What a town!
So, we've been clicking through our AL East rivals this spring. Tom tackled Beantown's crew here and our next stop is
Charm City the City that Reads the Land of Pleasant Living Baltimore. I spent three years living in Baltimore and so I have a lot of affection for the town. I lived a short walk from Camden Yards which is an incredible stadium, my favorite in fact, and so I went to 30-40 games a year. Heaven.
That's all forgotten now, though, because the Orioles are the only thing standing between Toronto and the AL Beast cellar, and they have been improving, though their record doesn't reflect it quite yet. How do they look in 2010? Read on!
C: Matt Wieters
1B: Garrett Atkins
2B: Brian Roberts
3B: Miguel Tejada
SS: Cesar Izturis
LF: Nolan Reimold
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
DH: Luke Scott
Bench: Felix Pie (OF), Chad Moeller (C), Robert Andino (SS/2B), Ty Wigginton (1B/2B/3B)
Our passerine rivals didn't lose much in the offseason in terms of position players, with Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff leaving and making way for Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins, respectively. B-more is hoping for bounceback seasons from both of them after weak 2009s. Atkins, in particular struggled last season (.650 OPS and lost his everyday job) and isn't exactly your top choice for an everyday first baseman.
Of course, Matt Wieters will be a big story for Baltimore. Wieters, a two-way catcher who turns 24 in May, established himself as a solid hitter in his rookie season (.288/.340/.412) and is likely to only get better at the plate.
Brian Roberts has been having some health issues but is a very fine player who is coming off two consecutive 50-double seasons and 4 consecutive 30-steal seasons. Together, that is a lot of Brian Roberts standing at second base. Roberts hit 16 home runs for good measure and is, all in all, one of the better leadoff hitters in the league. Though his defense has slipped a bit as 30 has passed him by, it's not as if he's a butcher out at the keystone either. His double play partner, Cesar Izturis is all glove (.277 career wOBA) but he is a very fine fielder.
Baltimore sports a very good outfield. While Nick Markakis hasn't quite blossomed into a superstar yet (he's only 26, so there's still time), he is an extremely effective and well-rounded player who does everything well. Adam Jones, who came over from Seattle in the Eric Bedard trade, has been very good on both sides of the ball and is still developing power. He saw his offensive and defensive numbers slip during the second half of the season as nagging injuries held him back, so look for a healthy Jones to bounce back. And Nolan Reimold isn't much in the glove department, but had a very nice season with the bat in 2009. The speedy Felix Pie serves as the 4th outfielder and is likely to take most of his playing time at the righthanded Reimold's expense, barring injury. Luke Scott provides a solid, if unspectacular, lefthanded bat from the DH slot. And Ty Wigginton provides some pop off the bench and defensive versatility, if not excellence.
Kevin Millwood, RHP
Jeremy Guthrie, RHP
Brad Bergesen, RHP
Brian Matusz, LHP
Chris Tillman, RHP
Granted, the Orioles' pitching was terrible in 2009, but there are reasons to think it will be better in 2010. The biggest reason is that a number of young and promising arms figure to play prominent roles. Baltimore brought in Kevin Millwood to stabilitze its young rotation and Jeremy Guthrie will look to bounce back from a disappointing 2009, though his declining K rates are a real concern. But the real news is in the lower 3/5 of the rotation. Brad Bergesen had a great rookie season in 2009, finishing with a 3.43 ERA over 19 starts, backed up by excellent walk numbers. His low K rates are a concern, but that's something pitchers can improve on after their rookie year and the 24 year old's pinpoint control bodes well. 23-year old Lefty Brian Matusz (not as long, but no more pronounceable, than Rzepczynski) only got a taste last season (8 starts) but acquitted himself well (7.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9) and looks excellent going forward. And starboardsider Chris Tillman, who hasn't even turned 22 yet (April) has been one of Baltimore's more promising arms for awhile as well.
Mike Gonzalez, LHP
Jim Johnson, RHP
Koji Uehara, RHP
Cla Meredith, RHP
Mark Hendrickson, LHP
Kameron Mickolio, RHP
Matt Albers, RHP
The Orioles' bullpen has been bad for awhile. Every season they try to improve it over the offseason, but as of yet, no luck. Mike Gonzalez had an excellent season last year for Atlanta and he was brought in to be the closer. Koji Uehara was actually quite good for Baltimore (111 ERA+, 4/1 K/BB ratio) in his 12 starts last season, though he lacked some durability, and so he figures to be a key member of the bullpen this season. He and Gonzalez could actually provide a very fine late-inning righty-lefty combo. Hard throwing Cla Meredith gives Baltimore another power option and was good for Baltimore after being acquired last summer, while the huge Kameron Mickoloio (6'9"! somehow it fits that he is from Montana) looked good in limited time last season. The other three (Johnson, Hendrickson, and Albers) have been around Charm City for awhile and they shouldn't be too bad either, with Hendrickson in particular looking like the bullpen is the right place for him.
All in all, this is an improved Baltimore team. They still have a rotation that is 3 parts very young and 2 parts unspectacular, and their lineup lacks some punch, but this is definitely a team on its way up. It will take a decent season for the Jays to finish ahead of the O's.