Previewing the AL East: Baltimore Orioles

Stacey Long of Camden Chat was nice enough to write a preview of her team. I believe they'll finally get out of last place in the division, not only because Toronto lost Roy Halladay, but because Baltimore has some great, young talent.

The 2010 season promises to be different for the Orioles and their fans than the dozen or so years preceding. Unless things accelerate much faster than anyone anticipates, they won't contend, but vast improvement is certainly on the minds of management, the players, the fans, and the media. Having won just 64 games in 2009 and without a winning season since 1997, the time for improvement is long overdue, but Orioles fans are happy to finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

The Orioles' off season won't wow anyone as GM Andy MacPhail essentially performed triage on several positions in order to provide structure for the young players on the team to flourish. Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood, 1B Garrett Atkins, closer Mike Gonzalez, and SS turning 3B Miguel Tejada will join (or in Tejada's case, re-join) the Orioles for the 2010 season. Gonzalez was given a two year deal but the other three will be gone after 2010. Millwood should provide some stability to a very young rotation, Gonzalez has established himself as a very reliable bullpen presence, and Atkins and Tejada are acting as placeholders for minor leaguers 3B Josh Bell and 1B Brandon Snyder.

Any real improvement by the Orioles in 2010 and beyond will be the result of the improvement of the young players already in place. Outfielders Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold have potential to be one of the best young outfields in baseball with 4th outfielder Felix Pie providing outstanding defense and a bat with some pop off the bench. The much hyped catcher Matt Wieters stumbled a bit upon his promotion in 2009 but closed the season on a surge and looks poised for a good year in 2010. The infield is still littered with old guys including the aforementioned Atkins and Tejada at the corners, defensive wiz but unfortunately very light hitting Cesar Izturis at SS, and team veteran Brian Roberts at 2B.

The 2009 Orioles had a terrible starting rotation that can only improve in 2010. Millwood will take the reins as the #1 pitcher, pushing 3 year veteran Jeremy Guthrie down a slot. The rest of the rotation will be built with three of the Orioles young pitchers. Brad Bergesen had a very successful rookie campaign in 2009 and will attempt to replicate it in 2010. Bergesen pitches to contact and is a groundball machine, projecting to be a solid mid-to-back of the rotation starter. Brian Matusz is the future ace of the Orioles. He made 8 starts for the O's in 2009, the last of which was a domination of the Yankees in New York, the memory of which has kept Orioles fans warm over the winter. Chris Tillman will be just 22 in 2010 and has good movement on his fastball and a great curve, but he'll have to improve his command if he wants to find success.

If all goes right with the Orioles in 2010 they'll break their 12 year streak of losing seasons and be poised to play with the big boys in 2011. Without the resources to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox financially, the Orioles are banking on the success of their young players, and when the time comes, to use free agency for the final pieces. It's a gamble to be sure, but if it pans out the Orioles will have the core to play competitive baseball for years to come.

 

Thanks, Stacey. I have no doubt the O's will be tougher this year than any in recent memory.

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