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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
Report: Angels put 2B Kendrick, 3B Freese on trading block
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:58 pm ET) The Angels are preparing to trade either second baseman Howie Kendrick or third baseman David Freese in an attempt to bolster their starting rotation or acquire a left-hander reliever, according to Fox Sports.

Both are 31 years old. Kendrick is coming off a strong season in which he tied a career-high with 75 RBI and added 85 runs scored. Freese struggled before a strong September and finished the year with a stat line of .260/.321/.383.


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Rockies exercise option on closer LaTroy Hawkins
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:18 pm ET) The Rockies have picked up their $2.25 million option on veteran closer LaTroy Hawkins.

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Brewers snag C Juan Centeno
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(4:13 pm ET) The Brewers have signed catcher Juan Centeno off waivers from the Mets.

The 24-year-old Centeno hit .200 in 30 at-bats this season.


Brewers exercise option on 3B Ramirez, await his decision
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(3:51 pm ET) The Brewers have exercised their end of a mutual option on veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez, per CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. He has three days to do the same on the $14 million deal.

They 36-year-old Ramirez continued to produce this season with a stat line of .285/.330/.427 and 66 RBI in 494 at-bats.


Rays bring back 2B Ben Zobrist by exercising option
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:26 pm ET) The Rays were expected to pick up the $7.5 million option on second baseman Ben Zobrist for 2015 - and they announced it Friday.

Zobrist was among the most productive players on an offense that struggled to score. He placed second on the Rays with a .272 average and tied for the team lead with 83 runs.


C Alex Avila still waiting for Tigers to pick up 2015 option
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:06 pm ET) The Tigers have declined to pick up their option on catcher Alex Avila, though they have until Nov. 20 to do so, per MLive.com.

Avila has lost points on his batting average in each of the last three seasons, falling to .218 this year. But he did remain relatively productive in 2014, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 47 while scoring 44 runs in 390 at-bats.


RHP Felipe Paulino a free agent after White Sox pass
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:57 pm ET) The White Sox have officially passed on their $4 million option for 2015 on right-hander Felipe Paulino. They paid him the buyout of $250,000, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

Paulino lost most of the year to shoulder issues after compiling an 0-2 record and 11.29 ERA in four starts.


RHP Patrick McCoy signed by Orioles
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:40 pm ET) The Orioles have signed southpaw reliever Patrick McCoy off waivers from Detroit.

McCoy, who was promoted for his major league debut in July by the Tigers, yielded 21 hits and 13 walks in 14 innings pitched, yet left plenty of baserunners stranded in compiling a 3.86 ERA.


Options on RHP Scherzer, DH Martinez among Tigers moves
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:35 pm ET) The Tigers have announced, as expected, that they have made $15.3 million qualifying offers to right-hander Max Scherzer and 2014 MVP candidate Victor Martinez. They will become free agents if the offers are rejected.

Those were among a slew of moves made by the Tigers. Utility man Don Kelly and right-hander Evan Reed have been outrighted off their 40-man roster while they have promoted outfield Wynton Bernard .


 
 
 
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