Not many national baseball analysts are picking the Orioles to return to the playoffs, let alone finish first in the big, bad A.L. East this season. But one prominent MLB reporter believes the Orioles will take the division.
“I’m picking the Baltimore Orioles to win,” ESPN’s Buster Olney said on his "Baseball Tonight" podcast.
Olney, once an Orioles scribe here at The Baltimore Sun, pointed to the team’s pitching depth as one of the main reasons why he likes their chances. Since he was hired last offseason, executive vice president Dan Duquette has stockpiled pitchers, adding to all the young arms acquired by his predecessor Andy MacPhail.
“They have so many more options than I think what people realize,” said Olney, mentioning a Sunday conversation he had with one general manager. “[He said], ‘What do you mean?’ And I started listing the names beyond the major league level, beyond guys like Jason Hammel and Miguel Gonzalez. And I started listing guys like Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy.’”
Then Olney said the G.M. replied, “You know what? You’re right.”
Olney also said Duquette and Orioles manager Buck Showalter have changed the culture of the clubhouse through competition.
“I've talked about the great culture the Orioles have developed where the players understand they're going to get opportunities,” Olney said in Monday's podcast. “If they don't perform well, someone else is going to get an opportunity. And they bought into it. And it's extremely rare, but they've got it. I'm picking them first.”
Olney picked the Tampa Bay Rays to finish second in the A.L. East, followed by the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees, who won the division last season.
Yes, Olney picked the Yankees to finish in last place in the division.
But he also gave one disclaimer before picking the tricky A.L. East.
“If you tell me that at the end of this year they’re all going to be wrong, that the standings I’m going to give you are going to be reversed, it wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Olney said.