Sometimes the best acquisitions and trades are the ones you don't make. And other times teams can improve significantly by just flipping the calendar.
The Orioles are that team this spring.
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President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail is building a sleeping giant with all the potentially elite pitching prospects he has been hording in recent years. If they can stay healthy and reach their potential, the Orioles will not only have enough talent to stock one of the surprising young rotations in baseball, but they will have organizational depth and great trade bait, too.
After all, young pitching is what everyone wants. The Orioles have it on the come in bunches.
Oh, not to mention some burgeoning superstar by the name of Matt Wieters.
Breakout: Adam Jones, OF
We considered picking Wieters here, but he is so obviously going to be elite at a thin position, he will go for top dollar on Draft Day. Jones still has some cynics, if not detractors, and will be a bargain even in the middle rounds. If you followed us last spring, you know all about how we featured him as a sleeper for Fantasy 2009. In fact, he even envisioned 30-plus steals, while O's beat writers saw 25-homer potential. He sure looked the part in the first half of the season, hitting .303 with 12 homers, 47 RBI, 55 runs and six steals, before the wheels came off in the second half (.222-7-23-28-4) -- partially due to injury. The 24-year-old physical freak expects to be ready for spring training and is capable of going .290-25-100-100-20 even if we cautiously project (.278-24-79-89-12).
Bust: Mike Gonzalez, RP
Picking a sub-.500 team's closer as a potential bust is a page ripped right out of "Fantasy Baseball for Dummies." We just had to do it with Gonzalez, because the Tommy John survivor had issues holding down the closer's role with the Braves and he enters spring training as the odds-on-favorite to open in the role with the Orioles. We cannot yet be sure how consistently they might win and we certainly cannot guarantee Gonzalez will hold the closer's job through spring training, much less the whole season. Jim R. Johnson and Koji Uehara could be given chances to be manager Dave Trembley's choice to close games. Failing that, a slew of pitching prospects with great arms and futures could force the lefty Gonzalez into a situational role later in the season. Gonzalez is a nice late-round fall-back option on Draft Day, but if you're counting on him as one of your Fantasy closers, there is a lot of potential disappointment to come.
The Orioles are a team full of Fantasy sleepers, because very few tend to look to one of last season's worst teams for their Fantasy gems. Players like Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold can be undervalued because they are unproven, while Garrett Atkins and even Nick Markakis are coming off bad years and can be overlooked because of an unimpressive suppporting cast. Pitchers on bad teams, like Gonzalez, get especially downgraded. But Matusz and perhaps Tillman are so darn talented they could make a bad team mediocre. If that happens, Matusz could win AL Rookie of the Year and both pitchers could be instant hits in all Fantasy leagues. Both a projected to be late-round picks at this point. This might be the only time we say that about either for the next five years.
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Brian Roberts||2B||1||Kevin Millwood||RH|
|2||Adam Jones||CF||2||Jeremy Guthrie||RH|
|3||Nick Markakis||RF||3||Brian Matusz||LH|
|4||Miguel Tejada||3B||4||Chris Tillman||RH|
|5||Luke Scott||DH||5||Brad Bergesen||RH|
|6||Garrett Atkins||1B||Alt||David Hernandez||RH|
|7||Matt Wieters||C||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Nolan Reimold||LF||CL||Mike Gonzalez||LH|
|9||Cesar Izturis||SS||SU||Jim R. Johnson||RH|
|Top bench options||RP||Koji Uehara||RH|
|R||Felix Pie||OF||RP||Mark Hendrickson||LH|
|R||Ty Wigginton||UTL||RP||Cla C. Meredith||RH|
|1||Brian Matusz||24||LH SP||Majors||Majors|
|This lefty has it all: power, command, movement and great makeup -- front-line ace in the making.|
|2||Jake Arrieta||24||RH SP||Triple-A||Triple-A|
|Some bouts with wildness have him behind the O's other elite prospects ... temporarily.|
|3||Brandon Erbe||22||RH SP||Double-A||Triple-A|
|The O's large collection of elite pitching prospects may force him to the bullpen, perhaps as closer.|
|We talk all the time about impact June 1 call-ups; this is one of those that could impact all leagues.|
|5||Troy Patton||24||RH SP||Triple-A||Triple-A|
|He made a mediocre return from major shoulder surgery, but we're too stubborn to give up on him.|
|Best of the rest: Zach Britton, LH SP; Matthew Hobgood, SP; Brandon Snyder, 1B; Mychal Givens, SS; Caleb Joseph, C; L.J. Hoes, 2B; Billy Rowell, OF; Justin Turner, 2B; Chris Lambert, SP; Pedro Beato, SP; Brett Jacobson, SP; Brandon Cooney, RP; Kam Mickolio, RP; Steve Johnson, SP; Brandon Waring, 1B; Xavier Avery, OF; Matthew Angle, OF; Greg Miclat, SS; Tyler Townsend, 1B; Randy Henry, SP; Ashur Tolliver, SP; Chorye Spoone, RP; Bobby Bundy, SP; Tyler Henson, 3B; Tony Butler, SP; Bob McCrory, RP; Ryan Adams, 2B; Robert Widlansky, 1B.|
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