Editor’s note: Baseball is back and Yahoo Sports is previewing all 30 teams over the next month, starting today with the Baltimore Orioles. This year’s previews will focus on fantasy and reality, as our MLB news staff and our fantasy baseball crew come together to assess each team before opening day.
Let’s just be real from the jump here. If you’re a Baltimore sports fan, you’re better off spending the next few months daydreaming of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens than concerning yourself too much with the Baltimore Orioles.
Baseball in Baltimore last season was bad. Real bad. We’re talking 115-loss, worst-record-in-the-league bad. And there’s not too much reason to believe 2019 will be much better.
This year’s Orioles are playing a full season without Manny Machado instead of half of one. They’ve got a new manager and a new GM, but many of the same problems: Not enough starting pitching, not enough production from Chris Davis and no real hope coming up from the farm system.
Heck, there’s not even a ton to get excited about on the fantasy baseball side of things — unless you’re interested in hoping (for the third straight season) that this is the year Dylan Bundy puts it all together. - Mike Oz
Orioles’ offseason grade
The Orioles’ main accomplishment during the offseason was about the only thing that made sense: Fire everyone. That meant manager Buck Showalter was sent packing, as was GM Dan Duquette. In their places now are GM Mike Elias, who is all of 36, and his pick for a new manager, Brandon Hyde. Elias comes from the Astros front office and Hyde was most recently with the Chicago Cubs.
Our grade: D — The Orioles made the final steps in their tear down, but now comes the rebuild. Don’t expect it to happen fast. - Mike Oz
Orioles’ projected lineup and pitching staff
Jonathan Villar is the best fantasy buy
We don’t have to dream about Jonathan Villar’s lofty fantasy ceiling, we’ve already seen it. He posted a first-round return back in 2016, when he mixed 19 home runs with 62 steals. No one expects Villar to ever duplicate that season, but consider what he did after the trade to Baltimore last year: eight homers, 21 steals over 54 games. The Orioles don’t have much to market in 2019; they’ll probably let Villar run as much as he wants. Time is also on his side, as he enters his age-28 season. Throw in second base and shortstop eligibility, and Villar is a likely fantasy bargain at a Yahoo ADP of 93. - Scott Pianowski
Baltimore’s biggest fantasy question?
Normally we gravitate toward any “Who is the closer?” question, knowing there’s a big fantasy payoff. But that might not be the case in Baltimore. Instead we have to ask, is it even worth bothering with the Orioles bullpen?
Mychal Givens emerged as a late-season closer in 2018 but don’t mistake it for a growth year. His ERA rose by over a run, walks were up, strikeouts down. And new skipper Brandon Hyde says he’s considering an open bullpen, operating without a dedicated closer. The possibility of some saves outside an ADP of 200 is appealing, but Givens doesn’t have the skill or the supporting club to suggest a high upside. With Baltimore pegged for 100 losses or more, your late-round lottery ticket is best spent elsewhere. - Scott Pianowski
Orioles prospect to watch
The rebuild continues in Baltimore, but there's not a lot to be excited about just yet. The team's highest ranking prospect — outfielder Yusniel Diaz — ranks 44th according to Baseball Prospectus. Infielder Ryan Mountcastle isn't far behind him.
Both players have a shot at making the majors in 2019, though neither is considered a superstar prospect like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. That's OK for now. The Orioles are bereft of talent and could use a couple solid, everyday players during their rebuild. - Chris Cwik
Things that MUST go right for Baltimore
1. Chris Davis bounces back: It's an extremely low bar for the Orioles again this season, but to even exceed those standards they'll need a lot to go right. First and foremost, they'll need $161 million man Chris Davis to bounce back from the worst hitting season in MLB history. Davis' .168 batting average last season was the lowest for any batter with at least 500 plate appearances in a season since 1873. Before then, the worst batting average was .179. Davis, who still has four years and $92 million left on his deal, went ahead and shattered that mark. Now the Orioles are stuck with him, hoping that he'll at least provide some of the old power (hit a full-season low 16 homers in 2018) that made him dangerous.
2. Dylan Bundy puts it together: Arm injuries derailed Bundy during his early 20s. Now consistency is the biggest thing keeping the talented right-hander from reaching his potential. Bundy's coming off an especially rough 2018. In 171 2/3 innings, he posted a 5.45 ERA. Keeping the ball in the yard was his biggest issue. Bundy allowed a 2.15 HR/9, which is 0.48 higher than any other qualified starter in the league. The good news? Bundy is still just 26 years old, meaning there's still time for improvement. The bad news is he's still in the AL East, meaning his confidence and resilience will continue to be tested.
3. Find bullpen reinforcements: The cupboard is almost bare in what was once a loaded Orioles bullpen. Gone are stalwarts Zack Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O'Day. Still around are Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro, but beyond that it's a group of pitchers trying to make their name. If new manager Brandon Hyde can't find two or three more guys he can rely on, the Orioles will struggle to close out the few games they have a chance to win. - Mark Townsend
If the Orioles had a walk-up song, what would it be?
The Orioles lost 115 games last season, didn’t do a whole lot to improve and they still play in one of the toughest divisions in MLB. If there’s a more “down and out” team in baseball, then Chris Davis is going to win the batting title in 2019.
So, the Orioles walk-up song for 2019? It’s this gem from Cam’ron and Kanye West. The chances that the Orioles are as good as this song? Not too likely. - Mike Oz