2011 or 2012 Might Be The Year For the Orioles, But 2010 Won't Be [Baltimore Orioles Preview]
Key Additions: Kevin Millwood, Miguel Tejada, Mike Gonzalez, Garrett Atkins
Key Subtractions: Melvin Mora, Chris Ray, Danys Baez
2B Brian Roberts
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
C Matt Wieters
LF Nolan Reimold
DH Luke Scott
1B Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis
Closer: Mike Gonzalez
The Orioles boast one of the best outfields in the game, both defensively and offensively. Adam Jones broke out to become an All-Star and Gold Glove winner (although a second half swoon and injury are both concerns). Nick Markakis continued his solid work in right, leading the league in outfield assists, while Nolan Reimold was called up May and never stopped hitting, putting up a .279/.365/.466 line. Felix Pie even picked up his hitting a bit, and should be a fine fourth outfielder, especially with the glove. Markakis and Reimold are 26, and Jones is 24, so these guys are just hitting their primes.
The Orioles appear to have average to above average bats at 7 of the 9 positions. Luke Scott will provide some decent pop at DH, while Brian Roberts will keep getting on base and raking doubles from the leadoff spot. Miguel Tejada is a bit of a question mark as he switches to third, but he did post a 109 OPS+ last year, which would be a big improvement from Melvin Mora. Finally, there’s Matt Wieters. Overall, he didn’t come close to the hype last year, posting a .753 OPS. However, in the last month of the season, Wieters raked to the tune of .333/.395/.486. Look for a breakthrough year now that Wieters has adjusted to major league pitching. The end result should be an offense that improves on their 11th place ranking last year.
Starting pitching remains a big question mark. Highly touted prospects Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman made their debuts in 2009 after quick rises through the system. While they showed flashes of their promise, both pitchers struggled with consistency as they adjusted to the bigs. Baltimore traded for Kevin Millwood in hopes of stabilizing the rotation. However, Millwood only had one good year for Texas (it just happened to be last year), is 35, and homer prone. Yet he’s to be the purported “ace.” The O’s will also hope that Jeremy Guthrie rebounds from last year’s disaster, and that last year’s surprise, Brad Bergesen, isn’t a fluke despite a sub-optimal strikeout rate. It’s a better situation than last year (i.e. no Adam Eaton sightings), but it’s still a rotation full of question marks.
Honestly, I have no idea how good the bullpen will be, but it usually is bad. Mike Gonzalez signed a 2 year deal to be the closer, which he did a fine job of in Atlanta last year. After that, there are some intriguing arms (Jim Johnson) mixed in with flotsam (Mark Hendrickson, Koji Uehara). Again, the bullpen is potentially better than previous years, but still a big question mark.
For a team that does pretty well and getting offense out of the defensive positions like catcher, second base, and centerfield, the Orioles are pretty bad at finding offense at the offensive oriented position. The latest example is Garrett Atkins, starting first baseman. A few years ago, Atkins was serviceable. Then came 2008, when he posted just a 96 OPS+, and it got worse in 2009, when he hit a putrid .226/.308/.342. Keep in mind, this was at Coors Field. He’s also relatively new at first, and not that great with the glove. Atkins is probably not as bad with the bat as he was in 2009, but there’s not a lot to like here.
Dave Tremblay is considered an average manager at best, and if the Orioles struggle again, his season will likely end with a pink slip.
Players to Watch
Tillman and Matusz. If they can take a step up this season, expectations in 2011 or 2012 will increase dramatically and the hope of the O’s having a top notch 1-2 in the rotation might become reality.
This will more than likely be the 13th straight losing season for the Orioles. However, the pieces for a future run continue to assemble and mature, and that plus the Blue Jays step back will mean a 4th place finish in the AL East and a 73-89 record.
What are your thoughts on the 2010 Baltimore Orioles?