2010 Baltimore Orioles Preview

Kevin Millwood, RHP
Jeremy Guthrie, RHP
Bradley Bergesen, RHP
Brian Matusz, LHP
Chris Tillman, RHP

Closers and Setup
Mike Gonzalez, RHP
Jim Johnson, RHP

Starting Lineup
Brian Roberts, 2B
Adam Jones, CF
Nick Markakis, RF
Miguel Tejada, 3B
Luke Scott, DH
Garrett Atkins, 1B
Nolan Reimold, LF
Matt Wieters, C
Cesar Izturis, SS

Player in Decline

Garrett Atkins wasn’t exactly a world-beater in 2009 with Colorado (posting a wRC+ of 67), and, yes, his .247 BABIP was considerably below his career average. That said, Atkins’ home/away splits over his career suggest that he’s unlikely to provide the sort of production a first baseman ought to.

Player on the Rise

Pick a pitcher, any pitcher. Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Brandon Erbe, and Jake Arrieta are all poised to produce at the Major League level sooner than later. Matusz probably has the most polish right now, though, and CHONE agrees: 4.59 ERA, 7.20 K/9, 3.42 BB/9.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Brian Roberts: Elite
Nick Markakis: Elite
Adam Jones: Average
Miguel Tejada: Average
Luke Scott: Deep League

Top 10 Prospects
1. Brian Matusz, LHP
2. Josh Bell, 3B
3. Brandon Erbe, RHP
4. Jake Arrieta, RHP
5. Zach Britton, LHP
6. Matt Hobgood, RHP
7. Brandon Snyder, 1B
8. Caleb Joseph, C
9. Kam Mickolio, RHP
10. Mychal Givens, SS

Overall team outlook: Though unlikely to compete in 2010, the Orioles organization is building a core of young, talented players who will make the team interesting for the next few years. In the meantime, a couple of curious veteran signings are bound to raise questions about the savvy of the front office.

The Starting Rotation: New acquisition Kevin Millwood will be the nominal No. 1 in 2010, and the move from Texas might have a somewhat tonic effect on his numbers. Jeremy Guthrie lost 17 games in 2009, and, even more worrisome, saw his strikeout rate fall below 5.00 K/9 and ground-ball rate below 35%. CHONE projects a slight rebound, but the outlook isn’t fantastic. Brad Bergesen isn’t necessarily a sweet fantasy play with his 4.5 or so strikeouts per nine, but he avoids walks and gets ground balls at about a 50% clip, which should give him success as a Major Leaguer.

Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman were, until last year, the most promising pitching prospects (say that five times fast) in the organization. This year, the O’s hope that they develop into the most productive pitchers on the staff. Despite an underwhelming 100 innings in 2009, David Hernandez remains an interesting case, due to his excellent minor league strikeout numbers.

The Bullpen: Flush with cash entering the offseason, Baltimore signed Mike Gonzalez to two-year deal worth $12 million. Gonzalez has fantastic stuff – there’s no ignoring it – but the wisdom of such a decision is questionable, as (a) Gonzalez is an injury risk, and (b) that sort of money might’ve made sense elsewhere on the roster. Jim Johnson closed games last year after Baltimore shipped George Sherrill to Los Angeles. Reliever Cla Meredith has a wacky 67.1% ground-ball rate for his career.

The Starting Lineup: Brian Roberts remains a fixture at the top of the Baltimore lineup. CHONE and ZiPS both like him to sustain about a .360 OBP and steal 30 bases. Adam Jones is in a race with Chris Tillman to embarrass former Seattle GM Bill Bavasi, who orchestrated the Erik Bedard trade a couple seasons ago. He raked last year before injury curtailed his production. Nick Markakis’ 113 wRC+ last year didn’t live up to his excellent 2008. He’s signed through 2014, so the Baltimore front office will be crossing their collective fingers.

Miguel Tejada returns to the site of at least some of his conquests. His walk rate slipped to troublingly low levels in Houston. Basically, as his batting average goes, so goes Tejada. Acquired by Baltimore in the trade that sent Tejada to Houston in the first place, Luke Scott is a useful piece – and a better fielder than the DH label would suggest. Oh, Garrett Atkins. Nolan Reimold took advantage of his first shot at Major League pitching, posting a 123 wRC+. An Achilles injury apparently harassed him for much of last season. Not everyone believes in God; Matt Wieters, on the other hand… Cesar Izturis is hanging around for his glove. He’s actually been worth about a win afield each of these last three years.

The Bench: Ty Wigginton is a unique back-up infielder in that he plays all infield positions with equal levels of mediocrity. You can say this for him: he can hit. As Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold dealt with injury last season, Felix Pie demonstrated why he was once a highly rated prospect in the Cubs’ system, flashing the leather to the tune of 6.9 runs above average in less than half of a season’s worth of playing time. He enters 2010 as Baltimore’s fourth outfielder.

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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