not to mention a number of prospects who could be big league ready by the end of the season.
Much like their rotation, Baltimore’s bullpen was at the bottom of the American League last season. It certainly doesn’t help that former mainstays like Zack Britton, Darren O’Day, and Brad Brach are all elsewhere. That will leave the Orioles scrambling to find relievers who can be trusted in high-leverage situations.
The good news is that Mychal Givens got some experience as a closer last season, saving nine games. However, his ERA was 3.99, so he’s not exactly automatic when given a lead in the 9th inning. Lefty Richard Bleier could also be a candidate to close games, as he owns a career ERA of 1.97 over 119 innings. Miguel Castro and Paul Fry were also solid bullpen options last year, both pitching to an ERA under 4.00. However, Baltimore’s bullpen depth could start to fall off after that unless they get some unexpected contributions from some of their younger relievers.
Naturally, the Orioles scored the fewest runs in the American League last season, and that was with Manny Machado on the team for half the season. Needless to say, it could be a struggle to improve without Machado at all this year. The good news for Baltimore is that they have plenty of power hitters. Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis are home run threats every time they step in the batter’s box. However, both have seen their productivity plummet the past year or two. The good news is that Trey Mancini is just starting to come into his own as a power hitter and seems to have found a defensive home in left field.
Elsewhere, the Orioles will be looking to second baseman Jonathan Villar to regain the form he had in 2017. He’s one of the few players the Orioles have who should be in his prime. For the most part, the Orioles will be relying on players like shortstop Richie Martin, third baseman Renato Nunez, center fielder Cedric Mullins and catcher Chance Sisco, all players with little or no major league experience. Prospects like Yusniel Diaz and Ryan Mountcastle may be ready to debut the second half of 2019, but the Orioles may have to wait a little while until those guys get up to speed.
On the surface, it’s possible that the Orioles will be worse in 2019 than they were in 2018. However, losing more than 115 games seems unlikely. Key members of Baltimore’s rotation like Cobb and Bundy should bounce back and pitch well enough to save them from such a fate. Look for the Orioles to finish 52-110 in 2019. Obviously, that’s a horrible record, but for the Orioles, it would actually be a step in the right direction.