It’s been a time of tribulation for the Baltimore Orioles the last few years. Since Manny Machado was dealt and heart-and-soul leader Adam Jones left the organization, the Orioles have come nowhere near close to contending for a playoff spot.
It feels like yesterday this team was in the ALCS with an insane batting order consisting of Machado, Jones, Chris Davis, and Nelson Cruz.
In 2021, this is a roster that has few bright spots, with a lot of “starters” who would be bench players on most teams.
Last year, the Orioles didn’t finish last in the AL East; that spot belonged to the Boston Red Sox. Finishing the season 25-35, however, the pitching was an absolute mess.
Their best pitcher was Alex Cobb, who went 2-5 with an ERA of 4.30. Offensively, Baltimore had a couple of pleasant surprises, with Jose Iglesias having a batting average of .373 in 39 games for an OPS+ of 160.
Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, and Renato Nunez all finished the 2020 campaign with OPS+ above 110.
Baltimore’s longest winning streak was six games, and the same number was their longest drought.
The Orioles will have a completely new infield in 2021. In free agency, Baltimore signed third baseman Maikel Franco, plus switch-hitters Freddy Galvis and Yolmer Sanchez.
Franco showed a lot of promise as a 22-year-old with the Phillies in 2018, but since, his numbers have been inconsistent. He has a lot of power and can drive the ball, but his career OPS+ is 94, six points below the league average.
Baltimore recently brought in former All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey, which at this point is like throwing mud at the wall and hoping it sticks. Harvey hasn’t had a good season since the Mets advanced to the World Series in 2015, and the 32-year-old has been on three different teams since.
Both Jose Iglesias and Hanser Alberto signed with new teams in free agency.
As previously mentioned, Iglesias was unbelievable in 2020 for Baltimore. The slick shortstop will help a Los Angeles Angels ballclub that hopes to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Alberto batted .299/.322/.413 in two seasons with the Orioles. He’ll be a member of the Kansas City Royals in 2021.
Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. also signed with the Reds, and Kohl Stewart joined the Cubs. Backup infielder Richard Urena re-joined the Blue Jays, signed initially as an international free agent back in 2012.
Plain and simple, the Orioles’ pitching rotation is bad.
Consisting of names like John Means, Harvey, and Wade LeBlanc, none of these guys come close to “ace status.”
Means is scheduled to get the Opening-Day nod but FanGraphs projects him finishing 2021 with a woeful ERA of 4.82.
Harvey has been a below-average arm for years, and LeBlanc struggled mightily in his first season with the Orioles, posting an ERA of 8.06 in 22.1 innings pitched last year.
Jorge Lopez and Felix Hernandez are the options for the final spot in the rotation. The 35-year-old Hernandez opted out of playing last year’s condensed season with the Braves, and at this point in his career, is a shell of his former Cy Young self.
The Orioles’ offense will center around Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander, and Ryan Mountcastle.
Mountcastle is expected to hit cleanup, and Baltimore fans should be excited about seeing the former first-round pick get the opportunity to knock a bunch of runs home in 2021.
The Orioles also have three switch-hitters, which will help balance out their lineup.
Chris Davis was placed on the 60-day DL in late March with a lower back strain. Davis had a historically bad season in 2020, so the Orioles won’t necessarily miss his presence to start the 2021 campaign.
3 Key Players
In 2019, Trey Mancini had the best year of his career, hitting .291 with 35 home runs and 97 RBI’s. In 2020, Mancini’s world was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. Mancini underwent chemotherapy and missed the entire season but is now cancer-free and ready to return. He is the Orioles’ best player and will be crucial to Baltimore having any semblance of competitiveness in 2021.
Having at least one of Harvey or Jernandez being somewhat satisfactory would go a long for the pitching staff. Baltimore is going to have a hard time winning.
Baltimore begins the season at Fenway Park in Boston for a three-game set against the Red Sox and then travels to the Bronx to play the Yankees. The Orioles’ home opener is scheduled for April 8 against Boston at Camden Yards.
Interleague opponents for the O’s in 2021 include the Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Braves, and Phillies.
The BetUS World Series odds have the Orioles as the second-biggest American League longshot to win the World Series at +12000. Baltimore’s BetUS over/under for regular-season wins is 64.5 and are listed at +9000 to win the AL East.