For years now, the Baltimore Orioles have had some of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Now, it's finally coming together for the American League East leaders.
Despite what now looks like a very poor trade last season that sent Jake Arrieta to the Cubs in a deal that netted Scott Feldman, the Orioles still have plenty of talent to go around.
It starts with Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman but includes Wei-Yin Chen and veterans Ubaldo Jimenez, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris with Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey waiting in the wings.
While the Orioles might make a deal near the deadline, it looks like Gausman, Bundy and Harvey aren't on the table before Thursday's trade deadline, according to MLB.com. At closer, former top prospect Zach Britton is pitching well while Brian Matusz has been somewhat inconsistent in relief.
"We'd like the star players to come up and make an impact on the team," Duquette told MLB.com. "In 2012, we brought up Manny [Machado] and he made a difference in the pennant race. In 2014, we've got Kevin Gausman on our team, and we hope he will impact the race, so that's really the first choice, to have those really talented players play for us and prove themselves in the big leagues."
Hitting has been there
The Orioles have always been able to find hitting. They just haven't always had the pitching to go with it. They are suffering through a few injuries of late, with Matt Wieters out for the year after being voted an All-Star starter and Chris Davis ill. But they've also pulled off the two biggest surprises of the past two seasons in last year's home run champ, Davis, and Nelson Cruz, who is just behind the White Sox's Jose Abreu for this year's title.
Then, when you consider Manny Machado, Adam Jones and the way guys like Delmon Young and Steve Pearce have performed, you have a solid lineup.
Why this is better than 2012
In 2012, the Orioles were just happy to be there. In some ways, that's a good thing, because the team didn't have to deal with high expectations as they advanced to the Wild Card game and won it.
But, when they got involved in a full series, they didn't have the guns to beat the Yankees. That was the team's first playoff trip since 1997.
Now, they'll be in better shape, starting with their rotation. In 2012, it was young and inconsistent. Now, the team has more options and a good mix of young and old that will likely mean a pretty solid starter will get sent to the bullpen for playoff long relief. The bullpen might get some more help this week, too.
And, despite missing Wieters dearly, the Orioles' lineup is better now too with the power of Davis and Cruz to go with the great all-around play of stars Machado and Jones. It's hard to think of a better combination of four hitters in the league. After that, the Orioles aren't great. But those top four hitters should carry them and don't be surprised if we are talking about the team's first full playoff series win since 1997 when October comes around.