Friday, February 24, 2012

MLB Preview: Baltimore Orioles

2011 Recap
The Orioles were expected to become a more competitive team after an offseason that saw OF Vladimir Guerrero, 3B Mark Reynolds, 1B Derrek Lee and SS J.J. Hardy came over to pair with Baltimore stalwarts OF Nick Markakis, 2B Brian Roberts and future stars CF Adam Jones and C Matt Weiters. Baltimore's biggest problem was no doubt their pitching, which ranked at last in the majors in ERA (4.89), WHIP (1.45), and HR allowed (220). Power at the plate was evident, as the team finished 4th in the league in home runs, but lacked discipline at the plate, as only Markakis and Reynolds had more than 48 walks on the season. Despite struggling for much of the season, the team went 15-13 in September, going an impressive 10-6 against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays during the month.

New Arrivals
C Taylor Teagarden (trade w/TEX)
OF Endy Chavez (free agent)
OF Jai Miller (trade w/OAK)
RP Matt Lindstrom (trade w/COL)
SP Jason Hammel (trade w/COL)
Teagarden is likely going to provide depth behind young phenom Matt Wieters behind the dish, as he's solid defensively, but struggled at the plate throughout his career (.220 BA). Chavez will likely be competing with incumbent Nolan Reimold for the starting spot in left field, and is a solid contact hitter that has slightly above average range in the outfield. Miller could be designated for assignment, as not too many teams carry five outfielders on a regular basis, though could still make the roster if he has a good spring. Hammel will likely have a good shot to crack Baltimore's back end of the rotation, but has struggled with location in his career (1.47 WHIP). Lindstrom should add solid middle relief in a bullpen that's looking to replace Koji Uehara.

Prospect to Watch: LHP Brian Matusz
While not necessarily a "true" prospect, as he's had a Matusz has the ability to help the teams' abysmal starting pitching. Coming off a 2010 season that saw him post solid numbers for a then 23 year old (4.30 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, .255 OBA), Matusz struggled with both command and velocity in 2011 (10.69 ERA, 2.11 WHIP in 12 starts). If he's able to prove his arm strength is back to normal, Matusz will likely find himself as a #2 or #3 starter.
2012 Outlook
The lineup should continue to be productive, as though the loss of Guerrero will hurt, the return of a healthy Brian Roberts should mostly offset Guerrero's departure. If the Orioles want to approach .500 this season, they'll need their pitching staff to perform better than expected, as the trade of former #1 starter Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies leaves their starting rotation thin. The likeliest scenario is them battling it out with the Blue Jays to avoid finishing last in the AL East.

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