Season Preview: Baltimore Orioles
Projected MLB Rank: 28th — AL Rank: 13th — AL East Rank: 5th — Record: (67-95)
Playing the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees, and Blue Jays for a majority of your schedule, wouldn’t play in your favor. Well being the weakest team in the division, that’s the position the Orioles are put into this season. Prior to last season, they had the [Devil] Rays to take the bottom spot and share the woes in the AL East. But now the young Rays have proved they are an elite team in the league, winning the AL East last season.
However, if you take a look at the Rays, they came out of no where last season. So the good news for the O’s is that anything is possible and everyone’s records start at 0-0 when the first pitch of the year is thrown. Plus, they remodeled the bird this year. The Rays changed their look last year and Orioles do it this year.
This year’s Orioles possess some elite talents and some developing players. Brian Roberts has become one of the best second baseman in the game today behind Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler, and fellow AL East-er Dustin Pedrioa. The switch hitter is a career .284 hitter and scores runs and steals bases at the top of the order and gives Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff, and Melvin Mora many chances to put runs on the board. Markakis is becoming an elite outfielder and he just signed a big contract this past offseason. Fellow outfielder, Adam Jones had a good rookie campaign while battling an injury and should continue to develop this season.
Huff quietly had a great 2008. He batted .304 with 32 homeruns and 108 RBIs. He is coming into his tenth big league season and should get his chances to produce once again in the hitter friendly Camden Yards. The two weak spots in the lineup are shortstop Cesar Izturis and catcher Gregg Zaun. Izturis is an awful hitter but will be starting at short most likely and Zaun will probably start the season as the starting catcher, barring how the highly regarded prospect Matt Wieters does in spring training. Once Wieters becomes the starting catcher and develops into the hitter they hope him to be, this lineup will become so much better.
Jeremy Guthrie leads the rotation and had a pretty good 2008 with a 3.63 ERA while going 10-12 in 30 starts. “Rookie” Koji Uehara is 33 years old and from what I hear, is past his prime but will be a solid starter for Baltimore. Lefty Chris Waters in coming into his second year. He started 11 games and went 3-5 with a 5.01 ERA so don’t expect big things. Another southpaw, Rich Hill, will hopefully be healthy this year. Radhames Liz will hope to make the rotation but needs to find his control first. Once he does that, he will become a much better pitcher because he throws hard and has a great breaking ball.
The closer’s job looks like it will be going to George Sherrill to start the year but if Chris Ray, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, shows he can handle the closer’s job again, expect him to take the job because of Sherrill’s walk ratio. Overall, the rest of the bullpen is subpar, especially in this tough division.
Now, I wouldn’t rule out fourth place this year for the Orioles, or maybe even a Raysesque run. Most likely not (hence why I have ranked them at 28) but don’t rule out Baltimore.
The World Baseball Classic rosters are set. The United States roster looks more promising than last time. The US is in Pool C with Canada, Venezula, and Italy and opens up the tournament playing in Toronto.
The tournament runs from March 5th-23rd in anywhere from Tokyo to San Juan and ending in Los Angeles. (http://mlb.mlb.com/wbc/2009/schedule/brackets.jsp) You can find the official WBC bracket there.
The US roster consists of players from 21 different MLB teams and is one of only two rosters that are made up of all MLB players. Here is how I think the lineup should be:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Grady Sizemore
LF Ryan Braun
DH Chipper Jones
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF Brad Hawpe
3B David Wright
C Brian McCann
2B Dustin Pedrioa
However, I am not Davey Johnson and I’m almost positive that Derek Jeter will start at shortstop. Curtis Granderson would be the first pinch runner most likely and Mark DeRosa looks like he will be the infield utility guy. Chris Iannetta backs up McCann behind the dish. The starting pitchers featured on the roster are Jeremy Guthrie, Ted Lilly, Roy Oswalt, and Jake Peavy. The rotation may shape up to look something along the lines of Peavy, Oswalt, Lilly, then Guthrie.
The bullpen is probably one of the strongest in the whole classic. The US boasts established closers like Brian Fuentes, Joe Nathan, JJ Putz, and BJ Ryan. The bullpen features emerging closers like Jonathan Broxton, Matt Lindstrom, and Brad Ziegler. It also contains guys like JP Howell, Scot Shields, and Matt Thornton. In the ninth I would hand the ball to Fuentes to face lefthanded hitters and Nathan to face righties.
I am most excited to watch the US play and to see how Brad Hawpe plays among all stars and how Johnson utilizes the extremely talented bullpen he has.
In other notes, how great is it to see mlb.com with the games of the day on the left side bar again? I am so relieved to hear that everyday we are getting closer to the season. The first spring training games start tomorrow with most of them at 1pm or 3pm. However at 7pm the Twins take on the Red Sox as Tim Wakefield takes the mound.
In honor of the first spring training games, I will start to release my projections for this season (as I mentioned in the previous post). I will start from who I think will finish last in the league working my way up to the best record previewing the teams’ seasons along the way. Tomorrow I’ll release who I think will be at the bottom of the barrel and here’s a clue, it’s one of these four teams…