MLB

Baltimore Orioles 2017 preview

This is the latest of our 2017 team previews. Each week during spring training, we'll preview a division with a team each day (Monday-Friday). This week: The AL East: Boston Red Sox | Toronto Blue Jays. Up next: New York Yankees

LAST SEASON

89-73, tied for second in AL East (lost to Blue Jays in AL Wild Card Game)

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WHAT'S NEW

Key additions: Seth Smith (trade from Mariners), C Welington Castillo (free agent from Diamondbacks)

Key subtractions: C Matt Wieters (free agent), DH/3B Pedro Alvarez (free agent), IF/OF/DH: Steve Pearce (free agent to Blue Jays), SP Yovani Gallardo (trade to Mariners), OF Nolan Reimold (free agent), OF Michael Bourn (free agent), RP Vance Worley (free agent to Nationals)

3 STRIKES

1. Baltimore must bash its way to victory. Led by MLB home run leader Mark Trumbo, the Orioles topped the majors with 253 homers last season and were third with a .443 slugging percentage. Despite the loss of Matt Wieters (17 homers) and Pedro Alvarez (22 homers), Baltimore's best option is still to swing for the fences. Five returning players (Trumbo, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop) topped the 20-homer plateau last season, with all five also striking out at least 115 times. And forget about manufacturing runs; the piano-on-their-back Orioles were last in the majors with just 19 stolen bases last season -- with the returning Joey Rickard leading the way with four.

2. The starters still aren't finishers. The Orioles' 4.72 rotation ERA was by far the worst of any 2016 playoff team, and their attempt at addition by subtraction (trading Yovani Gallardo) very well could prove futile. Chris Tillman had ace-like stuff before a late-season shoulder injury, which continues to linger and could land him on the DL to start the season. On the plus side, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman -- the fourth overall picks in the 2011 and 2012 drafts, respectively -- finally showed flashes of the promise the franchise has long envisioned. Despite a strong finish, Ubaldo Jimenez was a disaster -- as was Wade Miley (6.17 ERA after being acquired in late July) -- and there is very little depth beyond this group. They'll also be pitching to a new target this season, as Welington Castillo takes over for Matt Wieters behind the plate.

3. There are holes in the outfield. Four-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder Adam Jones recently voiced his concerns about the Orioles' outfield defense -- and for good reason. Baltimore outfielders ranked last in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved (-51) and Ultimate Zone Rating (-37.6) in 2016, according to FanGraphs. Mark Trumbo -- who is better at first base than right field -- is back, and Seth Smith -- who is better known for his bat than his glove -- will share right field with Trumbo and left field with Hyun Soo Kim. The Orioles hope better positioning will net better defensive results. Good luck.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

The Zach Britton-led bullpen, which led the AL with a 3.40 ERA and had 54 saves last season, is effective enough again to shorten the game and mask a subpar rotation.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy regress, and Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley pitch like … Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley.

SURPRISING STAT

An Orioles hitter has led the AL in homers in each of the past four seasons (Mark Trumbo in 2016, Chris Davis in 2015, Nelson Cruz in 2014 and Davis in 2013). Could Manny Machado make it a fifth in 2017?

BEST BETS

Projected win total (via Atlantis Casino Resort): 84.5
World Series odds (via VegasInsider.com): 40/1

TOP 5 FANTASY PLAYERS

1. Manny Machado, 3B: Even without stolen bases, Machado is a first-round fantasy stud, and he's eligible at SS as well.
2. Chris Davis, 1B: With great power comes great responsibility … and in Davis' case, a very shaky batting average.
3. Mark Trumbo, OF: Trumbo decided to re-sign with the O's after hitting a career-high 47 home runs.
4. Adam Jones, OF: Jones' fantasy value has declined over the past couple of years, but he's still good for 25 homers with a solid batting average.
5. Jonathan Schoop, 2B: With 40 home runs over the past season and a half, Schoop is an underrated middle infielder to target in the second half of your fantasy draft.

(Courtesy of FOX Sports Fantasy Baseball)

PREDICTION

There won't be a fourth trip to the playoffs in the past six seasons for Baltimore.