The Baltimore Orioles put together an impressive season in 2016, finishing 89-73, good for second in the American League East. Their success can easily be attributed to their unstoppable offense, which mashed homers at a historic rate. They led the majors with 253 homers, 28 more than the next.
2016 saw the Orioles becoming the first franchise to hit at least 250 home runs in a season twice, and with all of their big power guys returning, they have a great chance at doing it again. Buck Showalter’s lineup on Opening Day should be similar to that of 2016, but let’s take a closer look.
- Adam Jones CF: While his speed has dipped to below that of a typical leadoff hitter, Jones represents one of the most powerful hitters from the number one spot in all of baseball. He’s surpassed 25 homers in each of the last six seasons, and while he doesn’t work as many walks as we’re accustomed to see from leadoff hitters, his power alone makes him dangerous at the top of the Orioles’ lineup. He spent nearly all of 2016 leading off, and I expect Showalter to slot him there again come Opening Day.
- Manny Machado 3B: Manny has proved he’s an absolute stud the past two seasons, and his ability to hit for average as well as power makes him a perfect fit at number two in the lineup. In 2016 the 23-year-old hit 37 homers and hit .294 last season. Power numbers like that would surely land you in the heart of the order on most teams, but a team like the Orioles’ have plenty of power to go around. Machado has already emerged as one of the game’s biggest stars, and I expect him to take his game to an even higher level in 2017.
- Chris Davis 1B: Crush’s strikeout number reached a career high in 2016, and his slash line dropped after a solid comeback campaign in 2015. However his power numbers were where they should be for the slugger, mashing 38 homers and knocking in 84 runs. It’s not hard to notice the trend here. The Baltimore Orioles’ lineup is built on power, and they’re out to show that you can never have too much. If there’s anything you can bet on with Davis it’s his power, and he’ll be a perfect fit at the third spot.
- Mark Trumbo DH: It was unsure where last year’s home run king would land, but the slugger will go back to mashing homers with the Orioles in 2017. He set a career high in homers and RBI with 47 and 108, and led the offense throughout the season. It takes a whole lot to stand out as a power bat in a lineup like this, but Trumbo did just that. I expect him to slot right back into the cleanup spot when the season begins.
- Welington Castillo C: The 29-year-old hasn’t played in more than 115 games in a season, but I think he’ll be given the chance to show what he can do as the full time catcher in 2017. The five spot is a good fit for Castillo, who has shown he has the ability to get on base, as well as knock runners in.
- Seth Smith RF: Smith posted career highs in homers and RBI in 2016 with 16 and 63. He showed he was able to get on base regularly with a .342 OBP, and kept his strikeouts low at just 89. Smith has been consistent at the plate, and showed what he could do with runners in scoring position. He’s the kind of guy you want in the six spot to get things going for the bottom of the order, and I can see Showalter slotting him there.
- Jonathan Schoop 2B: Schoop has the power of a number five guy, but the Orioles have power to spare, allowing the second baseman to swing from the number seven spot. His 25 homers and 82 RBI were career highs by far, and a pleasant surprise from a second baseman. Schoop will provide significant power from the bottom of the order, but his versatility allows him to slot in anywhere. I think Buck will use him at the number seven spot to start the season, and Schoop may just surprise some people who thought his 2016 campaign was a fluke.
- J.J. Hardy SS: The veteran shortstop isn’t mashing 20+ homers like he did earlier in his career, but his .269 average in 2016 was the highest mark since 2008. The 33-year-old is still getting on base, and if he can stay healthy, Hardy could provide a nice boost at the bottom of the order.
- Hyun Soo Kim LF: In his first season in the major leagues, Kim proved he could swing a consistent bat. In 95 games, he hit .302 and posted an impressive .801 OPS. He only stole one base last season, but Kim has some speed, and should start to take advantage of it more in 2017 when he gets regular playing time. Kim is perfect at the number nine spot, as he should set a nice tone for when the top of the order rolls around.
The Orioles may have been eliminated from the playoffs in the AL Wild Card Game, but their offense has them poised to make another run at it in 2017. Expect to see balls fly out of Camden at an incredible pace once again when the Orioles’ season begins on April 3rd against the Toronto Blue Jays.