Tagged: Baltimore Orioles

2010 Baltimore Orioles Preview

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orioles-logo.gif2009 Record: 64-98,
5th AL East

2009 Prediction: 74-88,
5th AL East

2010 Prediction: 4th
AL East

 

Impact Player: Nick
Markakis

Impact Pitcher: Kevin
Millwood

Top Prospect Player: 3B Josh
Bell

Top Prospect Pitcher: LHP Brian Matusz

 

Manager: Dave
Trembley
– 4th Season (172-244, .413)

 

Significant Acquisitions: INF Garrett Atkins, 3B Miguel
Tejada
, C Craig Tatum, RHP Kevin Millwood, LHP Mike Gonzalez

Significant Losses: 3B Melvin
Mora
, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Danys Baez, RHP Chris Ray

 

 

nick-markakis.jpgLast year was supposed to be the year that the Orioles
turned the corner.  Maybe they wouldn’t
be .500, but they would take a significant step in that direction.  That was not the case; in fact, the Orioles
were 5 games worse in ’09 than they were in ’08.  GM Andy McPhail has his work cut out for him
to get this young, struggling franchise back on its feet.  If he doesn’t do it soon, he could find
himself out of a job.  The O’s are also
bringing back manager Dave Trembley for a fourth season, which was a
controversial decision that the fan-base was not overly pleased with.  Can the O’s take the step that was expected
of them last year or is yet another
complete overhaul needed to fix the myriad of problems?

 

Pitching

The O’s are hoping that they can improve on the league’s
worst ERA.  One noticeable problem with
the Orioles last season was their lack of a staff ace and leader; McPhail kevin-millwood.jpghopes
he’s found a stop-gap ace in Kevin
Millwood
until some of the younger arms in the organization are ready.  Millwood was a big part of a much improved
Rangers pitching staff last year going 13-10 with an impressive 3.67 ERA and he
has proven over the years that he is very much capable of pitching in a hitter’s
park which will only help him in Baltimore. 
He is 35, however, and that is cause for concern.  After Millwood is Jeremy Guthrie who is coming off a terrible year that saw him lose
more games than any other pitcher in the AL (17) and he posted a disappointing
5.04 ERA.  Guthrie is also prone to
giving up the long ball (he gave up the most in the AL last year with 35) which
is a bad thing in Camden Yards.  At 31, this
may be his last chance to prove that he’s capable of being a full-time major-league
starter.  After Millwood and Guthrie are
a slew of young arms vying for spots.  Brad Bergesen appears to be a lock
after a solid 3.43 ERA in 123.1 innings last year, and lefty and top prospect Brian Matusz should start the year in
the rotation barring any setbacks.  His
terrific curveball and deceptive delivery have the O’s thinking he may be their
future ace.  The fifth spot will be a
battle between youngsters Chris Tillman,
David Hernandez, and Jason Berken as well as veterans Koji Uehara and Mark Hendrickson who was brought back after posting solid numbers
in 105 innings last year.  The O’s are
also still in the market for a veteran starter and have been linked to their former
ace Erik Bedard as well as some
other veteran pitchers.  The situation
could be very different come opening day.

 

The bullpen should be much better than last year with the
addition of Mike Gonzalez who signed
as a free agent from the Braves. 
Gonzalez is expected to be the team’s closer and certainly has the
ability to be a solid tier-2 guy.  Last
year in Atlanta, Gonzalez posted a 2.42 ERA and 10 saves as the team’s setup
man and spot closer.  The O’s are hoping
he can be the closer he was for the Pirates in ’06 when he had 24 saves and a
2.17 ERA.  The only other locks in the ‘pen
as of now are Jim Johnson, Dennis Sarfate and Cla Meredith who will share time in mid-relief and setting up Gonzo.  The long-relief job should go to either Hendrickson or Uehara although both could end up in the bullpen if they’re not
starting and Kam Mickolio should
also compete for a spot after posting a 2.63 ERA in a brief stint with the big
club last year.  Matt Albers, Hernandez, Berken, Alberto Castillo, Mike
Hinckley
, and Alfredo Simon will
also be given shots at landing on the opening day roster.

 

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ROTATION

Age

B/T

Kevin Millwood*

35

R/R

Jeremy Guthrie

31

R/R

Brad Bergesen

24

L/R

Brian Matusz

23

L/L

Chris Tillman

22

R/R

 

 

 

BULLPEN

 

 

Mike Gonzalez* (CL)

31/2

R/L

Jim Johnson

26/7

R/R

Dennis Sarfate

29

R/R

Cla Meredith

26/7

R/R

Kam Mickolio

25/6

R/R

Matt Albers

27

L/R

Mark Hendrickson

35/6

L/L

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

Koji Uehara

35

R/R

David Hernandez

24/5

R/R

Jason Berken

27

R/R

Alberto Castillo

34/5

L/L

Mike Hinckley*

27

R/L

Alfredo Simon

28/9

R/R

*=newly acquired

 

Lineup

adam jones.jpgThe Orioles still boast one of the best young outfields in
the game and if they’re going to approach the .500-mark this year, they’re
going to need big years from all of them. 
Nick Markakis is back in
right-field after posting a team high 101 RBI in ’09.  The O’s are hoping this is the year that he
becomes an elite player.  Adam Jones was an All-Star last season
and also won his first of what should be many Gold Gloves in center-field.  He slowed down toward the end of last year
and they’re hoping he can put together a full season this time around.  Left-field will likely be a platoon between
left-handed-hitting Felix Pie and
right-handed-hitting Nolan Reimold.  Pie is much better defensively and showed
some pop in ’09 with 9 homeruns and a .437 slugging-percentage, while Reimold
was one of the top rookies in the league last year posting 15 homers, 45 RBI, a
.279 average and a .365 on-base-percentage. 
He struggles mightily in the outfield however. 

 

In the infield, the most consistent player on the team
returns at second-base in Brian Roberts.  Roberts had a fantastic year in ’09 with 16
homeruns and 79 RBI while stealing 30 bases and hitting .283.  Roberts is one of the best leadoff hitters in
the game and his clubhouse presence and loyal commitment to the franchise has
not gone unnoticed.  Veteran Cesar Izturis is back at shortstop along with his terrific defense, and
the corner infield spots will be made up of newly acquired Garret Atkins and second-time Oriole Miguel Tejada.  Both will be
fielding new positions this season as Atkins will be moving to first-base from
third while Tejada will move from short to the hot corner; a position he’s
never played before.  It will be
interesting to see how these defensive moves turn out for the O’s.  Tejada can still hit with the best of ’em
posting a .313 average in an All-Star year with the Astros last season.  Behind the plate will be Matt Wieters who has the talent to be an elite player in this
league.  He followed up being named Baseball America‘s 2009 #1 Prospect with
a solid year in Baltimore.  The O’s
expect big things from this guy and he could be poised to take the next step
this year.  He could be the next Joe
Mauer.  The DH job will go to Luke Scott who led the team with 25
homeruns and a .488 slugging-percentage in ’09.

 

On the bench the O’s will rely heavily on super-utility man Ty Wigginton who can play third, first,
second, and both corner outfield spots. 
He also provides a solid bat and could end up being very valuable if the
Tejada/Atkins experiment fails badly. Joining him will be the off-day
left-fielder, infielder Robert Andino
and the backup catcher which could be either Craig Tatum who was acquired off waivers from the Reds or veteran Chad Moeller who is being brought back
on a minor-league deal.

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Pos.

 

Age

B/T

2B

Brian Roberts

32

S/R

LF

Felix Pie

25

L/L

RF

Nick Markakis

26

L/L

CF

Adam Jones

24/5

R/R

DH

Luke Scott (LF, RF)

31/2

L/R

3B

Miguel Tejada* (SS)

32

R/R

1B

Garret Atkins* (3B)

30

R/R

C

Matt Wieters

23/4

S/R

SS

Cesar Izturis

30

S/R

 

 

 

 

 

BENCH

 

 

OF

Nolan Reimold (LF, RF, DH)

26

R/R

INF

Robert Andino (SS, 2B, 3B)

28

L/L

UTIL

Ty Wigginton (3B, 2B, 1B, LF, RF)

26

R/R

C

Craig Tatum*

27

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

OF

Lou Montanez (LF, CF, RF)

28

R/R

1B

Michael Aubrey

28

L/L

3B

Scott Moore (1B, LF, 2B)

26

L/R

C

Chad Moeller (1B)

35

R/R

*=newly acquired

It can’t possibly get any worse than it was last year, can
it?  I had the O’s finishing with 74 wins
last season and they ended up with only 64. 
With a stop-gap ace in Kevin Millwood, an improved bullpen and a lineup
that includes some very good hitters, I think the Orioles will drag themselves
out of the cellar in the AL East.  If
their young pitchers such as Bergesen, Matusz and Tillman continue to get
better than it could be an exciting year in Baltimore.  Exciting, not contending.

Final Prediction:
73-89, 4th AL East

 

Photo Credits:

Nick Markakis – http://www.rotobuzz.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/markakis.jpg

Kevin Millwood – http://theghostofmoonlightgraham.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/kevin-millwood.jpg

Adam Jones – http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3173/2862009004_6c9ea29dfe.jpg

Minor League Roundup

The last couple years I’ve been getting into watching Minor League Baseball more regularly…or at least following it.  It’s a lot of fun to watch the players who will be impact major leaguers in a few years.

In this entry I’ll analyze the best players in each league at the AAA level to this point in mid-May.

International League

Nolan Reimold.jpgThe best player in the IL right now by far is Orioles’ prospect outfielder Nolan Reimold.  He was just called up to the big club a few days ago and has played 3 games.  In the IL, Reimold was leading that circuit with a .394 average and sat 2nd in home runs with 9 and 5th in RBI with 27.  The Orioles drafted him in the 2nd Round (61st overall) in the soon-to-be historic 2005 draft and although he’s a late bloomer at 25-years-old (partly due to injury problems), he seems to be developing into a decent player.  He might also be a better defensive right fielder than Nick Markakis…which is difficult to do.  Yet another strong outfielding prospect for the Orioles.  One would have to think with the lack of pitching on their current team that some of that outfield depth could be used to acquire more pitching.  Then again, the Orioles have some serious pitching prospects too.  It won’t be long before there’s yet another perrennial contender in the AL East.   
Kris Medlen.jpg
The best pitcher in the IL so far is a bit of a surprise.  23-year-old Kris Medlen was a 10th round draft pick in 2006 by the Atlanta Braves and has done nothing but tie up hitters since entering pro baseball.  Between all minor league levels since being drafted, Medlen is 15-9 with a 2.42 ERA and was converted from a closer to a starter just last season.  In 2009, Medlen is 5-0 with a ridiculous 1.19 ERA and has 44 Ks in 37.1 innings of work.  Medlen was a shortstop in college but the Braves saw something special in the righthander and suddenly he’s one of their top pitching prospects.  Like Reimold, Medlen has just been called up to the major league team.  He’s set to make his Major League debut on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies.  Medlen isn’t big, coming in at a pint-sized 5’10” and 180lbs, but he has a deceptive delivery and great life and movement on all of his pitches.  The Braves may have something special with him and Tommy Hanson coming up through the system.

Pacific Coast League

Jake Fox.jpgJake Fox has been the best hitter in the PCL so far this year.  Fox is a career minor-leaguer who will be 27 in a month and a half.  Fox was drafted in the 3rd round by the Cubs in 2003 and is an atrocious defensive outfielder.  He’s okay at First Base, but he would likely benefit from being traded to an organization where he could play DH.  He has tremendous power and is becoming a smart hitter; the Cubs simply have no place to play him.  He’s another Micah Hoffpauir.  You can’t dispute his numbers in the PCL this year though.  Before his callup, he was hitting .429 with 16 HR and 46 RBI, leading the PCL in all three categories.  If he gets traded to an AL team, he might be the next Jack Cust.
hochevar.jpg
In the Major Leagues, Zack Greinke has been unreal posting insane numbers.  In the PCL, it’s another member of the Royals organization that’s dominating at a surreal pace.  Luke Hochevar, who has seen some time at the Major League level going 6-12 with a 5.51 ERA in 22 starts with KC last year is dominating in AAA this season.  Just before he was called up last week, Hochevar was 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA in 6 AAA starts.  Another reason why the Royals have a bright future.

Jays Acquire Burres from O’s; Designate Thigpen for Assignment

The Jays acquired lefty Brian Burres last night off waivers from the Orioles.  Burres was designated for burres.jpgassignment by the O’s after they acquired Rich Hill from the Cubs.

Burres was 7-10 with a 6.04 ERA in 31 appearances last year with the Orioles including 22 starts.  He figures to be in the mix for a starting job this spring but will likely start the year at AAA Las Vegas…man it still feels weird saying Las Vegas and not Syracuse, that’ll take some getting used to.

This acquisition is another pickup by J.P. Riccardi in an effort to find inexpensive ways to improve the Jays already decimated pitching staff.  The fact of the matter is, Burres is 28 and has never been consistent enough to stay at the major league level very long, so he’s not the answer to any problem, unless by some divine miracle (and I don’t believe in god…that’s right, small “g”) he puts up good number with the Jays.
thigpen.jpg
To make room for Burres on the roster, the Jays designated catcher Curtis Thigpen for assignment.  If Thigpen gets picked up by another team it will open the door further for impressive minor-league catcher J.P. Arencibia to snag the backup job behind Rod Barajas.  Although that would likely only occur if Arencibia was to get enough playing time to make it worthwhile; look for him to start in AAA and Michael Barrett or Raul Chavez to backup Barajas.

’09 Preview — Baltimore Orioles

baltimore-orioles-crest.jpg2008 Record: 68-93 5th AL East
2009 Prediction: 5th, AL East

Impact Player: Nick Markakis
Impact Pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie
Top Prospect: Matt Wieters

Significant Acquisitions: OF Felix Pie, UTIL Ryan Freel, SS Cesar Izturis, C Gregg Zaun, P Rich Hill, P Mark Hendrickson, P Koji Uehara, 2B Ty Wigginton
Significant Loses: P Daniel Cabrera, P Garret Olson, C Ramon Hernandez, OF Jay Payton, 1B Kevin Millar, OF/P Adam Loewen

Surprisingly, the Baltimore Orioles were one of the busier teams in the ’09 off-season making a number of key trades acquiring the likes of outfielder Felix Pie and some much needed starting pitching help in Rich Hill from the Cubs in two separate deals as well as some veteran role players such as Gregg Zaun, Ryan Freel and Ty Wigginton.  I’m inclined to say that the Orioles are the most-improved team in the AL East on paper.  Unfortunately that doesn’t mean they’ll be roaming with the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees in the toughest division in baseball in ’09.

Pitching
The Orioles feature a rotation that is still young and rather inexperienced with Jeremy Guthrie likely being its ace in spite of only garnering a 10-12 record a year ago.  The addition of Hill from the Cubs is significant if he can return to his ’07 form when he went 11-9 with a 3.92  ERA in 195 innings but he’s coming off a year when he couldn’t stay healthy long enough to make a difference for the Cubs.  The Orioles went overseas to grab Koji Uehara from Japan.  Uehara will be 34 once the season starts and has had problems with injuries in the past few years but a career 112-62 record with a 3.01 ERA in Japan makes Uehara a potentially great pickup for the O’s.  The last two spots in the O’s rotation are up for grabs with a mix of young pitchers and veterans like Mark Hendrickson and former closer Danys Baez vying for spots.  The bullpen was a point of contention last year for the O’s but closer George Sherrill is back along with his 31 Saves and 9.79 K/9 in ’08.  Righty Jim Johnson was the team’s best pitcher last year once Chad Bradford was traded to Tampa and finished with a team best 2.23 ERA. Considering the lack of prominent names in the bullpen, Johnson needs to be a rock again if the O’s have any chance at even approaching the .500-mark in the cut-throat AL East.  Another factor that could boost the O’s ‘pen in ’09 is the health of Chris Ray.  Ray underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of ’08 but saved 49 games for the O’s from 2006-07.  If Ray proves himself to be healthy and back in form, he could be the set-up man this bullpen drastically needs and could even step in as closer if Sherrill struggles.

Rotation (Hand/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • Jeremy Guthrie (R/30)
  • Koji Uehara (R/34)
  • Rich Hill (L/29)
  • Matt Albers (R/26)
  • Mark Hendrickson (L/34)

Bullpen

  • George Sherrill (L/32) — CLOSER
  • Jim Johnson (R/25)
  • Jamie Walker (L/37)
  • Dennis Sarfate (R/28)
  • Chris Ray (R/27)
  • Jim Miller (R/27)
  • Kam Mickolio (R/25)

Lineup
The O’s will have one thing to brag about for years to come: Emerging superstar Right Fielder Nick Markakis.  Markakis was locked up to a 6-year $66-million contract this offseason and figures to be a staple in the middle of this young lineup for years to come.  Outside of Markakis, the O’s have one of the best young outfields in all of baseball with Adam Jones in Center and newly-acquired Felix Pie in Left.  All three have tremendous defensive and offensive ability and should be the core of the team for management to build around.  In the infield, Brian Roberts is back at Second and has been as consistent as anyone at that position in the past few years, Cesar Izturis was signed to be the team’s main option at short, and run-producing veterans Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff will anchor the corners (they had 104 and 108 RBI respectively last season).  Luke Scott will be the team’s DH and fourth outfielder option and Wigginton figures to give Huff some much needed DH-days at First.  The O’s also acquired utility man and speedster Ryan Freel from the Reds.  At catcher, the O’s have maybe the most promising prospect in the majors in Matt Wieters who should be the opening day starter behind the plate.  Former Blue Jays Gregg Zaun and Guillermo Quiroz will contend for the back-up job with Zaun having the inside track due to his ability to be a strong mentor for Wieters.

Lineup
2B Brian Roberts (S/31)
CF Adam Jones (R/23)
RF Nick Markakis (L/25)
1B Aubrey Huff (L/32)
3B Melvin Mora (R/37)
DH Luke Scott (L/31)
C   Matt Wieters (S/23)
LF Felix Pie (L/24)
SS Cesar Izturis (S/29)

Bench
UTIL Ryan Freel (R/33)
INF Ty Wigginton (R/31)
C Gregg Zaun (S/38)
INF Donnie Murphy (R/26)

Outlook
It looks like another losing season for the O’s, but they should be better than last year.  Their pitching is marred by inexperience and will be the biggest obstacle for the team to overcome.  Offensively this team should not have a problem, if their younger players continue to develop as expected, they have the potential to be one of the toughest offensive teams in the AL, but it won’t overcome the problems in the pitching staff.  Final Prediction — 74-88, 5th AL East