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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Baltimore Orioles

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Another year, another projected last-place finish for the Orioles.

It's as predictable as a Mark Reynolds strikeout. This year will make it five straight, barring the miraculous, and with yet another change in regime this offseason, the organization doesn't have much to show for its period of futility.

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The future wasn't always so bleak. As recently as last spring, the Orioles appeared to have the pieces in place for the next step forward. But their foundation was supposed to be their young starting rotation, and of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton, the only one whose season didn't end in disaster was Britton.

Granted, young pitchers usually need time to adjust to the majors, but Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman were supposed to have gotten that time already. Their lack of progress at this stage of their development makes them anything but certainties for the Orioles going forward.

Thus, new GM Dan Duquette's primary mission this offseason was to collect as many fallback options as possible, and on that front, he left no stone unturned, signing left-handers Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada of the Japanese League. Between them, journeyman Jason Hammel and the options already in place, the Orioles should be able to find a suitable starting five even if it's not the one that they originally had in mind.

The starting lineup is a little more stable, though its nucleus -- a group that includes Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters -- lacks star potential. Brian Roberts is a lost cause given his concussion woes, and the Orioles are grasping at straws with retreads like Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit and Nolan Reimold.

In the bullpen, Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg and Matt Lindstrom will compete for ninth-inning duties, but on a team destined to finish last, it won't make much of a difference to Fantasy owners. And unfortunately, if Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman remain stuck in neutral, it'll be par for the course in Baltimore until the next wave of talent arrives.

Breakout ... Matt Wieters, C

Coming off a 22-homer 2011, Wieters is already a Fantasy mainstay. But he still hasn't lived up to the potential that made him the No. 1 overall prospect entering 2009. Fortunately, if the way he finished last season is any indication, his next step is on the horizon. The 25-year-old hit .281 with 12 homers and a .927 OPS over his final 167 at-bats -- numbers that, over a full season, would have made him arguably the top catcher in Fantasy. And if his improved walk rate during that stretch is any indication, Wieters is beginning to figure it out against major-league pitching. It's taken a while -- as is often the case for catchers, given their responsibilities on defense -- but it's happening at a young enough age that Fantasy owners can assume the best is yet to come. Given the risks for high-end catchers like Joe Mauer and Buster Posey this year, perhaps you're better off waiting an extra couple rounds and selecting Wieters.

Bust ... Adam Jones, OF

Funny how a subtle boost in homers, from 19 to 25, can change Fantasy owners' perception of a player. Jones' "power breakthrough" had more to do with at-bats than anything else -- his slugging percentage was only nine points higher than his previous career high -- and yet the same people who previously rated him among the mediocre middle are drafting him alongside established five-category threats Shane Victorino and Shin-Soo Choo this year. Jones is no five-category threat. Granted, another step forward power-wise, which is at least possible for the 26-year-old, would help compensate for his shortcomings, but who's to say one will actually happen? Again, his percentages suggest he hasn't made any real progress over the last three seasons and as a player who strikes out 100 more times than he walks, he's always at risk for a collapse in batting average. As a third or fourth outfielder he's fine, but as a No. 2, Jones is better left for someone else.

Sleeper ... Brian Matusz, SP

Believe it or not, Matusz went 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA and a strikeout per inning over his final eight starts in 2010, which makes his dismal 2011 even harder to reconcile. But hey, Roy Halladay had a 10.64 ERA in 2000, and he turned out fine. So before you go overboard and suggest Matusz is a lost cause, think back to how the 2011 season began for him. He went down before it even started with an intercostal strain and when he returned, his velocity was the lowest it's ever been. He spent the rest of the season trying to regain his stuff, basically going through spring training while every other player was in midseason form, and by the time his velocity returned, it was September. This year, instead of falling behind, Matusz has committed himself to getting ahead by working out with Brady Anderson in the offseason. The 24-year-old may not win a rotation spot out of spring training, but given his talent, he'll be back soon enough.

2012 Baltimore Orioles Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Brian Roberts 2B 1 Zach Britton LH
2 J.J. Hardy SS 2 Jason Hammel RH
3 Nick Markakis RF 3 Wei-Yin Chen LH
4 Adam Jones CF 4 Jake Arrieta RH
5 Matt Wieters C 5 Tsuyoshi Wada LH
6 Mark Reynolds 3B Alt Tommy Hunter RH
7 Wilson Betemit DH
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Chris Davis 1B CL Jim Johnson RH
9 Nolan Reimold LF SU Matt Lindstrom RH
Top bench options RP Kevin Gregg RH
R Endy Chavez OF RP Troy Patton LH
R Robert Andino IF RP Pedro Strop RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Manny Machado 19 SS Class A Class A
A knee injury prevented Machado's first full professional season from being all it could be, but as far as shortstop prospects go, he's still as good as it gets offensively.
2 Dylan Bundy 19 SP DNP -- signed late Class A
As the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bundy has the upside to compete with Machado for the top spot on this list. The future ace could be several years away, though.
3 Wei-Yin Chen 26 SP DNP -- in Japan Majors
Equipped with low-90s stuff, Chen had great numbers in Japan and could still improve at age 26. He's no Yu Darvish, though, which makes him a gamble better left for AL-only leagues.
4 Jonathan Schoop 20 2B Class A Double-A
Schoop doesn't have quite as much upside as Machado, but he's a solid hitter with decent pop who could give the Orioles an All-Star double-play combination down the road.
5 Tsuyoshi Wada 31 SP DNP -- in Japan Majors
Wada had better numbers than Chen in Japan, but his stuff tops out in the high 80s, which could prove disastrous in the AL East. At age 31, he's a now-or-never pick in AL-only leagues.
Best of the rest: Ryan Adams, 2B; Jerome Hoes, OF; Ryan Flaherty, 2B; Xavier Avery, OF; Daniel Klein, RP; Matt Antonelli, 2B; Matt Angle, OF; Oliver Drake, SP; Trent Mummey, OF; Joe Mahoney, 1B; and Wynn Pelzer, SP.

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Player News
Hitters to start in Week 25
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:25 pm ET) Looking for a sleeper hitter for Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 15-21)? Russell Martin, Steve Pearce, Jed Lowrie, Xander Bogaerts, Josh Rutledge and Michael Cuddyer might just fit the bill.

Find out why in the latest Start and Sit Hitters.


Carlos Beltran available again
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:23 pm ET) Though Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran wasn't in the starting lineup for Sunday night's game at Baltimore, he told ESPN he was available for the contest if needed and that he believes he could start Monday.

Beltran, who hasn't played since Tuesday, recently decided he would wait until the offseason to have surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.


Dana Eveland done for season
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:19 pm ET) Mets left-hander Dana Eveland, who has pitched only once in September because of inflammation in his elbow, has been ruled out for the season, according to MLB.com. Eveland's elbow is structurally sound. He received a cortisone shot in late August.

"[The elbow is] feeling better every day," Eveland said. "I hate to leave here, because I do feel like, you know, maybe in another week or so I'd probably be able to pitch again."

Eveland had a 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 30 appearances for the Mets.


Derek Norris not playing at 100 percent
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:14 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com Sunday that catcher Derek Norris' hip isn't at 100 percent.

"He's all right. He's a catcher," Melvin said.

Norris went 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout Sunday at Seattle and is batting just .238 (39 for 164) with two home runs since the All-Star break.


Alex Avila leaves with lightheadedness
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:10 pm ET) Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who missed time with a concussion earlier this month, had to be removed in the eighth inning Sunday against the Indians because of lightheadedness.

"He took one off the mask earlier in the day, but at the time, he didn't show the reaction that is normally associated with someone that's been concussed," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He kind of went about his business. And it wasn't until he actually went to hit his last plate appearance that someone said to me that he didn't seem right on the bench."

Avila struck out on three pitches and, when questioned upon his return to the dugout, complained of a headache. He went 1 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the contest.

Avila traveled with the team to Minnesota after the game, but Ausmus told mLive.com he likely wouldn't play Monday against the Twins.


David Ortiz leaves for family issue
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:03 pm ET) Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz had to leave Sunday's game at Kansas City because of a family emergency, according to the Boston Herald. Ortiz went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before being replaced by Christian Vazquez.

"He's fine. He got called away from this game," manager John Farrell said. "There was a family emergency that he had to attend to and he jumped on a flight late this afternoon."

Farrell added that Ortiz should rejoin the team Tuesday at Pittsburgh.


Michael Choice's big game ends early
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:57 pm ET) Rangers outfielder Michael Choice, who has been getting regular at-bats with Shin-Soo Choo sidelined by bone spurs in his left elbow, broke out of a 1-for-15 slump Sunday against the Braves, going 2 for 3 with a double, a triple and three RBI. Unfortunately, he hobbled into second base on the double and had to be removed from the game in the fifth inning.

His status going forward is unknown. He'll have an MRI on Monday.


Miles Mikolas probably done for 2014
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:51 pm ET) Rangers starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, who hasn't pitched since Aug. 25 because of right shoulder fatigue, felt more discomfort in his shoulder the last time he played catch and is likely out for the season, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Michael Wacha still thinks he can return
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:49 pm ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha, who was scratched from Saturday's start because he didn't feel right, threw about 30 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday and felt great, according to Fox Sports Midwest. He still hopes to return to the rotation before season's end, but manager Mike Matheny isn't so sure.

"This is a young player where we had something going, missed a couple of months and all those are reasons for us to once again pause and just kind of take our time, make sure everything looks right before moving forward," Matheny said.

Wacha has made two starts in September after missing all of July and August with a stress fracture in his right shoulder.


Mark Reynolds delivers in rare start
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:39 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds, who hadn't started in five games, got a start at third base Sunday against the Reds and delivered a home run -- a solo shot in the eighth inning. He finished the game 1 for 2 with a walk, a strikeout and two runs scored.

Reynolds entered the game mired in a 4-for-44 (.091) slump, causing manager Ron Roenicke to split first base between rookie Matt Clark and usual catcher Jonathan Lucroy in recent days.

"We know he's a streaky guy; we know that he needs to be out there playing to get it back," Roenicke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Saturday. "We're in a situation where we have to make some decisions and try to play the hottest guy. That's what I've been doing."


 
 
 
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