2016 Record – 89-73
Second Place, AL East
Team ERA: 4.22 (19th)
Team OPS: .760 (6th)
What Went Right
Well for starters, the Orioles made it back to the postseason for the third time in the last five seasons. The O’s secured the second Wild Card spot, dropping a heart-breaking 5-2 decision to the Blue Jays in 11 innings. As a club, the Orioles smashed 253 home runs, a mark that was 28 higher than any other team in all of baseball. Mark Trumbo, who was acquired in December from the Mariners, proved to be an invaluable addition, slashing .256/.316/.533 with a league-leading 47 home runs and 108 RBI. Manny Machado had an MVP-caliber season, hitting .294 with 37 homers and 96 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense at both shortstop and third base. Jonathan Schoop broke out by clubbing 25 long balls. Zach Britton had one of the greatest seasons of any relief pitcher in big league history, compiling a 0.54 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 74/18 K/BB ratio over 67 innings while converting all 47 save chances. Hyun Soo Kim rebounded from a rough preseason where he was nearly let go, to be a very solid contributor, slashing .302/.382/.420 in 346 plate appearances.
What Went Wrong
While the Orioles had a tremendous offense that provided historic power output, they were very one-dimensional. As a team, the O’s stole a laughably low 19 bases, with Joey Rickard’s four pacing the club. Manny Machado, who had swiped 20 bases on his own in 2015, didn’t register one steal. If there’s one specific problem that brought down the Orioles’ season though, it would be the disgraceful state of their starting pitching. As a staff, O’s starters registered a 4.72 ERA and 1.41 WHIP over 886 innings. Only the Athletics and Twins were worse in the American League. Aside from Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman, every Orioles starting pitcher had an ERA over 5.25. That’s simply not going to get it done. Buck Showalter is a very well-respected manager and has by all accounts done a terrific job with the Orioles. His management of his bullpen in the season’s final day though may haunt him for awhile. Zach Britton was perhaps the best relief pitcher in baseball in 2016, but he didn’t find his way into the Wild Card game, sitting idly by as Ubaldo Jimenez was torched in the 11th inning to end the O’s season.
** Manny Machado had an outstanding season offensively, slashing .294/.343/.533 with 105 runs scored, 37 homers and 96 RBI. His production in those four categories was eerily similar to what he did in his breakout 2015 season. The one concern, from a fantasy perspective, is that after stealing 20 bases in 28 attempts in 2015, Machado did not swipe a base in 2016, only attempting three. While his production was tremendous overall, his fantasy value takes a hit if he’s only contributing in four categories. By my calculations, he performed as the #21 overall player in 2016, which is great, though he is likely to still be selected in the first round next season. He added shortstop eligibility to his resume, which certainly helps, but if you aren’t buying the stolen bases returning to his game, there are better bets in the first round.
** Mark Trumbo was acquired from the Mariners in December for Steve Clevenger with the idea that playing in the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards would boost his power production. Well done, Orioles. Trumbo launched a career-best and league-leading 47 home runs while providing a respectable .256 batting average and plating 108 runs. No one doubts his power potential, but his fantasy outlook heading into 2017 will be greatly influenced by where he ends up. Staying in Baltimore or joining the division-rival Red Sox or Blue Jays, would be preferable.
** Kevin Gausman really started to come into his own in 2016. The 25-year-old right-hander was outstanding down the stretch, going 6-2 with a 2.73 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 53/12 K/BB ratio over 59 1/3 innings in his final nine starts of the regular season. He threw a career-high 179 2/3 innings in 2016 and should be ready to shoulder a full 200-inning workload in 2017. He’s on the rise in early fantasy drafts.
** Zach Britton had a season for the ages and remains entrenched as one of the truly elite closers. With the current uncertainty at the position, with Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Andrew Miller and other top relievers potentially on the move this off-season, the O’s left-hander should be one of the first closers off the board, especially in early drafts.
** Chris Davis wasn’t able to replicate his massive power numbers or the acceptable average from his 2015 campaign, but he still blasted 38 long balls and drove in 84 runs in the middle of the Orioles’ lineup. As long as you know going in that he’s going to be an average drain and strike out a bunch of times (a league-leading 219 in 2016), he’ll provide the steady power that you’re looking for.
** Adam Jones continues to be a very reliable and proven fantasy commodity. He slashed .265/.310/.436 with 29 homers, 86 runs scored, 83 RBI and a pair of stolen bases. Over the last six seasons, he has averaged .278/.317/.474 with 29 homers, 86 runs, 89 RBI and nine stolen bases. Aside from the obvious drop in stolen bases (which seems to be team philosophy more than anything else) and the small downtick in batting average, you can take his production to the bank.
** Jonathan Schoop broke out in a big way in 2016, slashing .267/.298/.454 with 82 runs scored, 25 homers and 82 RBI. His home run output was tied for sixth among all major league second baseman, bested only by Brian Dozier, Robinson Cano, Rougned Odor, Jedd Gyorko and Ian Kinsler. The 25-year-old also showed tremendous durability, playing in all 162 games in 2016. He’s locked up for the foreseeable future and makes for a nice target that could be overlooked in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.
First and foremost, the starting rotation absolutely needs to be addressed. The problem is that Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley, Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez are all under contract for 2017. Further complicating the matter is the fact that it’s a terribly weak class of free agent starting pitching, so the O’s will likely turn to the trade market to try to address this area. To do so, they’ll have to trade from their surplus of offensive talent. The issue with that is that Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters are hitting the open market as well. Trumbo delivered unbelievable production on a one-year deal in 2016 and will definitely be seeking a lucrative multi-year pact this winter. He was one of the most important cogs in the O’s lineup and would be a major loss if he elects to go elsewhere. Matt Wieters had a down season offensively by his standards, but was still among the top hitters in the league at his position while playing well above average defense. Like Trumbo, he would be a very difficult piece to replace if he leaves Baltimore.