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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
Indians reassign Jerry Sands to minor-league camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:12 pm ET) The Indians have sent outfielder Jerry Sands to minor-league camp, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports.

Sands has done a fine job this season, hitting .316/.381/.421 with one home run in 38 at-bats, but has lost out on the competition for a bench spot.


Dodgers 3B Juan Uribe (illness) back in lineup Monday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:10 pm ET) Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe returned to the spring lineup Monday against the Diamondbacks after sitting out Sunday due to an illness. Uribe is batting .225 (9 for 40) through 16 spring games.

Marlins' Jarred Cosart set to return to mound Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:02 pm ET) Marlins starting pitcher Jarred Cosart is scheduled to start Wednesday's spring game against the Nationals, according to The Palm Beach Post. He threw a bullpen session Sunday after being scratched from his last spring start due to a blister on the middle finger on his right hand.

Cosart is 0-2 with am 8.49 ERA in four spring starts.


Cubs option Javier Baez, reassign Kris Bryant, Addison Russell
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:59 pm ET) The Cubs cut three of their key young players from major-league camp Monday, optioning infielder Javier Baez to Triple-A Iowa and reassigning third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell to minor-league camp.

Baez was initially expected to open the season as the team's starting second baseman after racking up 213 at-bats in his rookie season in 2014. He hit just .169/.227/.324 with nine home runs, 20 RBI and five stolen bases last season but also struck out 95 times. Baez struggled to make an impact at the plate this spring, collecting just nine hits in 52 at-bats while striking out 20 times.

Bryant has been one of the best hitters in either spring-training league in 2015, going 17 for 40 with nine home runs and 15 RBI. He is expected to make his major-league debut during 2015. Russell, the biggest name from the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to Oakland last season, hit .324/.359/.486 with one home run in 37 spring at-bats.

With Baez and Bryant out of the picture, the Cubs will likely choose between Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella for playing time at second base and third base.


Mets acquire left-handed reliever Alex Torres in trade with Padres
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) The Mets acquired left-handed reliever Alex Torres from the Padres on Monday. The Padres acquired pitcher Cory Mazzoni and a player to be named later in the trade.

The Mets have been trying to fill the void in the bullpen due to the absence of left-handed reliever Josh Edgin, who will miss the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery.

Torres arrived in San Diego last January in a trade with Tampa Bay. He went 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 70 relief outings for the Padres in 2014. He is 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA over three MLB seasons.

Mazzoni is 24-12 with a 4.11 ERA over four seasons in the minors. He has mostly been used as a starter in the minors (53 starts, 12 relief appearances).


Indians option OF Tyler Holt to Triple-A Columbus
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:47 pm ET) The Indians have optioned outfielder Tyler Holt to Triple-A Columbus, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports.

Holt made his major-league debut last season and went on to hit .268/.307/.296 while also striking out 25 times in 71 at-bats. He was 11 for 42 with one double, one triple and three stolen bases this spring before being sent down.


Reds announce cuts Monday, release veteran Paul Maholm
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:46 pm ET) The Reds made another rounds of cuts Monday, which included the release of veteran pitcher Paul Maholm, who was competing for a spot on the pitching staff this spring.

Other moves Monday included optioning pitcher Pedro Villarreal to Triple-A Louisville, as well as reassigning pitcher Nate Adock, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr., infielder Irving Falu and catcher Kyle Skipworth to minor-league camp.


Rangers SS Elvis Andrus (back) scratched from lineup Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:42 pm ET) Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus has been scratched from Monday's starting lineup due to stiffness in his lower back, the team announced.

Andrus has been in the midst of a fine spring, hitting .389/.410/.639 with one home run, two doubles and two triples in 36 at-bats.


Nationals' Span happy with progress after from core muscle surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:31 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Denard Span has been able to run sprints in the outfield, swing a lighter bat than he is used to and throw from as far as 200 feet over the last week, according to The Washington Post. Span is recovering from core muscle surgery March 9.

“The last three days were really good,” Span said on Sunday. “Overall, it’s been feeling a lot better than I anticipated or a lot of people anticipated feeling this soon.”

Span is expected to stay back in Florida for extended spring training when camp ends. He doesn't have a timetable for his return, but estimates are he will be back in early-to-mid-May.

“Mentally, I’m a lot better than I was before surgery and a little bit after surgery, just knowing that I’m getting better each day and inching closer to getting back to re-joining the ball club and doing what I love to do,” he said. “It’s been a tough six months for me. I’ve been dealing this since the season ended last year. The last few days, just to be out here sprinting and doing things that I normally do has been very easing to my mind.”


Report: Mets likely to keep Muno over Reynolds, if Murphy goes on DL
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) If Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy begins the season on the disabled list due to a hamstring injury, the team is more likely to choose Danny Muno over prospect Matt Reynolds to replace him on the roster, a team source told ESPN.

If Murphy is out, the Mets prefer to have Muno and Ruben Tejada play at second base, with Reynolds being sent to Triple-A to start at shortstop.

One of the reasons the Mets are considering sending Reynolds to the minors is because the team doesn't want to avoid a dilemma in case Reynolds thrives in Murphy's absence and manager Terry Collins wants to keep him around as a bench option. They do not want to start his MLB service time for a backup role.


 
 
 
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