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Baltimore Orioles Opening Day Primer

2011 Record: 97-65 Manager: Buck Showalter

The Orioles seemed to stall in the driveway last year with their young guns starting pitchers struggling out of the gate and disappointing performances across the board. Only Matt Wieters and Adam Jones seemed to develop in the way this club expected coming out of spring training. They’ll need a lot more development of their young talent this season if they are to get the locals excited in the Inner Harbor.

Player in the spotlight: Adam Jones CF

Adam Jones has gone from a tremendous defensive centerfielder to one who can hit as well. Jones is now a solid 25 HR type of hitter with an average around .280. If he’s able to continue to improve and the Orioles get some production ahead of him, Jones could become a 30 HR and 100 RBI producer in the next year or two.

Biggest question mark in the lineup: Brian Roberts 2B

Roberts is suffering from post-concussion syndrome and his return is unknown. He hasn’t played a full season since 2009 and at $10M per season through 2013, the Orioles have some valuable resources being tied up in a player who is a huge unknown. If Roberts is able to get healthy and regain his pre-injuries form, the Orioles will have a great leadoff hitter who can help the young pitching staff gain an early lead in games.

Pitcher in the spotlight: Tommy Hunter

Hunter was acquired from the Rangers last year where he was unable to crack the rotation after a very solid 2010 season. He’s only 25, but he’ll be asked to provide veteran stability to a staff that traded away mainstay Jeremy Guthrie in the offseason. If Hunter is able to revert to his 2010 level of performance, the O’s will get closer to lining up a respectable staff this year.

Biggest pitching question mark: Zach Britton

Britton starts the season on the DL with some shoulder trouble. He’s expected to return but the date is unknown. Britton had a solid rookie campaign in 2011, winning 11 games and looked poised to take over the role as staff ace. If he’s unable to pitch or pitch well this season, the O’s face another huge uphill climb to respectability. That puts a lot more pressure on the rest of the young pitchers led by Jake Arrieta, who got the opening day start.

Prospect with a chance to make an impact this year: Joe Mahoney 1B

The O’s lack top level prospects with a chance at breaking in over the next season and a half, but Mahoney is probably the one who could make it up. Mahoney will start in AAA Norfolk and could get the call up if he does well and the Orioles start slipping out of contention (a cynic might say they will never be in contention).

Prediction: 5th in AL East

The Orioles need their young pitchers to develop at the major league level. Then they can go out in the offseason and find some solid starters to hold the fort until their top prospects can arrive in 2014. It’s always an uphill battle in the AL East, but it’s even more so when seemingly all of the O’s prospects turn into journeymen type players. Unless Jones and Wieters become superstars, the O’s next hope comes with SS Manny Machado in September of 2013.

Where Does Prince Fielder Go From Milwaukee?

The price will be high for the 27-yr old slugger

A few weeks ago, Ryan Braun signed a long-term deal with the Brewers that will keep him in Milwaukee through at least the 2020 season. Braun expressed a desire to finish his career where he started and declared his love for Milwaukee.

Prince Fielder hasn’t signed a new contract and has not professed his desire to remain with the Brewers. Reading the baseball tea leaves, that isn’t going to change, either. Fielder is highly unlikely to remain with the Brewers for two related reasons. First, he hired Scott Boras to represent him and Boras ALWAYS takes his clients into free agency. Second, every Boras client goes on the auction block and signs with the highest bidder, period. The only player that Boras has recently negotiated a contract for without being a free agent was Carlos Gonzalez last winter. But CarGo only gave up three free agent years to get his $80M guaranteed and he wasn’t scheduled to be a free agent until after the 2014 season.

Boras’ history is to negotiate landmark contracts both in terms of length and money. Notable contracts negotiated by Boras include both of Alex Rodriguez’ free agent contracts, Mark Teixeira, Matt Holliday, every JD Drew contract since he was drafted, and most recently, Jayson Werth’s contract with the Nationals. In addition, Boras has represented the past two #1 picks in the draft, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper of the Nationals.

Boras makes no bones about his negotiating style and teams know exactly what his stance will be with his clients. Unless the Brewers are willing to outbid the entire market for Fielder, they will be looking for a new first baseman during the winter.

In Fielder’s first five full seasons before 2011, he averaged 38 HR, 105 RBI, and 95 R along with 32 doubles. His percentages are .279/.386/.536. There aren’t many better hitters in baseball over the past five seasons than Fielder and he just turned 27 earlier in May. That kind of production and the potential for even more improvement is what Boras will be selling to all 30 teams in the winter.

Fielder is going to command a contract in the 8-year, $200 million or more area. If Boras can entice a second team into the bidding, either real or imagined, the contract could approach $250M and be worth over $30M annually. Those aren’t numbers that the Brewers or most teams are going to be willing to spend. But some team will step up. With Boras, that’s always the case.

So who might spend that kind of money on a superstar with prime years remaining?

1. Washington Nationals

Don’t laugh. Historically, Boras deals with a small handful of teams and he’s developed a very nice relationship with the Nationals over the past few years. As mentioned earlier, Strasburg, Harper, and Werth are all Boras clients and while Werth’s signing seemed to come out of nowhere, observers should have seen it coming due to Boras’ recent relationship with GM Mike Rizzo and the Nationals owners. That budding relationship will enable the Nationals to be ”in the loop” on Fielder and they could either drive up his price or become his eventual destination.

The Nationals will be looking to make a big splash in the offseason with Strasburg expected to return from Tommy John surgery next season. In addition to a big bat like Fielder, expect the Nationals to target a free agent pitcher, like Edwin Jackson, to bolster their chances for success in 2012. Jackson, coincidentally, happens to be represented by Scott Boras. Jackson and Fielder to the Nats could become a package deal.

 

2. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs currently have a Boras client, Carlos Pena, manning first base on a one-year deal. The Cubs are also the team most-rumored to likely pursue Albert Pujols when the season ends, but it might make more sense to target the first baseman on their NL Central rivals to the north.

The Pujols/Fielder choice for the Cubs, if they have a choice is intriguing. Fielder will most likely be a few million a year cheaper and he’s four years younger. Pujols isn’t a slam dunk to leave St. Louis either and could just use a team like the Cubs to drive up his price.

So if you’re the Cubs, why not drive up his price? One of the biggest reasons why Pujols hasn’t re-signed with the Cardinals is because they don’t want to allocate such a large portion of their payroll to one player; at least not before they have to.

The Cubs could help Pujols get the $30M annually that he’s seeking, help to hamstring the Cardinals payroll, and then come in and get Fielder for $26-$27M over 7 or 8 years. They have the money available as they can use Kosuke Fukodome’s $14M and Carlos Pena’s $10M to pay for most of the salary. That would be a win-win-win for the Cubs as they would hurt two division rivals and add one of the best bats in baseball. Unfortunately, as Cubs fans know, out-strategizing other teams is not a Cubs trademark.

 

3. St. Louis Cardinals

This only becomes a possibility for Fielder if Albert Pujols leaves the Cardinals. But if he does, the Cards could go after Fielder and they already have a pair of high priced Boras’ clients on their roster with Matt Holliday and Kyle Lohse. They know his style and have been willing to play ball with him in the past and might determine that Fielder fits their payroll better than Pujols will four or five years down the road.

The Cards have money available, just not the $30M that Pujols reportedly wants. But if the bidding for Fielder doesn’t go above $25M and Pujols gets a $30M+ offer, wouldn’t it make more sense to go with the younger, cheaper option?

While the speculation regarding Fielder replacing Pujols can be fun, the only realistic way that could happen would be if the Cubs completely outbid everybody on Pujols and gave him over $300M for at least 10 years. That could be too much for the Cardinals to stomach and redirect them to Fielder. Otherwise, the Cards will most likely re-sign Pujols after both sides compromise a bit.

 

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers possibility is contingent on them getting new ownership before free agency begins. If they do, they have Rafael Furcal’s $13M coming off the books along with a few others and would be able to move James Loney and the $5M or so that he would probably get.

The Dodgers are a far cry from the Lasorda and Alston days when they would always have rookie of the year candidates and compete for the NL West titles and NL pennants. It’s been 23 years since their last NL pennant and they’ve only been to the playoffs six times since that 1988 World Series championship.

The Angels now draw more fans and much more successful than the Dodgers. Signing Fielder would at least help them win the offseason in Los Angeles. With all of the PR problems that the club is having under the current ownership, a new owner can begin to earn the trust of the fans with a big signing like Fielder.

 

5. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles? Yes, the Orioles are getting better with some very good young pitching and have Derrick Lee playing first base on a one-year contract. The Orioles have close to $30M coming off of their payroll going into the winter and they will have a need for a big bat in the middle of the order.

The Orioles have a chance in the Fielder sweepstakes because their division rivals, Boston and New York, don’t have room for Fielder as a first baseman. Unless the 27-year old Fielder is interested in becoming a full-time DH, then he’s not going to those two teams, Detroit, or the Chicago White Sox.

The Orioles have couple of very good young everyday players with Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and also have a shortstop prospect that’s being compared to Alex Rodriguez, Manny Machado. Their young pitching is showing signs of becoming really good and adding Fielder would make them a winning team immediately and give them a chance to contend in the AL East.

Owner Peter Angelos has been quiet in recent years, but has a history of spending money on big name free agents. Perhaps a chance at a stud hitter in his prime will entice him to pull out his checkbook for Fielder.

 

Others

Fielder’s biggest problem will be the lack of the Red Sox and Yankees in the bidding process. It’s highly unlikely that those two teams will be involved. Also, ownership issues with the Dodgers and Mets could eliminate both of those potential big market teams. The Phillies already have a huge bat at first base and the White Sox have two players who can play there.

Even though the market will be limited, Scott Boras’ history has shown that he can create a bidding war for anybody. If he can get Jayson Werth $18M annually, he should be able to get the prolific hitting Fielder at least 30-40% more than Werth. Now he just needs to find the right owner.

MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 4/28

April 28, 2011 1 comment

Uh-oh. If Colon's weight continues to exceed his ERA, the AL is in trouble this year.

Best of Yesterday April 27

The Dodgers’ Andre Ethier extended his April best hitting streak to 24 games on Wednesday afternoon and then homered in the 10th inning in the Dodgers 5-4 win over the Marlins. Vicente Padilla got his first save since 2000 and left people wondering about Jonathan Broxton‘s status as closer.

The RedsDrew Stubbs also hit a 10th inning homer to give the Reds a 7-6 win over the Brewers. Joey Votto hit his 5th homer in the 1st inning off of Yovani Gallardo. The reigning NL MVP had 4 RBI on the day and Aroldis Chapman got his 2nd win.

Tommy Hanson was dominating as he struck out 10 and gave up no runs in 7 innings as the Braves beat the Padres 7-0 on Wednesday afternoon. The score might have been closer had the Padres’ Brad Hawpe not committed a key error in the 2nd inning. That error led to five unearned runs for Mat Latos.

Chris Young homered twice for the Diamondbacks but they lost the series finale to the Phillies 8-4. Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Jimmy Rollins all homered for the Phils. Cole Hamels had a solid outing as well, winning his 3rd game as he struck out 8 and gave up 3 runs in 7 innings. The Phillies are back in first place with the Marlins loss.

A third inning error by Howard Kendrick led to the Athletics only run before extra innings and a misplay in the outfield led to their second and winning run in the 10th inning as the A’s beat the Angels 2-1. The game went to extra innings after Kevin Kouzmanoff‘s error in the bottom of the 9th let the tying run reach base. Starters Dan Haren and Tyson Ross each went 7 innings and didn’t give up an earned run.

Vladimir Guerrero came through with a RBI single in the 8th inning after Jason Varitek had allowed a passed ball to give the Orioles the lead and eventual win over the Red Sox 5-4 on Wednesday night. Josh Beckett had his worst start of the season, giving up 4 runs in 6 innings, including homers to Adam Jones and Luke Scott.

Josh Tomlin won his fourth game as the Indians beat the Royals 7-2. Tomlin’s ERA is now 2.45 on the season. Alex Gordon‘s hit streak ended at 19 games for the Royals.

Justin Smoak went 2 for 4 with a 3-run homer and 5 RBI on the night for the Mariners in their 10-1 win over Justin Verlander and the Tigers. Eric Bedard went a solid 7 innings, giving up 1 run to earn his 1st win of the season.

Hello, Bartolo Colon. The 2005 AL Cy Young winner went 8 innings and only gave up 1 run as the Yankees beat the White Sox 3-1. Robinson Cano provided the offense with a 3-run homer in the first inning.

The Mets, led by David Murphy, came back with a run in the 8th inning and then four in the 9th to beat the Nationals 6-3. Murphy went 2 for 2 in his late game at bats with a homer and double to drive home 3 runs. Francisco Rodriguez got his 6th save of the season and the Mets have now won 6 straight games.

Mitch Moreland hit the deciding home run in the bottom of the 7th to give the Rangers a 7-6 win over the Blue Jays. The Jays starter, Jo Jo Reyes, was victimized by Edwin Encarnacion‘s 3rd inning error that led to all six unearned runs allowed. Despite the bad luck, don’t be surprised if Reyes is designated sometime in the next few days or weeks.

The Cardinals tried to blow Kyle Lohse‘s very good start in which he shutout the Astros for 7 innings. The Cards bullpen ended up holding on to win 6-5 and preserving Lohse’s 4th win. The Cardinals lead the majors in GIDP and hit into another five in this game.

 

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Yovani Gallardo got lit up again on Wednesday afternoon by Joey Votto and the Reds. This was the fourth consecutive start that Gallardo gave up at least 4 runs and his ERA now stands at 5.70. It could just be an early season funk, or Gallardo might have something wrong that he’s not disclosing. Either way, the Brewers need to find out what’s wrong and either get him straightened out or get him healthy. Nobody is running away with the NL Central race yet.

The Rays and Twins played their game with snow flurries in the air and temperatures in the 30’s. While the Twins have played more on the road this season, many other cold weather teams have played more home games. The Yankees (14 to 7), Mets (13 to 11) and Cubs (14 to 9) have all played more home games and the Cubs seem to play in miserable weather conditions daily. In fact, Wednesday’s Cubs game was postponed due to bad weather. The Rockies have played more road games, but they’ve played road games in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York. Why aren’t they making a tour of their NL West rivals during April? That’s four moderate to warm cities and no rain/snow postponements. This needs to change next season.

In the Arctic conditions of the Twin Cities, the TwinsFrancisco Liriano got lit up again. Liriano gave up 7 runs in only 3 innings and he’s now given up 24 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings on the season. That’s a 9.13 ERA, not K’s per 9 innings. 18 walks and 4 homers allowed appear to be a major part of the problem. He’s only put together one solid start all season and you have to wonder how much longer the Twins can afford to give up once every five days?

 

AL News/Notes

If you’re a Sam Fuld fan, and who isn’t? Then you can vote for the Rays surprising outfielder for the all star game this year. Evidently, Manny Ramirez retired in time to be stricken from the ballot and replaced by Fuld.

Angels‘ rookie Mike Trumbo is going through his first big league slump right now. He’s trying to adjust to the pitchers, but he could find himself back in AAA if Alexi Amarista hits enough to move Howard Kendrick to first base.

Despite being eligible to come off the DL on Thursday, the TwinsJoe Mauer doesn’t look like he’s even close to returning. Also for the Twins, Delmon Young was placed on the DL because of a strained oblique. The move is retroactive to April 19.

 

NL News/Notes

The Dodgers are without Casey Blake, who is probably heading to the DL with a swollen left elbow. Aaron Miles has been playing third base with Blake and Juan Uribe out of the lineup.

The Marlins have a hole at third base as top prospect Matt Dominguez is recovering from a elbow injury just before opening day. With the Fish in first place, they could be looking to upgrade their current situation with the GiantsMark DeRosa.

Carlos Gonzalez wasn’t in the lineup for the Rockies on Tuesday, instead he spent a lot of time in the batting cage trying to work his way out of his 0 for 22 slump. It’s got to be scary for the rest of the NL that the Rockies have the best record in baseball and CarGo is off to such a slow start.

The Nationals have to be concerned about Livan Hernandezconnection with a drug kingpin in Puerto Rico. This might be the only way that Hernandez ends his 13 year streak of 180+ innings pitched.

Former big league pitcher and current Braves pitching coach, Roger McDowell, directed a few derogatory epithets towards the fans in San Francisco last weekend. The comments were over the line and need to be addressed through a suspension of a least a week.

Diamondbacks rookie pitcher Josh Collmenter developed his unique pitching style in an interesting way. With that story, he’s destined to become a Brave someday.

Pirates‘ manager Clint Hurdle benched shortstop Ronny Cedeno for the second night in a row in favor of Brandon Wood. Hurdle called it a “manager’s decision.”

Clint Barmes played in his 3rd rehab game on Wednesday and is expected to be called up to the Astros for Friday. With Angel Sanchez hitting over .300, Barmes will probably see some time at third base to keep Sanchez in the lineup while he remains productive.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Dodgers Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to a MLB record for April 24 games
  • Royals Jeff Francouer extended his hitting streak to 16 games

 

Top Thursday Matchups

1:05 EDT Mariners (Pineda 3-1, 1.78) at Tigers (Penny 1-2, 6.35)

2:05 EDT Blue Jays (Morrow 0-1, 5.06) at Rangers (Ogando 3-0, 2.13)

7:05 EDT White Sox (Jackson 2-2, 4.88) at Yankees (Sabathia 1-1, 2.73)

8:10 EDT Rays (Hellickson 1-2, 4.32) at Twins (Baker 1-2, 3.24)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 2

  • Ryan Webb of the Marlins against the Dodgers
  • Chris Resop of the Pirates against the Giants

Baltimore Orioles Opening Day Overview

Baltimore Orioles Opening Day Overview

Manager: Buck Showalter            GM: Andy MacPhail

  Lineup:
1 2B Brian Roberts
2 RF Nick Markakis
3 1B Derrek Lee
4 DH Vladimir Guerrero
5 LF Luke Scott
6 CF Adam Jones
7 3B Mark Reynolds
8 C Matt Wieters
9 SS JJ Hardy

 

Roberts suffered from a myriad of injuries last season and was limited to 59 games. When he did play, his power suffered as his slugging dropped from .451 to .391 last year. Always a steady OBP guy(.355 career), Roberts will need to be healthy for this potentially high powered O’s offense to reach its potential. The O’s are hoping for 150 games and for Roberts to maintain his career averages (.283 AVG, .355 OBP, and .419 SLG). Anything more would be gravy for the 33 year old.

Markakis is a steady OBP guy but has receded with his power the past three seasons. With at least 43 doubles in the past 4 season and solid on base numbers, Markakis should set up the heart of the lineup nicely this season.

Lee’s last season with the Cubs ended with Atlanta as he had his worst full season since his rookie season in 1998. The O’s are betting $7.25M on Lee returning to around his career OPS of .865. If he does, this offense will be one of the best in the AL.

Guerrero signed a one year deal as well, for $8M. Vlad had a very good first half last season on the way to 29 HRs and 115 RBI while hitting .300 for the season. The O’s will DH him and hit him fourth while hoping for similar production out of the future hall of famer.

Scott had a career year last season at 32 and the O’s hope that he’ll do it again. But he’s going to be playing in left field and his glove isn’t exactly golden. If his production predictably falls off, then the O’s might look for a righty bat on the trade market to platoon with Scott. Although he’s not going to have another OPS over .900, the O’s would gladly take his career OPS of .857.

Jones improved his batting average but his OBP and SLG both went down. In over 100 more at bats, Jones only walked 23 times and his homers stayed at 19. If Jones is to reach his potential, Showalter needs to get him to develop a lot more patience at the plate, which should lead to better pitches to hit and more production. Keep an eye on his OBP, if he can increase it from .325 last season to over .350, then he’s improved his approach enough to really help this team in the middle of the order and could get moved up to the leadoff or second spot.

Reynolds has struck out 638 times in the past 3 seasons. Yes 3 seasons. Joe DiMaggio struck out 369 times in 13 seasons. But we’re in a different era and Reynolds lack of contact didn’t hurt him until he only hit .198 last year. He’s got tremendous power as his 104 HRs over the past 3 seasons shows and he’ll take a walk. If he can get his batting average up over .250, he can be a similar batter to Adam Dunn with a high OPS.

Wieters took a step back after a solid partial 2009 season. He’s already got the patience thing down at the plate according to his pitches seen. The key now is to simply hit the ball safely more often. The O’s have to be hoping for a return to his rookie averages(.288 AVG, .340 OBP, and .412 SLG) and then some.

Hardy is on his third team in as many seasons. He bounced back after an atrocious 2009 season but failed to return to his 2007 and 2008 production. The O’s don’t need that, but would take it. The O’s are looking for an OPS of around .750, which is right near his career OPS.

  Starting Pitching
1 RHP Jeremy Guthrie
2 LHP Brian Matusz(DL)
3 LHP Zach Britton
4 RHP Jake Arrieta
5 RHP Chris Tillman/RHP Brad Bergeson

 

Guthrie came back from his down 2009 season and pitched over 200 innings again and a sub 4.00 ERA. The O’s need him to repeat that this season and lower his HR allowed. With the added offense, Guthrie could win as many as 15 games if he improves his ERA to around 3.50.

Matusz is on the DL after his opening weekend start was scratched due to a rib injury. When he gets back, the O’s will need him to improve his K-BB ratio from just over 2 to 1. Also, if he can reduce his HR rate to more than one per 10 innings, then Matusz should be able to lower his ERA under 4.00.

Britton pitched well in AA and AAA last season and Showalter’s got him in the opening rotation. He pitched a career high 153 innings last season and the O’s will likely limit his IP to 180 or so this season. If he’s able to keep his ERA at 3.80 or better, Britton could win 12-14 games.

Arrieta struggled a bit in his rookie season last year with a 4.66 ERA after posting a 1.85 at AAA. The O’s are looking for Arrieta to continue to improve his walk rate that needs to drop by a third. If he can do that, his ERA should drop as well and Arrieta could be a 13-15 game winner if he lowers his ERA to no higher than 3.60 and pitches at least 200 innings.

Tillman is another young pitcher for the O’s and he has struggled in parts of two seasons with the O’s. He breaks camp in the rotation and will need a K-BB ratio more in line with his minor league numbers(3 to 1) than his major league numbers(1.3 to 1). He also needs to cut his HR rate. He’s given up 24 HRs in 119 career IP. He isn’t likely to have a successful major league career if that continues.

Bergeson will fill in the rotation while Matusz is out. He was solid in 2009 but regressed last season due to a deterioration of his K-BB ratio from 2 to 1 in 2009 to about 1.5 to 1 last year. He also gave up 26 HRs in 170 innings. That has to come down or the Orioles are going to be shopping for starting pitching.

  Bullpen
CL RHP Kevin Gregg
SET RHP Kohi Uehara
  LHP Mike Gonzalez
  RHP Jim Johnson
  RHP Jeremy Accardo
  RHP Jason Berken
  RHP Josh Rupe

 

Gregg comes over from the Jays and will close. He isn’t an elite closer but is reliable enough for a team looking for a winning record this season. The O’s could be in the market for a closer like Heath Bell if they outperform expectations and are in the AL East race longer than expected..

Uehara significantly improved in his second season with the O’s since coming over from Japan. In 44 IP, Uehara struck out 55 batters and only walked 5. That kind of dominance will be utilized in the 8th innings, but Uehara could end up closing again if Gregg struggles.

Gonzalez was expected to close last season but blown saves early in the season combined with arm problems made his year difficult. He’s been a solid pitcher for most of his career and should be solid, if not spectacular in a lefty setup role.

Johnson has been up and down in his 3 seasons with the O’s and last year was about average and keeps him in middle relief. Accardo hasn’t been good since his very good 2007 season with the Jays. He’ll provide another righty arm for middle relief. Berken didn’t fare well as a starter in 2009 but pitched pretty well in relief last season. Rupe has bounced around with no success and gets a chance now with the O’s.

  Farm Prospects who could help in 2011
1 3B Josh Bell
2 2B Ryan Adams
3 OF Matt Angle

 

Bell struggled with the O’s as the regular third baseman for less than two months and is back at AAA. With Mark Reynolds at third now, Bell could be used as trade bait to acquire a veteran arm. Adams is the heir apparent to Roberts at second and could be called up if Roberts’ injury issues flare up again. Angle can hit and has good speed and should be the first OF called up.

Three Questions:

1. Can the Buck Showalter magic continue in 2011?

  • The Orioles were 34-23 under Buck last year after he took over and that has carried over into this season. He’s impacted everything from the starting pitching to the everyday hitters and the optimism at Camden Yards is higher than it’s been in years. Buck’s track record is to get a team on the brink of playoff success and then his team replaces him. Will this be the team that Buck actually takes to the World Series while he’s manager? Probably not this season, but Buck could be the one taking the O’s to their first World Series since 1983 in the coming years.

2. How will the veteran hitting acquisitions impact the Orioles?

  • The O’s picked up more offensive firepower than anybody in the offseason. They added Vladimir Guerrero, Derrick Lee, and Mark Reynolds. These three hitters could account for over 100 HRs this season by themselves. Guerrero helped lead the Rangers to the World Series last year and Derrick Lee, until last year, was as steady a bat as there is at first base. Reynolds strikes out a lot but can really pound the ball when he connects. If should be fun at Camden this year.

3. Can the Orioles young pitching develop quickly enough to keep them in the AL East race all season?

  • The O’s young arms have a lot of potential, but none of them have broken out with a stellar season yet. If they can get a couple of their pitchers to step up with ERAs in the low 3’s and account for at least 200 IP, then the O’s might be close in late July when they can use their farm depth to add potential pieces to put them over the top.

 

Projection

The Orioles are intriguing and would be a nice sleeper pick in almost any other division. But with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays all with playoff level talent and an up and coming team in Toronto, the O’s will face nightly battles in the AL East. If they can hang around the AL East race through the first half of the season, the O’s could be major players for pitching and do have the farm prospects to trade for them. Heath Bell, in particular, would be a great piece to add to the back of their bullpen which would add to their depth and if they could find a solid starter, this team should win in the mid 80’s and be within reach of first place until the end. But unless the top teams in the AL East completely implode, it’s probably going to take at least 90 wins to capture the division this year.