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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
Indians sign Jeff Manship to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:41 pm ET) The Indians have signed pitcher Jeff Manship to a minor-league deal. Manship posted a 6.65 ERA and 16:14 K:BB ratio in 23 innings with the Phillies in 2014.

Rockies sign Roger Bernadina to minor-league deal
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(6:21 pm ET) The Rockies have signed outfielder Roger Bernadina to a minor-league deal. He hit .167/.304/.258 in 66 at-bats with the Reds and Dodgers in 2014.

Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez resumes hitting
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) Rockies outfieler Carlos Gonzalez revealed this week that he has been cleared to practice hitting for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in August, MLB.com reports.

Gonzalez had been having issues with the troublesome knee for more than a year before undergoing a procedure to repair a patella tendon on Aug. 18. He also dealt with appendicitis in January and a persistent finger injury throughout the season. The issues led to a down year for the outfielder, as Gonzalez hit just .238/.292/.431 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 260 at-bats.


Reds sign Michael Bowden to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:14 pm ET) The Reds have signed pitcher Michael Bowden to a minor-league deal, MLBDailyDish.com reports.

Bowden, who has 133 2/3 innings of experience in the majors, spent the 2014 season with the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball, where he delivered a 4.50 ERA and 30:24 K:BB ratio in 40 innings.


Cardinals release Robert Stock
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:10 pm ET) The Cardinals have released pitcher Robert Stock. A converted catcher, Stock posted a 4.12 ERA and 43:46 K:BB ratio in 63 1/3 innings between Class A Peoria and high Class A Palm Beach last season.

Report: Orioles interested in Padres' Will Venable, Seth Smith
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:08 pm ET) The Orioles have continued dialogue with the Padres regarding trading for an outfielder, with Padres outfielders Will Venable and Seth Smith drawing the most interest from the team, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Either player would address the team's need for lefthanded hitters who fare well against righthanded pitching. While neither figures to receive significant playing time in San Diego after the Padres imported three outfielders via trade this offseason, either Smith or Venable would be expected to assume a platoon role with Baltimore at the outset of the season with the potential to earn a full-time starting position.


Rays outright Brandon Gomes to Triple-A
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(6:02 pm ET) The Rays have sent pitcher Brandon Gomes outright to Triple-A Durham. He delivered a 3.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 24:11 K:BB ratio in 34 innings in 2014.

Cubs announce David Ross signing
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) The Cubs finalized a deal with catcher David Ross Tuesday. The two sides came to terms on a two-year deal worth $5 million, per a previous report.

Ross hit just .184/.260/.368 in 152 at-bats with the Red Sox in 2014.


Orioles, Delmon Young agree to one-year deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) The Orioles have agreed to a one-year deal with outfielder Delmon Young worth $2.25 million, CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman reports. The deal is pending a physical in January.

Young had been in dicussions with the Orioles in November but was reported to be seeking a two-year deal after hitting .302/.337/.442 line with seven home runs and 30 RBI in 242 at-bats with Baltimore in 2014. The two sides were said to be back in discussions earlier in December and have now come to terms on a deal. Young made more than half of his appearances with the team in the designated hitter role last season, but it's possible he could be used more in the outfield with the team losing multiple outfielders this offseason.


Braves, A.J. Pierzynski agree to deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) The Braves have agreed to a deal with catcher A.J. Pierzynski, CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman reports. Pierzynski's deal is expected to be for about $2 million, but it won't be finalized until January.

Pierzynski will fill a veteran presence to complement young catcher Christian Bethancourt, and the agreement also means the Braves are serious about moving forward with Evan Gattis in left field full-time, according to Eye On Baseball.

Pierzynski hit .251/.288/.337 in 338 at-bats between Boston and St. Louis in 2014. However, he managed to smack a combined 44 home runs over his previous two seasons.


 
 
 
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