Manny Machado and the Orioles have plenty to smile about heading into the new season, but can they win as many close games as they did last year? (Image Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

2013 MLB Preview: Baltimore Orioles

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Baltimore shocked us all in 2012, one way or another. For some it was the simple fact that somehow that team was fighting to stay in contention when nobody expected that they could. For others it was the astonishing realization that when it came to one run games, there was just nothing anyone could do to slow down the Orioles. The Fightin’ Showalters kicked and clawed their way to a 93-69 record, good enough for 2nd in the AL East. Good enough for a Wild Card berth under baseball’s new playoff format.

Baltimore entered their one game Wild Card matchup against the favored Texas Rangers and came out on top, only to lose the Division Series against their division rival New York Yankees. Baltimore showed some grit and some fight and that there’s some talent emerging on that roster.

With the start of the 2013 Regular Season upon us, it seemed like the ideal time to check in with each of our team sites here at FanSided MLB and check out what our experts have to say on the upcoming season. From Birds Watcher, here’s what Senior Editor Domenic Vadala had to say about the team’s best and worst case scenarios, as well as what’s most likely to happen.

Best Case Scenario

The Orioles get strong starting pitching out of their eventual rotation, while Adam Jones and Chris Davis both provide 30+ home runs once again as they did in 2012. This will streamline the lineup and allow for other guys to hit for both power and average which will net more runs and allow the O’s to win more games by more than one run. This would put them in contention for a division crown.

Worst Case Scenario

The Orioles starting rotation struggles out of the gate, forcing the Birds to score runs en masse to stay in games. This would tax the best bullpen in baseball from 2012, making it much more ineffective. That, combined with injuries to several players, could doom the Orioles, although it’s doubtful that they’d get to the point of winning 65-70 games annually as they did for so many years before.

Most Likely to Happen

I think it’ll be tough for the Orioles to stay totally away from injuries or even pitching ineffectiveness, especially at the back end of the rotation. However, the O’s have more depth in their minor leagues than most teams in the division, which will give them options with various players. I think the Birds will remain in contention for a playoff spot into September to say the very least.

Baltimore’s finish to the 2012 season was a surprise to many, but there’s little reason to believe it isn’t a sign that the organization could be ready to compete once again. Between Jones, Nick Markakis, and Manny Machado there’s potential for a great offensive core and the organization has a pair of supremely talented pitching prospects in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. While opposing teams in the AL East seem to be struggling, Baltimore’s time could be now to put up a fighting chance.

Don’t forget to keep up with Birds Watcher throughout the season for all of your Orioles news.

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