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Are the Orioles the American League’s Top Team Again in 2024?

Over the years, we have been conditioned to believe that the AL East is all about the Yankees vs Red Sox.  In recent years, however, the storied rivalry has become a sidebar to the performances of the Rays, Blue Jays and Orioles.  The Rays have figured out how to become perennial contenders with a strong farm system and a bargain budget.  The Blue Jays have slew of second-generation stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette.  However, it’s the Baltimore Orioles who are most likely favorites to top the AL East once again.

In 2023, the Orioles went 101-61 and secured the top seed in the AL postseason. Despite a quick, first round exit, this was a team that lost 110 games just two years prior.  The O’s are doing it the old fashion way, establishing the premiere farm system in all of baseball.

Rebuild Results

My family and I attended a Spring Training game in Lakeland over the weekend, where the Orioles sent a split-squad to play the Tigers.  My 8-year-old son, George, insisted on wearing an Orioles t-shirt, despite attending the game with a family of Tigers fans.  George (an avid Braves fan) says that the Orioles have emerged as his second favorite team, and his favorite team in the American League.  It doesn’t take long to figure out why.  The O’s have a young, exciting core of players, developed through the draft and their farm system.  As George said “it’s not that I don’t like the Tigers, but their players just aren’t as exciting to me.”

The Tigers and Orioles began their rebuilding process roughly around the same time.  The Tigers lost to the Orioles in the 2014 Divisional Series and haven’t returned to the postseason since.  Prior to 2023, the Orioles last postseason appearance was in the Wild Card game of 2016, losing to the Blue Jays.  Both teams would trade away their veterans and begin the rebuilding process.

One way to compare and contrast the Tigers and Orioles rebuild would be to look at their First-Round picks in those following years:

Getting the Right Breaks

It’s hard to look at these drafts and say that the Tigers didn’t make the right call at the right time, but the breaks have certainly gone in the Orioles favor.  While Alex Faedo and Casey Mize might be on the Tigers pitching staff today, DL Hall was just sent in a trade to bring Corbin Burnes to the O’s and Grayson Rodriquez had a good rookie season in 2023.  While Riley Greene has the potential to be an exciting player for the Tigers, he’s been plagued by injuries and has yet to play a full season.  Meanwhile, Adley Rutschman is arguably the best catcher in MLB and the Orioles also grabbed 2023 AL Rooke of the Year, Gunnar Henderson, in Round 2 of the same 2019 draft.

Spencer Torkelson could be among the best power hitters in the AL going into the 2024 season.  And Jackson Jobe is hitting over 100mph on the radar.  It will also be interesting to see how Max Clark develops.  However, the Orioles may already be looking at adding Kjerstad and Cowser to their rosters this season and Jackson Holliday looks like he could be a generational talent.  In short, the Orioles yielded better results from their rebuild in a shorter period of time.

Built to Last

I have another theory about why George is calling the Orioles his second favorite team.  They might just be the American League version of the Braves.  Are Rutschman, Henderson and Holiday trio the next Acuna, Albies and Riley?  It sure seems so.  With Cal Ripken Jr. now involved in the team’s ownership group and their aggressive offseason moves, look for Baltimore to be among MLB’s best for the foreseeable future.

American League Predictions

Give me the Orioles in the AL East, the Rangers again in the AL West… and yes, give me the Tigers in the AL Central.  I’ll take the Yankees, Blue Jays and Mariners for the Wild Card spots.  Astros, Rays and Twins fall just short this year.

Brian is the Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and George the Card Kid. You can also reach him at brianmkoss@gmail.com

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