The Baltimore Orioles are one of those teams for which the line between Current and Future Talent is a little blurry. Though the club has as yet to solidify its 25-man roster, whichever group they send northward, it will consist of at least five — and, very possibly, seven or eight — players who made their major league debuts last season. Nor does that tally include players like Adam Jones or Felix Pie who, despite their relative experience, won’t even turn 26 before the end of 2010.
Well-known superhero (and sometime catcher) Matt Wieters did not, in fact, save the planet last season. Still, he actually hit pretty well down the stretch (.354/.420/.525 over his last 112 PA, with improved BB/K ratio). CHONE rates the second-year player at 4.0 WAR. Center fielder Adam Jones won a Gold Glove in center last season. That probably shouldn’t have happened, but it’s not Jones’ fault. He should play a league-average-y center while hitting above league average.
Left fielder Nolan Reimold didn’t make his major league debut till the middle of May, but when injuries befell teammates Luke Scott and the aforementioned Jones, it was difficult for Baltimore not to give a chance to Reimold and the .394/.485/.743 line he put up in Norfolk.
If you want the brass tacks on right fielder Nick Markakis’s down 2009, Jack Moore’s article on the same is the place to go. Here’s the most interesting thing you’ll probably learn from it, though: last season, Markakis saw a drop in Z-Swing and an increase in O-Swing. The Orioles hope that sitch straightens itself out before he gets too far along in the six-year, $66.1 deal to which they signed him prior to least season.
Luke Scott isn’t a bad hitter at all, but gets hit hard by the DH positional adjustment. It’s not clear that he’s actually a worse fielder than Nolan Reimold, but Baltimore appears committed to giving the latter all the time he needs in left.
Likely first baseman Garrett Atkins and fellow corner infielder Miguel Tejada are not — nor are they intended to be — long-term solutions at their repsective positions. Suitably, they’re each signed to one-year deals.
Shortstop Cesar Izturis is a liability with the bat, with CHONE and ZiPS calling for 69 and 68 wRC+s, respectively. If it were possible to bat him 10th in the lineup, Manager Dave Trembley might consider it. Still, he’s been worth two full wins afield the last two years while netting fewer than 900 PA. Oh, and while we’re at it, we might as well consider the guy who’s been the team’s best player for awhile: second baser Brian Roberts signed a four-year, $40M extension before last season that begins this year. Reports out of spring training that Roberts’ back is a problem are not particularly encouraging, but CHONE projects a 3.2 WAR and, as we all know, projections are designed to be completely accurate exactly 100% of the time.
Sitting on the bench you’ll almost definitely see Felix Pie and Ty Wigginton. The former can play any outfield position well and is interesting because of his youth and pedigree; the latter can play any infield position below average-ly and is interesting because, despite a body type that belongs in the Before column, is still a major league baseball player. (And, fine, he can hit, too. Usually, at least.) A fierce battle is raging at back-up catcher between Chad Moeller and Craig Tatum. I can barely contain my excitement.
As Marc Hulet will almost definitely shout to the heavens in the Future Talent version of this report, the Orioles have a cadre of young, high ceiling starters. Of that group, lefty Brian Matusz and righty Chris Tillman combine potential with ability to contribute immediately. It’s probably not best to expect the biggest of things from either this year, but something in the vicinity of league average may not be crazy talk.
Also in the discussion is Brad Bergesen, who will probably enter the season as the third starter despite the fact that he very likely is what he is. One thing “he is” is the guy who led all Baltimore pitchers in WAR in 2009 (2.3). According to our own Bryan Smith, he has the sort of sinker that could go unrecognized at lower levels but still make him a useful major leaguer.
Rumor has it that Jeremy Guthrie was once a highly touted prospect. Now he’s a 31-year-old coming off 200 innings of 5.22 xFIP pitching. If he can hit the 200 IP mark again while FIP-ing under five, that makes him something, at least — and probably worth the $3M he’s being paid. Old Man Kevin Millwood will spend the last year of his five-year, $60M contract — originally signed with Texas — as the “ace” in Baltimore.
Right handers David Hernandez and Jason Berken made their respective debuts last season. Despite his giant minor league strikeout totals, Hernandez might not have the overall repertoire to gets outs as a major league starter. Look for him in the bullpen at some point. Koji Uehara actually didn’t pitch poorly at all last year in his Stateside debut, posting a 1.6 WAR in just 12 starts. The problem was that kept straining his thigh and elbow. A move to the bullpen is one possible remedy for that, although, as we speak, the 35-year-old is dealing with — what? — a strained hamstring.
Though it’s not Brandon Lyon-bad, the O’s signing of Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12M deal is a head-scratcher for a team that will almost assuredly not be contending this season. What’s more, Baltimore has young-ish Jim Johnson, who became the team’s closer after the departure of George Sherrill to the Dodgers. Also of note here are Cla Meredith — he of the immense ground-ball rate — and Kam Mickolio — he of the immense Man Body. Matt Albers, Mark Hendrickson, and Will Ohman all own Baltimore Orioles jerseys, and will — for better or worse — probably wear them at some point this season.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.