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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
Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo delivers two-run homer in win Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:11 pm ET) Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo came through in the clutch with a big two-run home run in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Rockies. Rizzo's blast gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the third inning, and they were able to hang on for the victory.

The homer, Rizzo's 17th of the year, was his only hit of the afternoon. The young star has been struggling at the plate over the last few weeks, as he's hitting just .132 with two RBI over his past 10 games. His season average has dropped from .294 to .279 over that stretch.


Cubs' Dexter Fowler helps beat former team in win Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:06 pm ET) Center fielder Dexter Fowler got the party started for the Cubs on Wednesday, as he led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run to put his team up 1-0 early. The Cubs would go on to beat the Rockies 3-2.

The home run, Fowler's 10th of the year, was his only hit of the afternoon. He did walk twice and score twice however. He was also caught stealing for the sixth time in 22 attempts.

Fowler has been heating up at the plate, batting .361 with two home runs over his past 10 games.


Rockies SP Eddie Butler hurt by longball in loss on Wedesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:58 pm ET) Rockies rookie starter Eddie Butler pitched fairly well against the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon, but he was simply outpitched by the crafty veteran Jon Lester. Butler allowed three runs on five hits over five innings. He walked three and struck out four, needing 82 pitches (45 strikes) to get through the fifth in the 3-2 loss.

Butler (3-7, 4.82 ERA) was bitten by the longball on Wednesday. He gave up a lead-off home run to Dexter Fowler in the first inning, and then allowed a two-run shot to Anthony Rizzo in the third to account for all the scoring the Cubs would have on the afternoon.

The youngster has made two starts since coming back from the minor leagues. He has given up six earned runs over 11 innings in those outings. He has yet to more than six innings any start of his young career.


Rangers SP Derek Holland set for Thursday start at Triple-A
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:55 pm ET) The Rangers have announced that starting pitcher Derek Holland will be dispatched to Triple-A Round Rock for an outing Thursday.

The announcement confirms an earlier report.

Holland, who has been out since April with a shoulder injury, is scheduled to make three minor league starts before returning to the Texas rotation.


Yankees CF Slade Heathcott's to rehab in Triple-A
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:55 pm ET) Yankees center fielder Slade Heathcott will have his rehab assignment moved up to Triple-A, according to The Journal News.

Heathcott is currently on the 60-day disabled list with an injured quad.


MRI reveals bone spurs in elbow of Braves SP Manny Banuelos
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:52 pm ET) A MRI revealed that Braves starting pitcher Manny Banuelos has a bone spur on the posterior portion of his left elbow, according to MLB.com.

Though the bone spur isn't exactly good news, there is still hope that Banuelos could pitch for Atlanta this season.


Cubs RP Hector Rondon gets first save in over a month Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:49 pm ET) Cubs reliever Hector Rondon recorded his 13th save of the year in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Rockies. Rondon struck out two and walked a batter in a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the victory.

The save was Rondon's first since June 20, as the Cubs have been mixing and matching at the back end of the bullpen for the last month or so. Still, Rondon has been scored upon just once in his last 19 outings, and his ERA is down to 1.80 for the season.


Cubs SP Jon Lester K's 14 Rockies in 3-2 victory Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:46 pm ET) Cubs starter Jon Lester was terrific on Wednesday afternoon, as he struck out a season-high 14 batters, en route to the 3-2 win over the Rockies. Lester allowed two runs on five hits over eight solid innings, as he threw 77 of his 117 pitches for strikes.

Lester (6-8) gave up a run in the fourth, and another in the seventh on a Carlos Gonzalez solo home run. Other than that, he kept the Rockies at bay with the 14 whiffs. Lester recorded the most amount of strikeouts in a game by a Cubs pitcher since 2004, and he's the only Cubs left-hander to strikeout 14 batters in a game since at least 1914. 

Lester has pitched at least seven innings in each of his past seven starts, going 2-2 with a 1.66 ERA over that stretch.


Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion scratched from lineup on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:38 pm ET) Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion was scratched from Wednesday's lineup against the Phillies due to a finger injury. 

Encarnacion is dealing with a jammed middle finger. He underwent X-rays, which came back negative. It is unclear if the slugger will be available off the bench on Wednesday.

Chris Colabello has entered the lineup at first base to replace Encarnacion.


Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira gets rare day off Wednesday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:34 pm ET) Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is not in his team's lineup for the first time in over a month.

Teixeira will be replaced at first base by Garrett Jones, who will hit out of the seventh spot in the lineup.


 
 
 
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