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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.

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MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 4/27

Masterson goes to 5-0 for the Tribe

Zach Britton won his 4th game for the Orioles as they beat the Red Sox 4-1 on Tuesday night. The game’s loser, Clay Buchholz, continued to struggle as he dropped to 1-3 with a 5.33 ERA.

Justin Masterson won his 5th game and Jack Hannahan hit two homers for the Indians in their 9-4 win over the Royals. Grady Sizemore continued his blistering start that began late due to his recovery from knee surgery. In 8 games, Sizemore has 3 homers, 6 doubles and is hitting .406. Unfortunately, less than 10,000 fans saw the Indians go to 8-2 at home on the season.

Gavin Floyd pitched really well for the White Sox and Rafael Soriano struggled again in the 8th inning for the Yankees in the Sox 3-2 win. Floyd is now 3-1 and Sergio Santos picked up his second save in as many nights.

The Mets won their 5th straight game 6-4 over the Nationals on Tuesday night. Ike Davis had 3 hits and Francisco Rodriguez saved his fifth game. Wilson Ramos hit two homers in the loss for the Nats.

The DodgersAndre Ethier extended his MLB record hitting streak for April to 23 games with a double in the first inning against the Marlins on Tuesday night. But Clayton Kershaw struggled and the Marlins won 4-2.

The Blue Jays stopped Michael Young‘s hitting streak at 15 games and beat the Rangers 10-3 on Tuesday night. Adam Lind blasted two homers, scored three times, and drove in five the Jays. Jesse Litsch got the win after being recalled from AAA for the start.

Todd Helton hit two homers for the Rockies in their 4-3 win over the Cubs. Jorge De La Rosa won his fourth game and lowered his ERA to 2.61. Alfonso Soriano hit his 7th homer of the season in the 9th innning for the Cubs.

Bill Hall drove in the winning run with a single in the bottom of the 9th for the Astros in their 6-5 win over the Cardinals. Cards closer Mitchell Boggs blew his first save opportunity of the season. Lance Berkman went 2 for 5 with a RBI in his return to Houston.

Rickie Weeks‘ go-ahead solo homer in the 8th inning provided the margin of victory in the Brewers 3-2 win over the Reds. Ryan Braun hit his MLB leading 9th homer earlier.

The Diamondbacks beat the Phillies again, this time 7-5 on Tuesday night. Roy Oswalt struggled for the Phils as he only lasted 3 innings and gave up 5 runs. It was Oswalt’s first start without a strikeout since getting injured against the Nationals on July 11, 2008 while with the Astros. There was speculation after the game about his back.

The Angels 6-7-8-9 hitters (Howard Kendrick, Hank Conger, Peter Bourjos, and Alexi Amarista) went 9 for 15 with 6 runs and 6 RBI as they beat the Athletics 8-3. If those young hitters at the bottom of the order continue to hit, the Angels might have the best team in the AL.

Thanks to the 13 inning game on Monday night, the Braves used David Ross instead of Brian McCann at catcher on Tuesday night. All Ross did was hit two homers and drove in four runs in the 8-2 win over the Padres. Jair Jurrjens went the distance to win his 2nd game and lowered his ERA to 1.23.

 

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Out of the 8 players who started in the field for the Padres, only Nick Hundley ended the night with a batting average over .250.

The Pirates drew 9,832 to their game against the world champion Giants on Tuesday night. The first place Indians drew 9,650 to their game against the second place Royals. Four digit attendance figures are disappointing, even in April’s bad weather.

 

AL News/Notes

The Twins aren’t sure when Joe Mauer will be able to return. Mauer’s eligible to return on Thursday, but he still is working on his legs and might need a minor league rehab assignment.

Evan Longoria is on track to start a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday and return to the Rays next Tuesday. The Rays have done a pretty remarkable job of staying close in the AL East standings without their best everyday player for most of the season.

The AthleticsJosh Willingham missed Tuesday’s game with back stiffness. Also, catcher Kurt Suzuki is going on paternity leave on Wednesday and should only miss that game.

Phil Hughes underwent his tests on Tuesday and is still waiting on the results. The Yankees righty underwent tests on his elbow, shoulder, and also a circuit of vascular tests.

The Angels expect to activate starting pitcher Joel Pineiro by the weekend. Early speculation is that Pineiro would replace Matt Palmer from the rotation.

 

NL News/Notes

Despite last year’s Chris Coghlan postgame celebration that ended with Coghlan’s season over, Logan Morrison joined in with his teammates after the Marlins Monday night’s walk off win. Morrison had just gotten his cast off of his foot earlier in the day and manager Edwin Rodriguez wasn’t happy.

Xavier Paul has been claimed by the Pirates off waivers from the Dodgers. Paul is another former prospect that the Pirates have claimed this week. A few days ago, the Pirates claimed Brandon Wood from the Angels.

Lance Berkman, now a member of the Cardinals, returned to Houston on Tuesday night where he was met by criticism by the Astros‘ radio announcer. Berkman had injury problems in his final few seasons with the Astors and there were questions about his commitment to conditioning.

Jose Contreras is out for up to a month with his elbow problem for the Phillies. Good news for the Phils is that Dominic Brown will begin a minor league rehab stint in Clearwater on Wednesday.

Dodgers’ embattled owner Frank McCourt will be in New York on Wednesday to meet with MLB officials about his proposed TV deal with Fox.

The Mets GM Sandy Alderson is a former Marine who thinks that war clichés are overused in sports. Oorah.

The Padres have been using Cory Luebke out of the bullpen and he’s beginning to learn how to pitch out of the pen. Having a manager who experienced a similar role when he broke in has to help.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Dodgers Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to a MLB record for April 22 games
  • Royals Alex Gordon extended his career long hitting streak to 19 games
  • Royals Jeff Francouer extended his hitting streak to 15 games

 

Top Wednesday Matchups

12:10 EDT Dodgers (Billingsley 2-1, 4.13) at Marlins (Sanchez 1-1, 3.55)

3:35 EDT Braves (Hanson 2-3, 3.21) at Padres (Latos 0-3, 5.94)

7:05 EDT Red Sox (Beckett 2-1, 1.93) at Orioles (Guthrie 1-3, 3.12)

7:05 EDT Royals (Francis 0-2, 4.06) at Indians (Tomlin 3-0, 2.33)

7:05 EDT White Sox (Buehrle 1-2, 5.40) at Yankees (Colon 1-1, 3.50)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 0

MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 4/21

It's not quite as cheery now in LA

Best of Yesterday April 20

It was a great day of baseball for our favorite umpire call, the BALK. Check at the bottom for Wednesday’s impressive total.

Placido Polanco drilled a 3-run homer in the 6th inning and Shane Victorino hit a solo shot in the 8th to keep the Phillies from being swept at home by the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon. The Phillies had to overcome Ryan Howard‘s cold streak since his great start. Howard is hitting .171 in the past 10 games.

Reed Johnson hit a walk off homer in the 11th inning for the Cubs to win the first game of their doubleheader with the Padres on Wednesday. Cubs pitcher Matt Garza finally showed why they traded a boatload of talent to get him. Garza threw 6 shutout innings and had 9 K’s.

Padres offseason acquisitions Aaron Harang and Cameron Maybin both paid dividends in the Pads nightcap winner against the Cubs. Harang gave up 2 in 6 innings to win his 4th game and Maybin hit his 3rd homer. Maybin’s development could become a huge coup for the Padres this season.

Jorge De La Rosa got the Rockies off the hook with 7 solid innings and only 2 runs allowed to avoid the three-game sweep against the Giants. De La Rosa is now 3-0 on the season.

Wade Davis of the Rays pitched 7 innings and gave up only one run to get his record even at 2-2 by beating the White Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night. The Rays have gone from 0-6 to 9-9 and are looking like they are going to be contenders again in the AL East.

Rookie Zach Britton reportedly pitched through sickness  and won his third game of the season for the Orioles against the Twins on Wednesday night.

Bartolo Colon‘s MLB revival continued as he won his first game since 2009 with the White Sox. The Yankees are crossing their fingers that Colon can keep this going for the next 6 months. Don’t discount his value to this team as the Yankees try to work through their rotation problems.

Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins is trying to prove that they have more than Josh Johnson leading their rotation. Nolasco struck out 8 and walked 1 while giving up no runs over 7 innings. Nolasco is now 2-0 on the season after taking out the Pirates 6-0.

Jared Weaver of the Angels has been the best pitcher in baseball so far this season. He’s now 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA after shutting down the Rangers 4-1 on Wednesday night. The AL Pitcher of the Month award for April is in the safe hands of Weaver now.

Justin Masterson went to 4-0 for the Indians as the Tribe moved to a 2 game lead after beating the Royals on Wednesday night. Masterson’s ERA is now at 1.71 on the season.

In their loss, the Royals Luke Hochevar‘s streak of retiring 31 in a row over two games was two short of Steve Busby‘s club record. Unfortunately, Hochevar ended up giving up 6 runs in the 6th and 7th, but that’s the kind of overall progress that has the Royals four games over .500 on the season. With the Twins struggling all around, the White Sox bullpen a mess, and the Tigers inability to put it all together, the Royals and Indians should be in play in the AL Central all season.

Jon Garland went the distance against the Braves to give the Dodgers a 6-1 win on Wednesday night. Garland won his first game in his return to the Dodgers and provided a nice diversion to the madness going around the organization.

 

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Commissioner Bud Selig pulled the plug on Dodgers owner Frank McCourt‘s control of the club. Last year’s MLB controlled club, the Texas Rangers, lost in the World Series. The Rangers were even allowed to add payroll while under MLB control. It should be interesting to see if the Dodgers are handled likewise and can achieve similar success. One rumor has former owner Peter O’Malley taking over in the interim.

 

The Daily Balk’s Take

Joel Sherman writes about the Mets miserable early season start, the plausibility of cleaning house and embarking on making moves for the future.

  • The Mets are in a troublesome spot with their underwhelming early season performance. Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes are both free agents following the season and Francisco Rodriguez becomes one if he doesn’t finish 55 or more games this season. Those players make about $23M this season and the Mets already have around $20M in dead money committed to castoffs like Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. The question that arises is whether a 20 game or so snapshot of the season is enough to pull the plug? Only Reyes, making $11M, could be traded without the Mets eating more money. Nobody is going to pickup Beltran’s prorated $20.7M or the potential of K-Rod’s 2012 option. Also, unless they receive MLB-ready prospects in return, the quality of play on the field would suffer more and the mediocre attendance would be guaranteed to not improve. A complete overhaul might become necessary later in the season, but the Mets need to play this out to at least Memorial Day if not the end of June before eating more money

Sherman expands on his thoughts in this piece.

  • Those are some very good points that Sherman makes and the Mets definitely have some important decisions to make. The one point that I would disagree with is that trading Beltran would be most valuable to the Mets if they were able to unload his salary without picking up any of the tab. That might require the Mets to almost give him away, but considering the ownership’s financial problems, that would be the fiscally responsible thing to do even though the team wouldn’t benefit from the acquisition of talent in return. As for Wright, during the season isn’t wise if they want anybody to come out to the park. Revisiting Wright’s status in the offseason makes more sense.

 

AL News/Notes

Injured Athletics closer Andrew Bailey is getting closer to going on a rehab assignment. It looks like he could be able to return to the A’s in the first weeks of May.

The Orioles are still unsure about the return dates of pitcher Brian Matusz and shortstop JJ Hardy. Robert Andino has been solid in limited playing time replacing Hardy. Matusz is probably needed back sooner because of his projected impact on their starting rotation.

Indians manager Manny Acta isn’t stressing the early season troubles of Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana. Of course, there’s no reason to overreact when you’re in first place by two games.

The Angels give up on former first round pick Brandon Wood and designated him for assignment on Wednesday. If the rumors are correct, then the Pirates could be claiming Wood off of waivers.

 

NL News/Notes

Zach Greinke‘s first rehab outing in A ball on Tuesday night met the Brewers expectations. Also, LaTroy Hawkins will be activated before the Brewers game on Friday night.

Rick Ankiel of the Nationals took out an ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to thank the Cardinals fans. Ankiel’s still appreciative of the support that he received from the fans during his wild ride from phenom pitcher to outfielder.

The Nationals Ian Desmond will be taking paternity leave when his wife gives birth any day now.

Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan is preparing to start on short rest on Sunday against the Pirates after Wednesday’s win in the first game of the doubleheader in St. Louis.

The Rockies are sending 3B Ian Stewart to AAA to get his game up to speed. Stewart battled injuries during spring training and hasn’t really gotten into the flow of the season. He should be recalled when he proves that his timing has returned.

The Giants make it official and send Brandon Belt down to AAA Fresno. Manager Bruce Bochy wants Belt to play every day and work on a few things before coming back to the majors.

Andrew McCutchen has received permission to leave the Pirates to attend to a personal matter.

The Reds injured starter Homer Bailey has experienced some soreness and fatigue in his shoulder and will have his next start pushed back a few days. With the Reds starting pitching depth, there’s no reason for them to rush Bailey back and could even leave him in the minors for another month or so.

The Diamondbacks first baseman of the future, Paul Goldschmidt, is hammering the ball at AA and has to be on the D’backs radar for a possible summer call up if he continues to dominate in the minors.

Bobby Parnell has struggled in his 8th inning role so far this season for the Mets and now could have some blood clotting problems. This is going to move Jason Isringhausen into Parnell’s setup role.

 

Streak of the Day

The Royals Alex Gordon extended his career long hitting streaks to 14 games and the Dodgers Andre Ethier dominated last night by coming a triple away from the cycle and extending his hitting streak to 17 games.

 

Top Thursday Matchups

3:10 EDT Braves (Jurrjens 1-0, 1.00) at Dodgers (Kershaw 2-2, 2.96)

10:05 EDT Red Sox (Beckett 2-1, 1.80) at Angels (Chatwood 1-1, 3.75)

10:05 EDT Phillies (Oswalt 2-0, 2.50) at Padres (Latos 0-2, 5.84)

10:10 EDT Athletics (McCarthy 1-0, 2.45) at Mariners (Hernandez 1-2, 4.33)

 

Last night’s balks: 5

  • Collin Balester of the Nationals against the Cardinals
  • Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies against the Giants
  • Rafael Betancourt of the Rockies against the Giants
  • Luke Hochevar of the Royals committed 2 against the Indians

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.