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Scouting the AL East: Taking a look at the 2016 Baltimore Orioles ZiPS projections

Let's examine the projections for the Orioles, and get an idea of how the rest of the division is stacking up.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Last month, we went over the Yankees 2016 ZiPS projections, and the outlook was solid. Now, let's look at how the competition is shaping up, starting with the 2016 Baltimore Orioles. The 2015 Orioles went 81-81, outscoring their opponents by 20 runs, and their most significant offseason addition has been Mark Trumbo. As you might expect, their forecast isn't particularly rosy:

Baltimore has a couple stars, in the form of Adam Jones and Manny Machado, who are projected to produce about 10 WAR next year. Outside of that duo, the O's are lacking in reliable offense. ZiPS assigns the Orioles' best wOBA projection, of .380, to Chris Davis, a player who very well might suit up elsewhere in 2016. With sub-replacement level production projected at multiple positions, the Orioles would sorely miss Davis' star power should he walk.

The lineup isn't devoid of upside, however. Receiving a notable projection of almost two WAR in 429 plate appearances is second baseman Jonathan Schoop. At just 24, he is coming off a season in which he posted a 112 wRC+. He is a hyper-aggressive hitter sporting a career 24.8 K%, compared to a paltry 2.8 BB%, but he has shown power and surprisingly solid defense up the middle, giving Orioles fans at least something to dream on (Schoop's number one player comp according to ZiPS thus far is Jeff Kent, after all).

Also of note is Korean import Hyun-Soo Kim, who projects for a 103 OPS+ and 1.0 WAR in 577 plate appearances. The projection isn't too shiny, but should Baltimore ease Kim into the big leagues in a fashion similar to how the Pittsburgh Pirates eased fellow countryman Jung-ho Kang in 2015, perhaps Kim could enjoy similar success. The two had somewhat similar career batting lines in the Korean Baseball Organization, with Kang posting a .886 OPS to Kim's .895, and both have entered MLB in their age-28 season (though it should be noted that Kang was a stronger power hitter, compared to Kim's more contact-oriented profile). While Baltimore can't expect Kim to duplicate Kang's excellent debut season, there is at least precedent for star KBO hitters to find immediate success stateside.

The forecast for the Baltimore pitchers is similarly uneven. Just as Davis received the most optimistic offensive projection, a player who is currently unsigned also receives the best pitching projection, in this case by way of Wei-Yin Chen. The lefty projects to be worth 2.4 WAR, and is actually the only Baltimore starting pitcher that ZiPS deems likely to have an above average ERA+. Chen has been occasionally linked to both the Orioles and the Yankees, but with reports that he is seeking a $100 million guarantee, it seems unlikely he will sign with either team.

Yet again, though, it's not all bad when it comes to the pitching staff. The bullpen looks strong, as both Darren O'Day and Zach Britton project for an ERA- below 70. There is also tremendous potential in the arms of Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, a pair of former top prospects whose shine has dulled somewhat in recent years. Gausman is pegged for 1.8 WAR in 152 innings, with Bundy projected for 0.5 WAR in just 35 innings. Bundy is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and after reaching Double-A in 2015, it is unclear what role, if any, he will play in the big leagues this year. Both are extremely exciting pitchers, but the Orioles' track record of developing promising young arms is poor. It's hard to raise expectations regarding Bundy and Gausman particularly high given the organization's recent history with players of their ilk.

The rest of the staff is underwhelming. Both Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez have pitched well at times in recent years, but neither projects to be better than average. There doesn't appear to be much depth either, as the depth chart quickly trails off into uninspiring names like Miguel Gonzalez and Mike Wright.

The Orioles don't project to be much overall in 2016. Of course, the same was said about the Yankees in 2015, and they managed a surprise playoff berth. Should the Orioles retain Davis and see some sort of breakout from players like Schoop, Kim, and Gausman, Baltimore will look dangerous. A sub-par projection certainly does not doom them, but it can give us a decent picture of what their mean talent level is right now. For Orioles fans, that picture might be none too appealing.