As the Orioles head into the 2013 season, there's no doubt that they have to be feeling pretty darn good about their situation.
Yes, they still reside in the American League East, home to a collection of 20-something All-Stars and one of baseball's top hitting prospects (Wil Myers) in Tampa, a who's-who of former award winners (Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Jose Bautista) in Toronto, and of course, the Yankees and Red Sox.
Still, when one takes into account the team that Baltimore will be fielding this year, it's kind of hard not to gush with optimism.
For starters, they return the majority of a squad that won 93 games in 2012.
The only major piece from last year's team that didn't return was Mark Reynolds, and that might very well be a good thing considering his strikeout-to-contact rate.
And while the team didn't make any flashy moves in free agency this offseason, the front office slept soundly knowing they get fully healthy versions of Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts, an impressive offensive/defensive duo that combined to miss 203 games due to injury last year.
Toss in a completely healthy Jason Hammel, an established big league slugger (Chris Davis), a legitimate MVP candidate (Adam Jones), a two-time Gold Glove winning catcher (Matt Wieters) who has yet to reach his offensive ceiling, a full season's worth of sophomore Manny Machado and baseball's best bullpen, and it's a wonder no one is chatting up the Orioles as the cream of the crop of the American League.
As if those reasons aren't enough, here are a few more that give credence to the Orioles' rise to the top of baseball's toughest division.