2017 Orioles preview: Kevin Gausman

March 02, 2017 | Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

March 1 – Manny Machado

SP Kevin Gausman

Opening Day age: 26

Contract status: Under club control through the 2020 season

2016 stats: 9-12, 3.61 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 28 HR, 179 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: Gausman became a top-half-of-the-rotation starter and pitched like an ace down the stretch, posting a 2.83 ERA over his last 12 starts. In his first full year as a starter, the right-hander turned in the best start of his career with eight shutout innings at Fenway Park in mid-September and pitched 7 1/3 strong innings at Yankee Stadium to help clinch a wild card on the season’s final day.

Why to be concerned: The long ball continues to be a challenge for the right-hander as he allowed 1.4 per nine innings pitched for the second straight season. His breaking ball remains a work in progress, but the Orioles will just hope that the right shoulder tendinitis that plagued Gausman in 2015 and at the start of 2016 is a thing of the past after he made 30 starts for the first time in his career.

2017 outlook: Likely to start on Opening Day, Gausman appears poised to become the ace of the staff, and the Orioles need him to do that with Chris Tillman still dealing with a lingering shoulder issue and scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the year. With better run support than he received a season ago, there’s no reason to think Gausman can’t be a 15-game winner if he remains healthy.

2017 not-so-scientific projections: 14-7, 3.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 26 HR, 192 innings