Regular Season Preview: The Baltimore Orioles
Next up in the Regular Season Preview series: The Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles had a bad 2008. However, if it weren’t for an utterly terrible final two months, the team would’ve been decent. They were 52 & 56 at the beginning of August. The problem with this team was their pitching. Jeremy Guthrie was the only good starter they had. In fact, he was the only one with an ERA under 5.00. Their offense was pretty solid; they were 9th in the league in runs scored. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts will keep that lineup strong for years to come. It gets better, too. Youngsters Adam Jones and of course Matt Wieters could make a huge impact. Felix Pie will be given a chance to win the left field job in the spring; he could make a nice #2 hitter if he finds out how to be on base. Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott are also solid regulars playing at first base and DH. The more I look at their lineup, the more I like it.
The key to this team for 2009 is their pitching. Guthrie will be solid once again, but starters 2-5 have some big question marks. The team added four starters for depth this offseason. Koji Uehara came over from Japan, Mark Hendrickson was signed, and Brad Hennessey was picked up from the scrap heap. Rich Hill was acquired in a trade with the Cubs, also. He has a ton of upside as shown by his 2007 numbers. If he could reharness his control, the Orioles will have a great pitcher on their hands. If Hill bounces back, Uehara has a Hiroki Kuroda like year, and one other of the young pitchers steps up, this could be an average rotation.
A lot of things will have to go right for the Orioles to just hit .500, and it’s almost impossible to see the Orioles finishing atop the loaded AL East. I like this team’s nucleus of young talent, though. They have some nice hitters, and the lineup should get even better with Matt Wieters coming up. By next year it’s possible that their top pitching prospects, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta will be in the MLB. Those three could make a big difference. The Orioles will have a lot of money coming off the books once the season ends, so they should be able to and willing to sign an experienced veteran to slot in behind Guthrie. An additional bat could also be added if needed.
This season is for the Orioles find out what they have, and what they need. They are definitely a team on the rise, and could possibly be competing by 2010 or 2011. Even with the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees sitting there, the O’s will at least have a chance. They have a direction now, and that’s something that they haven’t had for a while.