MLB ’16 Comeback Candidates: Baltimore Orioles

Chris Davis, re-signed to a 7-year, $161 million contract, should contend for his third home run title in four years in 2016 (Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

We roll on with another AL East team, the Baltimore Orioles. It got ugly towards the end of 2015, including a three-game sweep in Boston in which the O’s didn’t score a single run. They were displaced early in the season due to civil unrest in the city, yet had some bright spots as well and ended up with a fourth straight non-losing season after 14 straight sub-.500 years. Can they reclaim their 2012 and 2014 in 2016?

The Lowdown

It’s hard to say the Orioles had a bad year in 2015 in going 81-81. At teams they piled up runs like nobody else, yet also endured some miserable stretches. They have uncharacteristically spent a lot of money this offseason, primarily in re-signing their key free agents. They also added some power bats in Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez and a potential ace in Yovani Gallardo.

Reasons for Hope

The O’s will have to outscore teams to win consistently in 2015, and that’s a legitimate possibility. Trumbo and Alvarez will join a thunderous lineup that features three former 30-homer bats in Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, as well as other longball threats in Jonathan Schoop, Matt Wieters, and J.J. Hardy. Defense is also a strength, as Baltimore features fourĀ former Gold Glove winners in Machado, Jones, Wieters, and Hardy. The bullpen is reliable, especially in the back end with Darren O’Day and closer Zach Britton, who has racked up 73 saves over the past two seasons.

Reasons for Doubt

Baltimore’s Achilles’ heel could very well be its starting pitching. Gallardo has had success against the American League East, but whether he can be the ace the team needs is up for debate. Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez desperate need to rebound from down years, and Miguel Gonzalez is up-and-down. The wild card will be Kevin Gausman, who has been shuttled back-and-forth between the Majors in minors too many times to count. Gausman will get a chance as a full-time starter, and the former first-round pick has a chance to be special.

Will they or won’t they?

The Orioles are a hard team to figure out. They should have no problems hitting home runs, but they struggled mightily last year to get on base consistently and produce offensively without the long ball. As long as the Orioles get just average starting pitching, they should be in good shape and compete for first in the wide-open AL East.

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