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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' Juan Lagares (elbow) to start against Braves on Wednesday
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:43 pm ET) Mets outfielder Juan Lagares will make the trip to Orlando and start in Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Braves, according to ESPN New York. 

Lagares will not play in Tuesday's instrasquad scrimmage, however. 

Lagares sprained his elbow and had to be shut down near the end of the 2014 season. Though there are concerns about his injury popping back up, everything appears to be OK with Lagares for the time being. 


White Sox's John Danks to start Thursday vs Dodgers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:37 pm ET) White Sox pitcher John Danks will start Thursday's Cactus League game against the Dodgers, according to the Chicago Sun Times

Last Friday, Danks said his shoulder, which was operated on in 2012, was feeling better. In 2014, Danks went 11-11 and posted a 4.74 ERA and a 129:74 K:BB ratio in 193 2/3 innings pitched. 


Brewers' Roenicke working on ways to get Gerardo Parra into lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra seems fine with his role as a reserve outfielder, despite being a Gold-Glove-caliber defender.

"No, I'm happy," he said of his situation, per MLB.com. "I don't think nothing like that, like we have a lot of outfielders. The only thing is working and playing every day and doing my job.

"I say again, if I don't play every day, I won't feel bad. If I do play every day, I will be happy too. My job is to play baseball in a Milwaukee uniform to do the best I can."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke loves Parra's attitude. He added since Parra can play all three outfield positions, he will do his best to work Parra into the lineup.

"He's really got a great attitude, but he wants to be out there," Roenicke said. "In my mind, if I had got him 200 at-bats this year, he'd be disappointed. He's a better player than that and we need to get him out there.

"I told you guys before, usually when you give your three guys a day off, it's because they really need to have it, but it's not that way with Parra because, for me, Parra is a starter. So I consider him a guy that, if the matchups are good for him, he's going to be in the game. I'm not waiting for somebody to be tired and has to have a day off. It's going to be different with him."


White Sox P Jose Quintana set to start Wednesday
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:32 pm ET) The White Sox have named pitcher Jose Quintana their starter for Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Dodgers, according to the Chicago Sun Times

Brad Penny, Tyler Danish, Nolan Sanburn and Zach Putnam are also slated to pitch in Wednesday's game. In 2014, Quintana went 9-11 and posted a 3.32 ERA. 


Rays' Archer aims to refine changeup during spring training
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:27 pm ET) Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer is working this spring to refine his changeup and improve against the running game, per MLB.com.

"Last year at the end of spring training, I felt completely comfortable throwing my changeup," Archer said. "But when there are runners on base and it was a changeup situation, I didn't feel comfortable going to that because my other two pitches are my bread and butter.

"Hopefully I can get to the point where I can have my three pitches. Throw my slider less and my changeup more. That makes my slider better because they see it less frequently."

Rays manager Kevin Cash is all for Archer working on his changeup.

"It can be another weapon," Cash said. "He's got such a great feel with the other two, I don't think him working on a changeup or focusing on it a little bit more during spring training is going to hurt anything."


Jackson, Wood among five vying for final spot in Cubs' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:21 pm ET) With Cubs manager Joe Maddon indicating Monday that Kyle Hendricks has a spot in the rotation locked up behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel, that leaves Travis Wood, Edwin JacksonFelix Doubront, Jacob Turner and Tsuyoshi Wada vying for the final spot in the team's rotation.

“Everybody understands what’s going on here. There are no dummies," Maddon said, per MLB.com. “The line I like is that, I’m not going to lie to you. If I tell you the truth, you might be upset with me for about a week or two but then you’re going to be OK. But if I lie to you, you’re going to hate me forever.

“They’re very competitive and the fact we have a lot of folks for some really narrow choices, it’s going to be an interesting spring. I know that competition normally brings out the best in everyone.”


Tigers DH Victor Martinez puts in rehab work
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:20 pm ET) Coming off an injured knee, Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez was able to put in some work during Monday's spring training practice. 

According to the Detroit Free Press, Martinez ran on an anti-gravity treadmill and took 30 swings from each side on a batting tee. 

Martinez underwent medial menisectomy surgery on his left knee on Feb. 10, which has a four-to-six week recovery period. Martinez was asked to report late to camp so that he could ensure his knee was in shape. 


Rockies' Weiss: DJ LeMahieu is going to get better offensively
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:14 pm ET) Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu is hoping the offseason work he put in to increase his speed will pay dividends on offense this season, particularly legging out more extra-base hits, per MLB.com.

"We were doing sprints early in the offseason and by February I was much, much faster," LeMahieu said. "We'll see how that translates, but I accomplished my goal."

Rockies manager Walt Weiss is expecting LeMahieu to improve offensively.

"He's a guy that's going to get better and better offensively," Weiss said. "I've talked about his feel for the game and that's going to play into his offense. You're going to see his on-base [.314 career] creep up. He's going to slug more than he has [.361 career] -- not homers, but there are doubles there."


Orioles' Showalter indicates Gonzalez might be ready for 200 innings
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) Orioles manager Buck Showalter said starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is in good shape at the start of spring training, per MASNsports.com.

"I don't know if you all tapped on him, but he's like a rock," Showalter said. "He's got a goal of pitching 200 innings this year because that's been the one kind of bugaboo on him. Miggy's not the type of guy to talk about this, but his whole offseason he spent a lot of time with (vice president of baseball operations) Brady (Anderson). I hit him the other day and it was like hitting a rock. His body fat is actually down and his weight's up.

"The wear and tear, he's always had a couple spots where he's needed a DL period or miss a start. He's very upfront. If you know Miggy's personality, it's not like he's shirking a responsibility. If we can stay away from that, he could go to another level physically. He's done everything he can to be there for us every fifth day.

"He was pretty good last year, but the one thing he's missing is that durability."


Orioles P Bud Norris gunning for 200 innings in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:00 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Bud Norris has set a goal of pitching 200 innings for the first time in his career, according to MLB.com. 

Monday marked Norris' 30th birthday and he's yet to reach that benchmark in his career. A year ago, Norris notched 165 1/3 innings a year ago. 

"I felt I was in the best shape of my life last year, and I can say the same thing this year," Norris said. "I feel a little bit better, actually. Going out there consistently every five days and putting up innings is really what it's all about."


 
 
 
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