2010 A to W Preview--Baltimore Orioles
by James Deaux(MLB)
Posted on February 2, 2010, 11:13 PM
2010 Predictions from A to W: Baltimore Orioles
2009 record: 64-98 (5th in AL East)
Key offseason pickups: Kevin Millwood (SP), Mike Gonzalez (RP), Garrett Atkins (1B/3B), Miguel Tejada (SS)
Key offseason departures: Aubrey Huff (1B), Melvin Mora (3B)
Projected starting rotation: Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman
Projected 2010 starting lineup:
C: Matt Wieters
1B: Garrett Atkins
2B: Brian Roberts
3B: Ty Wigginton
SS: Miguel Tejada
LF: Nolan Reimold/Luke Scott
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
DH: Luke Scott
If there has been a more irrelevant team in baseball in the last ten years, Iíd love to hear some dissenting opinions. (Okay, maybe Kansas City, but at least they had one winning season in that period.) This really isnít some new trend, though, considering Baltimore hasnít been to the playoffs since 1997; and not-so-strangely enough, that was the last time this club had a winning record. That is not going to change this year with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays above them. Still, there is reason for optimism in Baltimore because the team now boasts a wide array of superb young talent on the mound and in the batterís box.
Baltimore has maybe the best young outfield in baseball with Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. The one problem here is that Reimold had Achilles surgery in the offseason and is not expected to be at 100% by Spring Training. The club is pretty worried that his healing process is taking so long. Still, if Luke Scott has a year like he did last year, then they can keep him in left field and not miss a beat. Their infield, though, is the very antithesis of their outfield. The only person who has an iron grip on his position is perennial All-Star second baseman, Brian Roberts. Every other position? Your guess is as good as mine. Garrett Atkins will assuredly man either the first or third base position, and my guess is heíll land at first base, while Ty Wigginton bunkers down at third. Wigginton is slightly underrated, and can handle the bat, if nothing else. The team just signed Miguel Tejada to a one-year deal to man the shortstop position and ostensibly for nostalgia purposes, too, I suppose.
When theyíre on, Baltimore can hang with just about anyone offensively. Their problems, as always, begin and end with their pitching staff. Consistently at or near the bottom of the league in most pitching categories for over a decade, Baltimore has addressed their pitching dearth through several successful drafts and they are in better shape now than they have been since the mid-90ís. There is no doubt that this rotation can be a force down the road, but right now, there is still too much unpolished raw talent for me to consider them contenders for the AL East pennant. They also lack guys who can strike people out in bunches. Brad Bergesen, for example, was a huge surprise for the team in 2009, but he just barely averaged 0.5K/IP. To replace the traded George Sherrill at closer, the team went out and signed Mike Gonzalez to a 2-year deal. Goofy windup aside, Gonzo should be adequate for them and get 25-30 saves (if he stays healthy). Bottom line with this staff is it would not shock me to see them rise to the occasion and help the team leapfrog the Rays or even the aging Red Sox, but it would take an epic amount of misfortune on the part of the big dogs in the division and an equally large amount of luck for Baltimore to pull that kind of leap. I'm not banking on either.
2010 prediction: 72-90 (4th in the AL East) -- The Oís are not going to contend this year, but they are in an infinitely more desirable situation than Toronto is. I think they have a lot more talent than the Blue Jays, so I believe they will get out of last place and show some flashes of greatness leading into 2011 and beyond. As for this year, itís going to be another unfortunate one to watch for Baltimore fans as the team remains well behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. Theyíll continue a long streak of losing seasons, but hey, at least they arenít the Pirates.