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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
Blue Jays outright Munenori Kawasaki, Dan Johnson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:07 pm ET) The Blue Jays have outrighted infielder Munenori Kawasaki and first baseman Dan Johnson.

Kawasaki hit .258/.327/.296 with 17 RBI and one stolen base in 240 at-bats. He made 64 appearances at second base and 19 at third base while also playing shortstop four times. Johnson recorded just 38 at-bats with the Blue Jays, hitting .211/.333/.342 with one home run and seven RBI.


Stephen Vogt expected to undergo foot surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt is expected to undergo surgery to repair a plantar plate tear in his injured foot, though he will seek a second opinion before having the procedure, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Vogt, who went 0 for 3 in Tuesday's wild-card loss to the Royals, struggled in the second half of September after missing 11 games earlier in the month. He still finished the season with a .279/.321/.431 line along with nine home runs and 35 RBI in 269 at-bats.


Hyun-Jin Ryu throws problem-free simulated game
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:09 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu threw 45 pitches in a simulated game Wednesday and reported no problems "before, during or after" with his injured shoulder, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Ryu will have the shoulder examined Thursday, and if no problems are found, he could be an option for Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals Monday. Out since Sept. 12, he posted a 3.38 ERA and 139:29 K:BB ratio in 152 innings.


Chris Owings to undergo shoulder surgery Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings will undergo surgery on his left shoulder Thursday, the team announced.

Owings missed the last few games of the season with the shoulder issue, finishing the year with a .261/.300/.406 line along with six home runs, 26 RBI and eight stolen bases in 310 at-bats. He is expected to be ready for the beginning of spring training.


C.J. Cron to DH in Game 1 of ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:23 pm ET) Angels first baseman C.J. Cron will serve as the designated hitter in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Royals Thursday, MLB.com reports.

After a sold start to his season in May and June, Cron has slowed down considerably in the second half, hitting just .209/.261/.395 with two home runs in 43 at-bats in September. He wrapped up his first major-league season with a .256/.289/.450 line along with 11 home runs and 37 RBI in 242 at-bats.


Josh Hamilton to start in left field in Game 1 of ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will bat seventh and play left field in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Royals Thursday, the Orange County Register reports.

Hamilton has been out of action for two weeks with a shoulder injury, and he's played just one game since Sept. 4. He hit .263/.331/.414 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in 338 at-bats during the regular season.


Angels to call upon Matt Shoemaker, C.J. Wilson in ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) The Angels announced the team's rotation plans for the American League Division Series Wednesday, with Matt Shoemaker drawing the start in Friday's Game 2 and C.J. Wilson taking the mound for Game 3 Sunday.

Shoemaker hasn't made an appearance since Sept. 15 while recovering from an oblique injury. He went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 124:24 K:BB ratio in 136 innings. Wilson finished the regular season with a 4.51 ERA and 151:85 K:BB ratio in 175 2/3 innings.


Nick Punto's club option vests
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:09 pm ET) Athletics infielder Nick Punto said Wednesday that his club option, which was dependent on non-DL days on the active roster, vested, putting him back with the team in 2015, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Punto will make $2.75 million in 2015 according to the terms of the contract he signed last offseason. He hit .207/.296/.293 with two home runs, 14 RBI and three stolen bases in 198 at-bats while spending most of his playing time at second base and shortstop.


White Sox outright Frank De Los Santos to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) The White Sox outrighted pitcher Frank De Los Santos to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced Wednesday.

De Los Santos spent most of his time at Charlotte this season, posting a 5.75 ERA and 17:17 K:BB ratio in 36 innings. The move opens up a 40-man roster spot for the White Sox.


Michael Morse expected to return if Giants advance
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:03 pm ET) Giants outfielder Michael Morse, who is inactive for Wednesday's wild-card game against the Pirates, will be activated at some point if the Giants advance, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Morse hasn't played since Sept. 20 due to an oblique injury.

 
 
 
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