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Finding reasons to watch the 2018 Orioles

While the Orioles have struggled immensely, there are still a few engaging storylines with this year’s team. Although the playoffs may already be out of the question, fans shouldn’t tune out yet.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles are a failing baseball team. They’re not going to make the playoffs, and I have accepted that. I’m not going to draw up a pipe dream of a plan that allows the Birds to sneak into a wild card spot. I’m not going to pretend that there’s any part of me that thinks Baltimore could finish above .500. But I’m an Orioles fan, and I like to watch them play.

It’s difficult to get excited about a team that is going nowhere fast. If life is lonely at the top, it’s excruciating at the bottom. But none of you would be reading this if you had completely checked out on the Orioles. So what is there to look forward to?

Dylan Bundy’s step forward

Dylan Bundy should be able to keep every Orioles fan engaged every fifth day. Excluding his last start, the righty has pitched at least 5.2 innings and allowed two runs or fewer in every game he’s appeared in. Despite his 1-3 record, the Tulsa native sports a sub-three ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio that’s better than four-to-one.

As of now, there does not appear to be any limitations on Bundy. He’s thrown at least 86 pitches in every start, and has broken the century mark twice. Bundy’s outlier performance came in his last start against the Rays. He allowed seven earned and two home runs to Tampa Bay. But after surrendering only one homer before that, Orioles fan should not be discouraged by one bad outing. Instead, they should look to his 10 strikeout performance against Toronto as a sign of things to come.

Chance Sisco’s development

Chance Sisco surprised some when he broke camp with the team, but he’s flashed potential in Baltimore this year. In 21 games, Sisco is hitting .255, but boasts a .364 OBP. The rookie has been particularly successful at home, hitting an impressive .348 in 11 games at Camden Yards.

The 61st overall pick in 2013, Sisco’s defensive ability has been questioned throughout his development. But the 23-year-old has silenced some of the doubters early on by throwing out 50 percent of baserunners attempting to steal this season. Orioles fans will have a chance to watch the potential “catcher of the future” become the starting catcher by season’s end.

Machado’s last hurrah

I know, I know, I wanted this to be a feel good piece. And the idea of losing Manny Machado is hardly an enjoyable sentiment, but man will he be fun to watch while he’s in orange and black. Plus, fans in Baltimore will get to listen to all sorts of fun trade rumors!

All jokes aside, Machado has been absolutely filthy to start 2018. He’s hitting .361 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs in 28 games. His OBP sits at .448 and he holds a 1.124 OPS. The former first rounder has been a rock for the Orioles so far this year, and he’s continued to wow fans with his play in the field after making the shift to shortstop.

Machado is a once in a generation type of player that any franchise should do everything they can to keep, but that’s a conversation for another day. Whether the Orioles deal him before the deadline, or inexplicably hang onto the star for the remainder of the season, he’ll be a reason to tune into Orioles games.

Pleasant surprises

Pedro Alvarez had two multi-homer performances in three games last week. Did anyone see that coming? I know I didn’t. But that’s the beauty of baseball. Alvarez has held his own when called upon for Baltimore against right-handed pitching. He holds a .933 OPS, and has proven to be much more selective at the plate with 11 walks in 70 plate appearances.

Pedro Araujo has proven to be a legitimate major-league bullpen arm this year. After a hiccup or two early, Araujo is 1-1 in his last seven games with a 2.19 ERA. In those last seven appearances, he’s struck out 15 and walked only three, while allowing three runs in 12.1 innings. The Rule 5 selection has definitely earned his roster spot so far this season.

Player improvement

Chris Davis should eventually travel north of the Mendoza line. Through his first 101 at bats, Davis has hit only .167 with a whopping two home runs and six RBIs. While the 33 strikeouts are not much of a surprise, Davis should improve at the plate as the season continues. At least, that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.

Alex Cobb is a capable MLB starting pitcher. In fact, he’s a lot more than that. The righty has a proven track record of success within the AL East. His 13.11 ERA will plummet as the season continues, and he should improve with more innings under his belt after a delayed start to the season. Orioles fans may have to be patient, but they should have the chance to watch a talented starting pitcher that Baltimore shelled out a lot of money for this past offseason.

I never wanted to write an article like this, and I never dreamed that I’d be writing one this early in the season. Maybe the O’s will turn things around and start winning some ball games. But if they don’t, at least there’s a few reasons to keep up with the Orioles.