It would be foolish to consider the Orioles “contenders” after their hot start—they’re simply not. At the same time, it would also be foolish to overlook the clean, new-look style of baseball they’re playing thus far this season, as it has propelled them to one of the more surprising starts in the league.
Sitting at .500 with a 7-7 record as I write this, Baltimore has outperformed expectations through the first few series due to timely hitting, solid power, and shockingly strong pitching. In fact, had they avoided a clunker of a series against the Marlins, they would likely have an even better record. They’re playing very well, and that’s made the return of baseball unexpectedly exciting in Charm City.
As the beginning of this shortened season unfolds, it’s apparent that the forward-thinking mindset GM Mike Elias has brought to the table is being adopted. Even better, it’s paying dividends. First, we’ve seen aggressive, smarter approaches at the plate, which has led to a fairly explosive offense.
On the other side, the Orioles pitching staff is getting ahead in counts, throwing more strikes, and sporting an impressive strikeout/walk ratio. Altogether, it’s making the team easier to watch and more successful than past years.
Given that, many are wondering if the team will end up fighting for a playoff spot. I don’t think it’s out of the question, despite Baltimore’s roster being devoid of the talent you’d expect of a playoff clubhouse.
I look at this roster and see a number of holes that could see improvement in short time. First, there’s first base/DH, where Chris Davis is a pile of dead weight. Enter one of the organization’s best young talents, Ryan Mountcastle. Now, Davis’ spot in the lineup is replaced by a bat that could be impactful from the get go.
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Next, there’s left field, where Dwight Smith Jr., Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart have platooned thus far. Smith has been alright, but nothing special. Mountcastle is likely to get looks there, as well, but I’m intrigued by Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna. Both are young prospects who could flash if given the opportunity.
Finally, I look at the starting pitching, which I don’t expect to continue being as strong. Even if the likes of Milone or LeBlanc remain serviceable, the Orioles are likely to deal Alex Cobb if his impressive start is sustained. At the same time, the 60-man player pool has young arms such as Keegan Akin, who was called up this weekend, Dean Kremer, and Bruce Zimmermann. It wouldn’t shock me if at least one of those names were called up and impressed halfway through the season.
The Orioles aren’t one of the best teams in baseball, but they’re playing well, which makes their season stomachable. With young players like those mentioned above likely to see the big leagues in this weird season, however, Birdland has reason to be even more excited. Hell, the O’s might not even yet be playing the best we’ll see from them year.