Thursday, November 5, 2009

They'll be back, Part 2

Matt Wieters will lead the promising Orioles offense into the future.

Now onto the hitters...

Brian Roberts' 2009 season was one of the few bright spots for the Orioles, when he totaled more than 50 doubles for the third time in his career. At age 32, Roberts could experience some regression going forward, meaning that he will no longer be a lock for an .800+ OPS season any longer. His range at 2B has also diminished somewhat, but, Roberts should be valuable for the length of his contract. His OBP is still decent for a leadoff hitter, and even if Roberts doesn't get those two-baggers into the fifties anymore, you can still pencil him in for 40 or more. Roberts is probably the most consistent Oriole player since Cal Ripken so there is no reason to expect a drastic slide from him yet. I'll go ahead and say Roberts will be good for a .285 AVG, 10 HR, 65 RBI, and an OPS right around .800.

There's no denying that Adam Jones was on fire for the month of April and May last year. However, after the weather warmed up, Jonsey cooled off. Jones also had a knack for playing too shallow in CF which led to him running back on flyballs and having them get over his head. That's easily fixable though. Jones battled nicks and scratches here and there and failed to play more than 120 games. So forget Jones' hot/cold streaks, let's just see if he can stay healthy for the length of one season first. But when healthy, I do expect Jones to put up a line like he did last year -- .280/20/80 with an OPS around .820. He'll just be more consistent throughout the entire season instead of doing it all within 2 months.

Nick Markakis had a setback in 2009. After having an OPS just a shade below .900 in 2008, Markakis had an OPS a shade above .800 in '09. He became almost predictable at the plate, refusing to swing at first pitch meatballs. But ironically, his refusal to swing lead to him walking 43 times less than he did in 2008. Markakis stays healthy, and is largely consistent despite going through two prolonged slumps last year (.719 OPS in May, .642 OPS in September), so I do expect him to bounce back in a big way in 2010 thanks to the continued improvement (and protection) of Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters. You can also chalk Markakis' struggles up to Aubrey Huff sucking in '09. I'd throw a 2010 Markakis line of .300/23/100/.860 out there without batting an eyelash.

Nolan Reimold was the Orioles' best hitter as a rookie in 2009. Too bad he was sidelined with an Achilles injury that caused him to miss some time. That injury might also effect him in '10, so expect to see Reimold spending a lot of time in the DH spot next year. There's also been some rumblings of Reimold moving over to 1B to keep him healthy, since Felix Pie has pretty much wrapped up the LF position going forward. Bill James has a big season projected for Reimold, and I do too -- .300/30/90/.880.

Matt Wieters was the #1 prospect in all of baseball coming into last season. And while he did struggle at times in 2009, he eventually got going (.882 OPS in September). Wieters and Reimold could become a minor version of the Bash Brothers in 2010. It's because of these two players that I have high hopes for this offense, which was tepid in '09. Wieters should cruise to a .280/25/100/.900 line pretty easily barring injury.

Felix Pie was another bright spot in the second half of the Orioles season along with Roberts and Wieters. He posted a 1.045 OPS in August. And despite his blunders on the bases, Pie looks to have wrapped up the LF position with his blazing speed. I think Pie is going to be a streaky hitter, much like Luke Scott, so I can't really pinpoint his projections. But I'll say a .260/15/60 line shouldn't be too far off.

No one is expecting much out of Caesar Izturis other than solid defense at SS and Izturis at least fit that bill in '09. It would be nice if he could get his OPS up around .700 for one season, but that might be asking too much since he's only had an OPS above .700 once in his career, and that was back in 2004. Looks like we're in for another .250/2/30/.630 season from our SS in 2010.

Ty Wigginton was a disappointment in 2009. His career OPS was over .800 and last year he barely got it over .700. He looks to be the opening day 3B and should hold it down until prospect Josh Bell is ready, so hopefully Wigginton will bounce back, but I have a tough time seeing it. Wigginton looked pretty bad at the plate in 2009. He was almost like a right-handed Jay Gibbons with his infield pop-ups and double-play grounders. I'd be surprised if he gets back to his career averages. It's a good thing the Orioles won't be counting on him other than to keep 3B warm for Bell. .250/10/40/.760

Luke Scott is not included in this because I believe he will be traded this offseason. I believe Reimold will become the DH, and while Scott could also learn 1B, I expect Andy MacPhail to sign a stop-gap option like Carlos Delgado, Nick Johnson or Hideki Matsui while Brandon Snyder is primed to take over the position. I like Scott, but his hot/cold streaks are tedious, and he looks to be squeezed out of a role this offseason. Scott might be able to fetch a good return if he's packaged with a lower-level pitching prospect.

So there you have it...those are who I feel will be the definites to return in an Oriole uniform in 2010.

Do these projections give you hope that the Orioles can compete in 2010? Or do you think they are still a long way off?


Anonymous said...

I think that they can contend depending on the consistency of their pitching. But just look at the Angels and Phillies and Red Sox...They had completely solid lineups 1-9, but didn't go all the way. Not to mention the O's have the competition of the Rays, Sox and Yanks..I'd say they'll have a Cubs of 08 type of year at best... a team with starters putting up high 3's and mid 4's in ERA from 1-5 needs lots of HRs to take them to the postseason...

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