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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Baltimore Orioles

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Last year's 66-96 record gave the Orioles their 13th straight losing season, but out of a dismal campaign came a few signs of hope.

After the hiring of Buck Showalter as manager in midseason, Baltimore won 34 of their final 57 games. The change of leadership may have been a factor, but the O's were carried by strong late-season pitching. In particular, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen turned in solid performances once Showalter came on board.

While Matusz and Bergesen picked up their pace, the other young starters -- Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman -- did not fare as well. With some of their growing pains behind them, the Orioles should improve on their 4.59 team ERA, which was the second-worst in the American League. Free agent signee Justin Duchscherer will provide an additional veteran presence to Guthrie, not to mention a solid arm, if he can come back strong from hip surgery. Koji Uehara, who saved 13 of 15 games after seizing the closer's role in August, is back, and he will compete with Kevin Gregg for the ninth-inning honors this spring.

With no major hitting prospects on the horizon, the Orioles had to hit the trade market to upgrade an offense that scored the second-fewest runs in the AL last season. Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy will give Baltimore much more thump from the left side of the infield, though incumbents Josh Bell and Cesar Izturis are expected to remain with the team as reserves. The Orioles went the free agent route to replace Ty Wigginton at first base with Derrek Lee.

Even if Reynolds and Lee fail to bounce back from disappointing seasons, the Orioles' lineup could take some sizable strides this year. Hardy provides a major upgrade over Izturis, Brian Roberts is healthier after missing 103 games in 2010, and Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are still looking for their breakout seasons.

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Things are never easy in the AL East, but for the first time in years, the Orioles have some hope for the future. For Fantasy owners of up-and-coming talents like Matusz, Bergesen and Jones, even the present holds some appeal.

Sleeper ... Brad Bergesen, SP

Bergesen had such a miserable first half last year, going 3-6 with a 6.40 ERA, that Fantasy owners might have forgotten that he was a legitimate mixed league option during his 2009 rookie season. During the second half of 2010, he was much more like the Bergesen we saw the year before, posting a 3.94 ERA and improving both his strikeout and walk rates. Even at his best, the 25-year-old doesn't get many strikeouts, but as long as he can induce ground balls and minimize walks, he'll have success. For the better part of his two-year major league career, he has done just that. You could do worse with a late-round pick in mixed leagues, though you could probably acquire him off waivers.

Breakout ... Brian Matusz, SP

Matusz's 2010 stat line -- headed by a 10-12 record and a 4.30 ERA -- doesn't look very impressive, but few pitchers were hotter over the season's final two months. Over his last 11 starts, Matusz went 7-1 with a 2.18 ERA, thanks to superb control and lower line drive and strand rates. These were the hallmarks of his minor league success, so there is reason to think he can carry his late-season accomplishments over to the 2011 campaign. Not only is Matusz a strong candidate to help his own cause by allowing fewer runs and baserunners, but he should get a healthier dose of run support this year as well. This will be the year that Matusz will become relevant in standard mixed league formats.

Bounceback player … Mark Reynolds, 3B

Despite banging out 32 home runs, Mark Reynolds' .198 batting average was such a drag on his Fantasy value a year ago that he was barely relevant in mixed leagues, especially in Rotisserie formats. The twin culprits were strikeout and flyball rates that were well beyond his normal eye-popping levels. Those rates have been on the rise ever since his rookie season, but they took such huge leaps in 2010 that some regression to the mean seems almost inevitable. Reynolds is still just 27, so it's far too early to write him off as being on the slippery slope of decline. While he won't hit for a high enough average to be an elite option, look for Reynolds to rise back into the top 10 of Fantasy third basemen.

Baltimore Orioles Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Brian Roberts 2B 1 Jeremy Guthrie RH
2 Nick Markakis RF 2 Justin Duchscherer RH
3 Derrek Lee 1B 3 Brian Matusz LH
4 Luke Scott DH 4 Brad Bergesen RH
5 Adam Jones CF 5 Jake Arrieta RH
6 Mark Reynolds 3B Alt Chris Tillman RH
7 Felix Pie LF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Matt Wieters C CL Kevin Gregg RH
9 J.J. Hardy SS SU Koji Uehara RH
Top bench options RP Mike Gonzalez LH
R Nolan Reimold OF RP Jeremy Accardo RH
R Jake Fox DH RP Jim Johnson RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Manny Machado 18 SS Class A Class A
The third overall pick in the 2010 draft got off to a good start at Short-Season Class A. He's a must-draft in long-term keeper leagues.
2 Zach Britton 23 SP Triple-A Triple-A
Sinkerballer had excellent results in Double-A and Triple-A in 2010. Looks ready for the majors at some point in 2011.
3 Ryan Adams 23 2B Double-A Triple-A
Can hit for average and has good power for a second baseman. He will probably start the year in Triple-A, but could fill in for Brian Roberts if need be.
4 Dan Klein 22 SP Class A Class A
The 2010 draftee only appeared in five games in the minors last year but could reach the majors as soon as this year.
5 Xavier Avery 21 OF Double-A Triple-A
Speedy outfielder showed some on-base skills at Class A, but was overmatched after his promotion to Double-A last year. Has the tools to be a solid major leaguer.
Best of the rest: Mycal Givens, SS; L.J. Hoes, 2B; Jonathan Schoop, SS; Ryan Berry, SP; Wynn Pelzer, SP; Joseph Mahoney, 1B; Tyler Townsend, 1B; Matt Hobgood, SP; Brandon Cooney, RP; Bobby Bundy, SP; Connor Naron, SS; Brandon Snyder, 1B; and Caleb Joseph, C.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Jake Peavy settles for no-decision
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy wasn't a factor into the decision Monday night in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. He allowed two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out four over seven innings of work.

Over his last six starts covering 41 innings, Peavy has allowed only five earned runs. He owns a 3.78 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP over 31 starts (197 2/3 innings). His final start of the regular season will come at home Saturday against San Diego.


Dan Haren fans seven in no-deicison
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Dan Haren struck out seven but wasn't a factor into the decision Monday night at home against the Giants. He allowed two runs -- one earned -- on one hit and no walks over seven innings of work. Of his 100 pitches, 65 were strikes.

Over his last five starts covering 31 innings, Haren has allowed seven earned runs. He owns a 4.03 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP over 31 starts (181 innings). His final start of the regular season will come Saturday at home against Colorado.


C.J. Wilson gets the quick hook vs. Oakland
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson was yanked in the opening frame after a brief but abysmal outing Monday night against the A's, dropping to 13-10 on the year. He was shelled for six runs -- four earned -- on two hits and four walks over two-thirds of an inning.

Wilson owns a 4.61 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP over 30 starts (169 2/3 innings). He will try to end the regular season on a positive note on Sunday in Seattle.


Jeff Samardzija twirls a gem in win over Angels
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija turned in a gem Monday night at home against the Angels, improving to 7-12 on the year. He allowed one unearned run on five hits and no walks while striking out three over seven innings of an 8-4 victory.

Samardzija has not permitted a run over his last two starts (15 innings). He owns a 2.88 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 32 starts (212 2/3 innings). His final start of the regular season will come Saturday at Texas.


Tyler Matzek pegged with tough-luck loss
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:07 am ET) Rockies pitcher Tyler Matzek was pegged with a tough-luck loss Monday night in San Diego, dropping to 6-11 on the year. He allowed one run on four hits and three walks while striking out eight over six innings of work.

Over his last five starts covering 33 2/3 innings, Matzek has allowed five earned runs. His season comes to an end with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP over 117 2/3 innings of work. He struck out 91 and walked 44 over that span.


Eric Stults keeps Rockies in check Monday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) Padres pitcher Eric Stults dominated the Rockies at home on Monday, scattering seven hits and 6 1/3 scoreless innings to improve to 8-17 on the year. He struck out five and walked one. Of his 93 pitches, 66 were strikes.

Stults owns a 4.42 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP over 31 starts (169 innings). He will make his final start of the season Saturday in San Francisco.


Kevin Quackenbush collects sixth save
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) Padres closer Kevin Quackenbush converted his sixth save of the season Monday night at home against the Rockies. He struck out one and allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth inning of work for the save. He needed 19 pitches to close out a 1-0 victory. He has converted 6 of 7 save chances, with a 2.58 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over 52 1/3 innings of relief.

Aaron Hill suffers dislocated pinkie finger
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill suffered a dislocated right pinkie finger Monday night against the Twins, according to MLB.com. Hill sustained the injury while sliding into home plate in the eighth inning and was not taken out of the game.

Hill is hitting .244/.287/.367 with 10 homers and 60 RBI over 501 at-bats. His status remains uncertain for Tuesday's game against the Twins.


Jason Hammel scheduled to return Thursday against Texas
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jason Hammel will return to the starting rotation on Thursday against the Rangers, MLB.com reports. Hammel missed his previous turn to attend the birth of his child. He owns a 3.54 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP over 170 1/3 innings of work.

Ricky Nolasco gets roughed up by Twins
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Twins pitcher Ricky Nolasco took another step back Monday night at home against the Diamondbacks, dropping to 5-12 on the year. He was shelled for five runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out five over 4 2/3 innings of a 6-2 defeat.

Nolasco owns a 5.47 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP over 26 starts (153 innings). He will make his final start of the season Saturday at Detroit.


 
 
 
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