Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles have been one of the most consistent franchises in all of baseball over the last five years; unfortunately, that is not a good thing. The Orioles have won 69, 68, 64, 66, and 69 games over the last five seasons. 2012 does not offer much hope, especially in the brutally tough AL East.

The Orioles have some interesting players on the roster: Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Adam Jones are all all-star caliber players, and Mark Reynolds is good for 30 HR's each year, if you can accept shotty defense, and 200 strikeouts. J.J. Hardy seems under-appreciated as well; last year he hit 30 HR's, led all AL shortstops with a .491 slugging percentage, and is dependable as they come in the field. Brian Roberts, a former all-star 2nd baseman, is battling concussion issues, so he might not start the year on the active roster. Wilson Betemit, formerly of the Royals and Tigers, should get some at-bats as the DH. Here is what I believe Baltimore's lineup will look like on Opening Day.

2B: Robert Andino
SS: J.J. Hardy
RF: Nick Markakis
CF: Adam Jones
1B: Mark Reynolds
3B: Chris Davis
C:   Matt Wieters
DH:  Wilson Betemit
LF: Nolan Reimold

On the outside: Two intriguing names who could get at-bats for the Orioles are Matt Antonelli and Jai Miller. Both will be 27 by the start of the season, and they could play a key role for the O's. Antonelli is expected to get a chance to start at 3rd, and has the ability to play 2nd, 3rd, and SS. Miller hit 32 HR's in AAA last year, and could push Nolan Reimold for playing time.

While the O's have a pretty decent lineup, their pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. They traded Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado, and received Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom in return. The O's raided Asia for 2/5 of their projected rotation in Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen. Both are left-handed, although Chen is supposed to have more upside. Wada is a soft-tosser, and his fastball tops off in the mid-80's. Hammel, Zack Britton, Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta. should be in the mix as well. Here is how I see their rotation:

SP: Wei-Yin Chen
SP:  Jason Hammel
SP: Tsuyoshi Wada
SP: Zack Britton
SP: Jake Arrieta

On the outside: Brian Matsuz seemed poised for stardom after his rookie season, winning 10 games, and finishing fifth in the rookie of the year race. Last season, he imploded, with an ERA over 10, and a 1-9 record. He will need a big spring to crack the Orioles roster.

The Orioles are expected to go with Jim Johnson, a very solid set-up guy as the closer. The Orioles got a first-hand experience on how terrible Kevin Gregg, and are not likely to go through that again. Matt Lindstrom could also get a shot at closing games.

Final analysis: The Orioles will not contend in 2012, and should finish in last again. This team just does not have a shot to compete in their division. Projected finish: 69-93, 5th in AL East.

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