The Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs last season on the strength of one of the top offenses in baseball and a dominant bullpen, but they lost in heart-breaking fashion in the Wild Card game to the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays.
The Orioles largely have the same roster as they did last year, but according to Baseball Prospectus, Baltimore is projected to finish in last place in the American League East, and have one of the worst records in baseball at 73-89. Only the Royals (91 losses) and the Padres (93 losses) are expected to have more losses than the O's. Additionally, Baseball Prospectus is giving the Orioles a 3.1 percent chance to win the division, and a 7.8 percent chance to make it to the Wild Card game. The 73 wins that are projected for the O's would be the fewest the team has had since 2011 when manager Buck Showalter took over in his first full season as the skipper. The Red Sox are projected to win 90 games and win the AL East in 2017.
With designated hitter Mark Trumbo back with a new contract, the Orioles offense should still be a juggernaut, but the pitching staff is what is expected to let them down in 2017. Baltimore is projected to allow 816 runs this season, which is the highest projection in all of baseball. The Reds are expected to give up the second most at 803.
That high projection for the Orioles seems to be a result of a well-below average starting pitching staff which, according to USA Today Sports, ranks as the 24th-best rotation in baseball.
Although expectations aren't high for Baltimore in 2017, they shouldn't be counted out entirely. The team is still led by an MVP level player in third baseman Manny Machado, still has the best closer in baseball in Zach Britton and has steady veteran leadership in centerfielder Adam Jones, shortstop JJ Hardy and first baseman Chris Davis.
If the Orioles are to compete for a playoff spot it will most likely come down to the starting rotation playing above expectations. If Kevin Gausman can continue the roll he was on in the second half of last season, and if Dylan Bundy can blossom into the stud he was drafted to be, the O's could end up pushing the Red Sox and Blue Jays at the top of the division.