While the 2012 Orioles proved to be a major surprise throughout the MLB, the 2013 team failed to improve upon the success from the previous year, falling just short of the postseason. At their core, the Orioles are made up of young and upcoming stars, who are finally starting to shine.
Players like Chris Davis, Adam Jones, JJ Hardy, and Manny Machado are among the best at their positions throughout the league. Similarly, the Orioles pitching staff consisted of 5 “up and comers”, headlined by Chris Tillman. While this young core is going to continue to grow through prospects such as Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Johnathan Schoop, the success of the 2014 Orioles hinges on their newly acquired veterans.
Within the last few weeks, the Orioles added DH/OF Nelson Cruz (previously of the Texas Rangers). Cruz, who was suspended for his participation in the BioGenesis scandal, should be able to provide the Orioles the offensive power they were missing at the DH spot in their lineup. Camden Yards is a hitter friendly park and the addition of Cruz will only improve the Orioles already league-leading homerun totals.
Baltimore’s lineup was not their issue last year however; their main downfall fell in their pitching rotation. By adding veterans Ubaldo Jiminez and Johan Santana, the Orioles have gained the experience they were missing within their rotation. For the birds, as long as one of these pitchers can have an above average year, or be anywhere near the caliber starter they used to be, they should be in good shape.
Many believe Baltimore will be missing closer Jim Johnson, who was as solid as a closer could be in 2012, before blowing game, after game in 2013. The Orioles do not have a true closer on their roster, but previous setup man Tommy Hunter is a player to keep an eye on throughout the season, as previously “unheard of” closers having big first years seems to be a trend in the MLB (ex. Jason Grilli of the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Finally, the remaining holes in the Orioles’ team are in left field and second base. After releasing long time second basemen Brian Roberts and left fielder Nate McLouth, the Orioles record setting, top ranked defense is searching for two new starters in 2014. Like candidates include Ryan Flaherty, newly acquired Jemile Weeks, or hot prospect Johnathan Schoop at second base. In left field, the Orioles may have a committee of players assuming the position; these including Nolan Remiold, David Lough, and Henry Urrutia.
Overall, I believe the Orioles will have another surprisingly solid year. I believe going in to the season they are the second best team in the AL east behind the New York Yankees, although the division will likely be one of the toughest in baseball as it has always been. While numbers may be down from the career years of Chris Davis and Chris Tillman, the newly added veteran power of the Orioles should be enough to pick up the slack, and could very well take them to the next level.