The time has come! Major League Baseball is officially back in season with the first round of spring training games in the books. The Baltimore Orioles are gearing up for another season and will begin the regular season on April third. Opening Day for the Orioles will be a re-match of the 2016 AL Wild Card Game between the Toronto Blue Jays. Baltimore returns many players from a team that won 89 games, but there remain some questions that must be answered if they are to return to the postseason.
Baltimore Orioles 2017 Season Preview
Will the rotation improve from 2016?
The Orioles are led by two frontline starters in Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman. Both pitchers made 30 starts with 170+ innings pitched and an ERA+ of at least 118 last season. Ubaldo Jimenez is the only other returning starter with more than 20 starts last season, but his numbers were less than desirable. He posted a 5.44 ERA over 142 innings with a walks per nine innings of 4.6. Gausman and Tillman need to replicate their past success while Jimenez must pitch better in 2017. Unfortunately, Tillman will not be ready for opening day. Hopefully he will not be out long.
The Orioles were able to trade struggling Yovani Gallardo for outfielder Seth Smith this offseason. Wade Miley, Dylan Bundy, and Tyler Wilson will all get a look at the rotation this spring and saw time there last season. The problem is that none of these pitchers made more than 14 starts. Bundy was the best performer of this group, but even his 4.02 ERA has room for improvement. The Orioles still managed to win 89 games with a struggling rotation last season. The sky is the limit this year if the rotation can improve on last season’s mark.
Will the O’s miss the presence of Wieters?
Matt Wieters is gone after eight seasons with the Orioles. The catcher signed a two-year deal with the Washington Nationals after the Orioles decided to move on. On the one hand, the Orioles must replace a veteran leader who appeared in 882 games since 2009. On the other hand, the Orioles are replacing someone who slashed .253/.309/.414 with a 92 OPS+, 25 home runs, and 91 RBI over the past two seasons. Injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2014, have led to missed time and dwindling numbers.
The Orioles signed Welington Castillo this off-season to replace Wieters as their primary catcher. Castillo is coming off a fairly productive season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He slashed .264/.322/.423 in 113 games for the Diamondbacks. Castillo played in 11 fewer games than Wieters last season, but Castillo posted better marks in hits, doubles, walks, and RBI. He should adequately fill the primary catching role for the Orioles.
Will Trumbo replicate his 2016 performance?
Mark Trumbo came to Baltimore last year after a string of disappointing seasons. The hard-hitting outfielder responded with an all-star campaign for the Orioles. Trumbo posted a slash-line of .256/.316/.533 with an OPS+ of 120, 94 runs scored, 327 total bases, 108 RBI, and an MLB-leading 47 home runs. He led the Orioles in home runs and RBI while finishing tied for the team lead in slugging percentage with Manny Machado. Trumbo’s performance was enough to net a three-year contract worth about $37 million.
Believe it or not, Trumbo’s performance this season will be even more important than last season. No longer is he a player hoping to revive his career. He is now being paid like a star and will need to produce similar to last season in order to justify the new contract. Trumbo will be featured in a lineup that returns Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, and other key contributors. Anything less than a big season from Trumbo and a repeat trip to the playoffs will be a disappointment for Orioles fans.