2018 Record: 47-115
Fifth Place, AL East
Team ERA: 5.18 (30th)
Team OPS: .689 (26th)
What Went Right
Yikes. Not much. Manny Machado put together an outstanding first half for the Orioles, batting .315/.387/.575 with 24 home runs, 65 RBI and eight stolen bases before they traded him to the Dodgers over the All-Star break. A player that the O’s acquired in a different deal, Jonathan Villar, had plenty of fantasy value down the stretch with eight home runs and 21 stolen bases across 54 contests. Waiver claim Renato Nunez closed with a strong September, batting .313/.341/.550 with five home runs to put himself in good position to have a significant role in Baltimore next season. Mychal Givens didn’t have one of the best seasons overall, but he pitched well down the stretch after assuming the Orioles’ closer role for the last two months, posting a 2.25 ERA and 0.69 WHIP while going 8-for-10 in save opportunities.
What Went Wrong
Oh my. Where do we begin? Chris Davis was bad in 2017 but in 2018 put up one of the worst seasons by a regular in recent memory, batting an ugly .168/.243/.296 with 16 home runs. Jonathan Schoop followed his excellent 2017 campaign with a clunker, posting a .244/.273/.447 batting line over 85 games before being traded to the Brewers (where he was even worse). Trey Mancini matched his rookie season total of 24 home runs but saw his OPS drop over 100 points. Tim Beckham watched his OPS drop well over 100 points, too. Mark Trumbo bounced back a bit at the plate this season but was limited to just 90 games because of injury. Adam Jones didn’t have a bad season, but his bid of eight straight 20+ home run seasons came up way short and the O’s had shifted him to a corner outfield spot by the end of the year. Baltimore’s attempt to overhaul their rotation went poorly, as Alex Cobb (four years, $57 million) posted a 4.90 ERA over 28 starts and Andrew Cashner (two years, $16 million) held a 5.29 mark across 28 outings. Cobb (blister) and Cashner (knee) also ended the season with injuries. Additionally, Chris Tillman somehow managed to finish with a 10.46 ERA across seven starts. Dylan Bundy showed flashes of brilliance but was wildly inconsistent, putting up a 5.45 ERA and serving up a league-high 41 home runs.
**Dylan Bundy making 31 starts in 2018 after taking the ball 28 times in 2017 is a victory in and of itself given all the injuries he’s dealt with in his career. However, the right-hander is still seeking consistency at the big league level. He was brilliant in April (2.97 ERA, 44/10 K/BB ratio over 36 1/3 innings) and June (1.98 ERA, 25/9 K/BB ratio over 27 1/3 frames) but posted a combined 7.17 ERA over the other four months. His velocity was down a tick this season, but his strikeout rate was up at a healthy 24.5 percent. The home run ball has been Bundy’s enemy, and as an extreme flyball pitcher at Camden Yards, it’s going to be difficult for him to improve enough in that area to be a consistent fantasy performer.
**Alex Cobb’s first season in Baltimore was an absolute disaster with a 4.90 ERA over 28 starts. He did improve greatly after the All-Star break with a 2.56 ERA, although he struck out just 39 across 59 2/3 innings during that span. Cobb’s strikeout rate has trended in the wrong direction since he returned from Tommy John surgery, and it’s due in large part to him losing the effectiveness of his changeup, which had been his best pitch. Unless he rediscovers the offering, it’s hard to see him missing enough bats to be useful in fantasy leagues.
**Is Chris Davis done? After averaging 39 home runs and posting a .858 OPS in his first five full seasons with the Orioles, Davis has hit 42 homers with a .635 OPS the last two seasons, bottoming out with an embarrassing .168/.243/.296 line in 2018. Davis will be 33 heading into next season but still has four seasons remaining on his seven-year, $161 million contract. The good news is it won’t cost you anything more than a late-round hail mary in fantasy leagues to see if he has anything left, but even then he might not be worth your time.
**Jonathan Villar is a flawed player who strikes out too much, is inconsistent and can’t play defense. However, he’s certainly shown himself capable of being a fantasy asset at times, and that was the case in his two months with the Orioles, as he went 21-for-24 in stolen base attempts and popped eight home runs across 54 contests. Villar performed well enough that he’ll likely be tendered a contract this winter, and on a rebuilding team he would seem to have a good shot at regular playing time. The 27-year-old could challenge for the American League lead in steals if he’s an everyday player.
**Can Austin Hays bounce back from an injury-shortened 2018? Hays was a popular late-round target in fantasy drafts this spring, but he was dogged by an ankle injury for a large chunk of the season and hit only .242/.271/.432 over just 66 games at the Double-A level before having surgery in September. This is a guy who batted .329 with 32 homers and a .958 OPS in 128 games between High- and Double-A in 2017 before getting a cup of coffee in the majors. He’ll surely begin 2019 back in the minors, but Hays could eventually be a fantasy stud if he gets a chance. Cedric Mullins – who was up for the final seven weeks of the season – and Ryan Mountcastle – who wasn’t – are a couple other young position players to keep an eye on.
Key Free Agents: Adam Jones
Team Needs: Everything? Starting pitching, just as it has been for several years, remains a need for the Orioles, especially after they traded young hurler Kevin Gausman at the deadline. They could also use a closer if they’d prefer to put Mychal Givens back in a setup role. Offense is a major need, as well, after the O’s finished second-to-last in the AL in runs scored. They don’t have many players locked into spots for 2019 at this point.