BALTIMORE -- It will be a tough task to replace both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in 2015, but the Orioles are relying on having a healthy Manny Machado and Matt Wieters. While Machado will be a full go in Spring Training, Wieters will be watched carefully, with the O's hopeful he will be available for Opening Day.
Slugger Chris Davis will also be counted on to bounce back after a disappointing 2014 season that ended with a 25-game suspension (the suspension will finish on Opening Day). At the top of the order, Alejandro De Aza has the most leadoff experience and is a top candidate to take over for Markakis there, while Steve Pearce is coming off a career year. J.J. Hardy seemed confident at last month's FanFest that he would return to form offensively, and Jonathan Schoop should be more consistent in his sophomore season.
The rotation has six guys for five spots right now, and Ubaldo Jimenez will be watched closely this spring. Signed to a four-year deal last year, the O's can't just give up on Jimenez -- who was removed from the rotation down the stretch -- after one bad season. So, expect him to get another shot. Still, Kevin Gausman has made great strides, and it will be tough if he has a great spring to not list him among the Orioles' top five starters.
It's very early, and a lot can happen between now and the start of the season. Below are some very preliminary projections, including a projected lineup against right-handed pitching. Delmon Young, who re-signed with the O's on a one-year deal, is expected to be in the lineup regularly against left-handers.
96-66, first in the American League East