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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
Mets say Matt Harvey should be fine, expected to make next start
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:54 pm ET) Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey did not end up traveling with the team to Miami on Wednesday, according to ESPN. However, the Mets said he "should be fine."

Harvey experienced dehydration and weakness after his start Wednesday against the Phillies, a team spokesman said. He is expected to make his next start Tuesday against the Nationals.


Tigers activate Kyle Lobstein from 60-day DL, will start Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:48 pm ET) Tigers starting pitcher Kyle Lobstein (shoulder) was activated off the 60-day disabled list Thursday. The Tigers also announced he will start Friday's game against the Indians.

To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Detroit outrighted the contract of reliever Josh Zeid to Triple-A Toledo.


Giants SP Tim Lincecum undergoes hip surgery, done for season
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:42 pm ET) Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum underwent hip surgery Thursday morning and is out for the season, general manager Bobby Evans told CBS Sports Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The veteran right-hander finishes the season with a 7-4 record and 4.13 ERA through 15 starts. He totaled 60 strikeouts through 76 1/3 innings.


Report: Dodgers 2B Jose Peraza (hamstring) to miss 3-5 days
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:36 pm ET) Dodgers second baseman Jose Peraza is expected to be sidelined 3-5 days due to a sore hamstring, a source told Fox Sports.

The rookie infielder is batting .267 (4 for 15) with one double, one triple, one RBI, three runs, three stolen bases, two walks and two strikeouts in five games.


Twins' Perkins won't go on road trip; Jepsen to close in his absence
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:20 pm ET) Twins closer Glen Perkins will not go on the team's nine-game road trip, which begins Friday at Houston, due to his lingering back injury. The Twins don't return home until Sept. 14 vs. Detroit.

"I honestly don't know what happened. I pitched Tuesday. That day I would have said I felt 90-95 percent," Perkins said, per 1500ESPN.com. "Everything was good, everything was fine, I pitched, I didn't think anything of it after the game. Then when I woke up [Wednesday], I couldn't get out of bed. It completely blindsided me.

"I don't feel any better today [Thursday]. It's going to take a little bit more time this time."

Manager Paul Molitor said Kevin Jepsen will fill-in as closer in Perkins' absence.

"It's a tough thing. Because you can't really inject it, it's not an injury that needs that type of attention," Molitor said of Perkins' injury. "There's not really anything you can do other than to try to find ways to calm it down and do what you can to see if you can get him back out there.

"There's a chance, at least in my mind, that this could be something that lingers. Might have some good days, some bad days here on out."


White Sox's Erik Johnson starting Sunday, Chris Sale pushed to Monday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) The White Sox made a slight change to their pitching rotation Thursday. The team announced starting pitcher Erik Johnson will start Sunday against the Royals, which will bump Chris Sale to Monday against the Indians.

Johnson, who was added to the roster Tuesday, will make his season debut Sunday after a stellar season for Triple-A Charlotte. He went 11-8 with a 2.37 ERA in 23 outings (22 starts). He also had 136 strikeouts in 132 2/3 innings.

Sale is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts against Cleveland this season. He is 7-1 with a 2.42 ERA in 12 starts this season with five days of rest.


Twins SP Phil Hughes days away from throwing simulated game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:03 pm ET) Twins starting pitcher Phil Hughes (back) threw a bullpen session Thursday without any issues, according to MLB.com. He will throw another bullpen session Sunday before throwing a simulated game during a three-game series in Kansas City, which starts Monday.

Twins 3B Miguel Sano gets chance to rest hamstring injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Twins third baseman Miguel Sano was held out of the starting lineup for Thursday's game against the White Sox. Sano is trying to play through a hamstring injury, and he was rested Thursday since it was a day game after a night game.

"It's a tough thing right now with him. I know he wants to play, and staying in the lineup from here on out is the most important part of the equation," manager Paul Molitor said, per MLB.com. "A day game following a night game heading into Houston isn't going to make a huge difference. I can't tell you exactly that. There's no way to measure how much 40 hours might help."

The hamstring injury didn't seem to bother Sano on Wednesday, as he homered for a third straight game. The rookie third baseman has been on a nice power surge, homering eight times in his last 14 games and slugging .833 in that span.

Since Aug. 5, Sano has a .323/.402/.742/1.144 slash line in his last 25 games. He has six doubles, 11 home runs and 28 RBI in that span.


Twins closer Glen Perkins is day to day again due to back injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:53 am ET) Twins closer Glen Perkins' back problems flared up again Wednesday, which is why manager Paul Molitor turned to Kevin Jepsen to finish off a 3-0 win against the White Sox.

Perkins, who has been dealing with the back issue for a few weeks, picked up his first save Tuesday since Aug. 16. But after throwing 19 pitches, Perkins felt sore Wednesday. When he went to play catch, his back started to spasm and the left-hander was sent for an MRI.

"There's no bulging disc, no serious issue that we have to look at other than the fact that we've got to keep this thing from continuing to flare up," Molitor said, per MLB.com. "I think right now there's a good chance he might stay back and spend some time here with our guys. [We'll] try to get him back and see if we can get him out on the trip at some point."


Dodgers' Bolsinger starting Friday to give rotation an extra day of rest
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:46 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Mike Bolsinger will start Friday's game against the Padres, manager Don Mattingly announced after Wednesday's game against the Giants.

"We've been wanting to slip him into the rotation to either move somebody forward or to give someone an extra day," Mattingly said, per MLB.com. "Just if somebody needs a blow, kind of looking at all our guys individually and what's best for them."

Mattingly said they don't plan to skip anyone in the rotation, so all the starters (Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood and Mat Latos) will get an extra day of rest moving forward.

Bolsinger's last MLB start was July 29. He is 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 16 starts this season.

"You can anticipate he's going to be in this rotation for at least a turn," Mattingly said.


 
 
 
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