Monday, February 22, 2010

The Outfield: Endless Possibilities

Through my tour of the Baltimore Orioles presumed starting lineup position by position, I've talked about some players who may be reclamation projects, stop gaps, and some guys already set in stone for the future. Now, I'm ready to talk about a few of the main reasons why the Orioles and their fans should get excited about the future. Three names come to mind when people outside of the Orioles organization are hit with the subject of the team: Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, and Nick Markakis.

These three ballplayers are all 25 years old or younger, and each of them possesses a wealth of baseball and athletic talent. Jones is a fleet-footed center fielder who has already won a gold glove at the age of 24, while Markakis has batted .300 and gone over 100 RBI's twice in his four year career. Reimold burst onto the scene in 2009 showing the ability to get on base and hit home runs.

Tomorrow I will begin my in-depth preview of each of these players before I get to the pitchers.

Up tomorrow:

Adam Jones

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Reclamation Project

Garrett Atkins comes to the Orioles as perhaps the most intriguing position player. From 2006-2008, Atkins averaged 25 home runs and over 100 rbi. However, Atkins hit .226 in 2009, and lost his starting spot for the Colorado Rockies.

Nobody really knows what to expect from Atkins. If he is able to restore his previous power supply, he will be a huge help to the Orioles. Hitting coach Terry Crowly has already expressed his excitement in taking Atkins, and turning him into the player he was before.

Atkins, who played in the 2007 World Series for the Rockies, is a very talented player. His power is undeniable in terms of how hard and far he got bop it, but it must show up in games. Atkins will play first base for the O's, which is a bit different for him because he played third for most of his career. I don't think there is much difference other than being able to pick balls out of the dirt, and finding your way around the bag at first.


I am looking forward to seeing how Atkins does. I don't believe he will be able to hit the 25 home runs he averaged from '06-08, but I think 15-20 home runs is highly attainable. His defense will be average to above-average in my opinion, and he will have a very solid average. I can see him hitting around .280 or .290. Atkins became an afterthought after his bad 2009 season, but he is hungry and ready to prove people wrong. The Orioles got him on a one year deal, therefore, they can do what they want with him. Big season? Extend him. Solid season? Trade him for solid prospects.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mr. Oriole, Jr.

From 2001-2010, Brian Roberts has been with the Baltimore Orioles. Now, entering his 10th season with the ballclub, Roberts is certainly one of the most popular Orioles of the past decade. In fact, Roberts has signed a contract extension that will keep him with the club for likely the remainder of his career. Roberts has stated in the past that loyalty is important to him, and he would like to be a player that stays with one team for his entire career, which is a rarity in today's game.

Entering 2010, Roberts must see what is the most talented team he's been on since he arrived from the minors nine years ago. He finally sees young talent around him that is growing, and most likely will continue to grow and develop. At age 32, Roberts knows the next few years are critical for him if he ever wants to play in the postseason.

Roberts hit .283 in 2009 with a league leading 56 doubles and 16 home runs. Although he isn't necessarily thought of as a power threat, he still slugs .421 annually, which is not bad considering he is 5'9" tall on a good day.

Roberts has undoubtedly been one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball for the past five years. He is a given to steal 30-50 bases, hit 40-55 doubles, and score over 100 runs. The fact that he is a switch hitter makes him even more dangerous. His feel for the game is unmistakably evident when he plays whether it be in the field, on the bases, or hitting. The one thing I would like to see Roberts do more is bunt. The bunt is a big weapon as even the threat of a bunt moves a third basemen in, thus, creating a better opportunity to hit a ball by him down the line.

Defensively, Roberts makes the routine plays look easy. He is able to get to the ball on his left and right fluidly and with ease, and can make every throw from his second base spot. He will never win a gold glove because he isn't the best second basemen nor does he make flashy plays (mostly because he gets to balls so easily he rarely dives) but Roberts is as solid a fielder as there is in the game these days.


Roberts will most likely have a common year for him. He'll hit around 50 doubles, steal over 30 bags, and hit between 10-20 home runs. He averages over 155 games per year, so he plays everyday. People have gotten on him for not running every ball out to first, but make no mistake about it, he plays with passion and fire everyday. Roberts is quiet leader of the Orioles whose hard work and dedication to the game earn the respect of his teammates. I look for him to have a very solid season in 2010, and to finally break the .500 win mark with the club.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Shortstop of the present

The Baltimore Orioles of 2008 used so many shortstops, I thought I saw Cal Ripken, Jr. at one point during August. Going into 2009, General Manager Andy MacPhail knew he needed to stabilize the position with one solid shortstop, and quite possibly a utility type, too. MacPhail did exactly that in adding Cesar Izturis and Robert Andino.

Izturis was once a very highly touted prospect when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays. He is an exceptionally gifted fielder who can glide to the baseball in the hole with ease, and has just enough of an arm to make every routine. Izturis hit just .256 with two home runs (including a memorable one on opening day) but everybody knows why he's with the Orioles. Izturis solidifies the most important infield position.


Izturis will never win a batting title, hit three home runs in a season, or win an MVP, but he is a very important part of the 2010 Orioles. When there is a black hole at the shortstop position in baseball, your team will be bad defensively and its pitching staff will suffer considerably. I'm not sure how long the Orioles will stick with Izturis for the long haul, but if I had to guess I'd say two more years. The Orioles don't have a significant shortstop prospect in the minors who's pushing him, and unless they draft a college shortstop in 2010 or make a trade, I can't see them just giving Izturis away. I look for Izturis to have a solid season. He'll hit between .260 and .270 with 10-20 steals, and a few home runs.

Tomorrow's player preview:

Brian Roberts

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blast from the Past: Miguel Tejada

With the signing of new third basemen Miguel Tejada, it seems the Baltimore Orioles have come full circle. Tejada was traded in 2007 to Houston for Luke Scott and a host of minor league pitchers because Orioles General Manager Andy MacPhail knew the club needed to rebuild if it had any chance of competing in the American League East division.
It was thought that Tejada was a malcontent who burned bridges towards the end of his tenure in Baltimore. That's why his signing more than two years later to be the new third basemen is an intriguing look into how people misconstrue situations. Quite frankly, Tejada was tired of losing in Baltimore, and it wore on him to the point that he seemed done. In Houston, however, he went to two straight all-star games as a shortstop, and had 199 hits in 2009. Tejada seems far from done. In fact, he seems ready to do what he set out to do in Baltimore when he first signed here in 2003: win.

Tejada is no longer the 30 homer threat he was when he got to Baltimore in 2003. Nor is he the MVP threat or the stellar defensive shortstop. Tejada hit .313 in 2009 for the Houston Astros with a .340 OBP. Tejada is a professional hitter, and can hit to all fields. Even though he doesn't hit many home runs, Tejada still is a doubles machine accounting for 46 in 2009.
Tejada is going to move to third base to finish out his career. This is a move I believe can work because of his athleticism, instincts for the game, strong arm, and strong work ethic. Tejada will undoubtedly spend the whole of spring training taking ground balls, and learning the new position. He is by all accounts a stickler for honing his craft, and these kinds of guys usually thrive at pro level.


I see this as a win-win move for the Orioles. It is a one year deal for a guy who has been here before, has shown he will play everyday, and a guy who is still very productive. Tejada is not the same player he was the first time around, but he is still going to bring his intangibles to the clubhouse. Tejada is seen as a stepping-block at third before top prospect Josh Bell makes his way to the Orioles, but if Bell is ready by mid-summer, I can see the Orioles bringing him up and moving Tejada to the DH role. I'm very excited to see how Miguel does with the Orioles this season. I can see him giving the club between 180-200 hits, 40 doubles, 10-15 home runs, and depending on where he bats, close to 80 or 90 rbi's. Kudos to MacPhail for not being the type of guy who closes doors on past players. I can see this move working out very well for the Orioles.

Tomorrow's player Preview:

SS Cesar Izturis

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Future: C Matt Wieters

Today marks the first day of my position by position preview of the 2010 Baltimore Orioles. The first player up on my dial? Catcher Matt Wieters

Perhaps no player has ever been as hyped before stepping to the plate in a Major League Baseball game than catcher Matt Wieters. Wieters, the 5th overall selection in the 2007 MLB Draft, burst onto the scene in the minor leagues batting a combined .343 with 32 home runs and 121 RBI in a combined 169 games. To say that he was dominating competition at the plate would be a bit of an understatement. Wieters was named by many as the majors top prospect, and was already being called one of the best catchers of his generation: all before he played a single game. These are hard standards to live up to, but Wieters did his best, and came away with a very promising season.

Wieters struggled mightily in his first month as he got acclimated to not only the tougher pitching, but the demands of catching in the major leagues. He was not throwing out runners, and seemed to rush himself in many phases of the game. However, Wieters never seemed to waver or show signs of a fading confidence level ending the season hitting .323 in September. Wieters finished the season overall leading rookies with a .288 average. He ended up hitting nine homers to go with 43 RBI's. Perhaps the best statistic is that he got on base at a .340 clip. This not only shows a good eye, but a knack to get on base even when he's not seeing the baseball very well at the plate.

Defensively, we started to see Wieters take control of his pitching staff. He had to guide pitchers his age or even younger as the Orioles rebuilding plan was in full effect by June. He started throwing players out at a much higher rate, too. Perhaps the best part of Wieters, and it makes me forget the Ramon Hernandez era very quickly, is his ability and desire to protect the plate. He blocks anything and everything, and will stand his ground and protect the plate on plays at home plate. Wieters figures to only get better at his defensive craft, especially as the young pitchers grow with him.


I believe this will be a breakout season for Wieters. The hype that proceeded his arrival to the big leagues is gone, and he can finally relax as he started to in the latter stages of last season. He is clearly a major talent, and I can easily see him hitting 20 home runs and driving in close to 90-100 runs. His defensive talent and poise will continue to shine through as well. If Wieters is put in the four, five, or six hole in the lineup, I believe he will have ample opportunities to drive in runs.

Tomorrow's player Preview:

Miguel Tejada

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We are Six days away!

The Baltimore Orioles are six days away from the magical term: "Pitchers and catchers report." That's right, six days until the baseball season's spring training season is underway in Arizona and Florida. All 30 teams believe they have done what they can to improve themselves, and in the case of the Orioles, the time has come to start winning baseball games.

It's been my opinion that the Orioles didn't try to win games last season. Did they tank a season? Absolutely not. Did they maybe tank a few games they could have won to get more experience for their young players? Absolutely, no doubt about it. Now is the time for the Orioles to put it together and start winning those games.

I cannot wait to see how this season plays out for the Orioles. They've gained experience in many areas including pitching. Adding Kevin Millwood to this staff provides a veteran presence and innings eater this team hasn't had in quite some time. In fact, the last time they had a guy like this was in 2000 with Mike Mussina. Millwood will anchor a rotation that will include Brian Matusz, Jeremy Guthrie, and most likely Chris Tillman. I'll get to those guys in more depth later.

I'm going to be doing a little preview for each starter and what I expect out of them. I'll be starting tomorrow, and I will start with the position players. Tomorrow's Oriole?

C Matt Wieters

I'm going to try and update this blog as much as I can during the season. I'll occasionally throw in some Ravens posts, too. Hopefully, I will be able to add pictures, too.