|2009 Baltimore Orioles Team Preview||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 20, 2009
The Orioles play in the toughest division in baseball. They were the only team to finish below .500 in the AL East. But here are good news, too: Fourth place in the AL East may be possible.
Landing in Baltimore
*Signed minor league contract.
Lots of folks are making noise saying that this season’s team is considerably better than the squad the O’s put on the field last season, but that might be optimistic. There is no question that ownership is trying to rebuild and is willing to spend the money to do so, but attracting big name talent hasn’t been easy and the team has had to settle for trying to make smart decisions to fill holes.
That being said there is a lot of potential here, but nothing which seems sure to be realized. This team could take a step forward, or fail spectacularly.
Strengths - Potential, Relief Pitching and Offense
The O’s offense should score some runs. They have plenty of guys at the top and middle of the order capable of hitting the long ball as well as producing for average. However, the bottom of their order with Adam Jones, failed Cubs prospect Felix Pie and rookie catcher Matt Wieters (who probably will not open the season with the big team) is a bit of an enigma.
Jones seems likely to take a step forward and supposedly reported to camp having added 25 pounds of muscle to his frame.
Wieters, the No. 1 catching prospect in the minors and already being trumpeted as the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award, will probably open the season at AAA, but could be an impact player.
The Cubs seem to have given up on the multi-tooled Pie, who spent many years as an “untouchable” in the Cubs farm system. After 260 Major League at bats, Pie’s numbers were an ugly .223-3-30 with 11 steals. He has tremendous room for improvement, but he looked lost at the plate pretty much in every appearance last season.
One place that the O’s seem really solid is in the bullpen where George Sherrill, Chris Ray and Jamie Walker could provide one of the best seventh, eighth and ninth inning finishes in the east.
Weaknesses - Pitching, inexperience
To say the rotation is suspect is an act of charity. After all the staff ace is going to be Jeremy Gutherie, need we say more? After that the only assured rotation spot belongs to Japanese import Koji Uehara. The rest of the rotation will be filled with inning eaters like Mark Henderson or Brian Burres and reclamation jobs like Rich Hill, who is capable of being brilliant, but has struggled with control and inconsistency in the National League. There are about a dozen arms competing for the starting jobs including Radames Liz, Danys Baez, Matt Albers and Chris Waters and Troy Patton.
Their other flaw might be how much they will have to rely on unproven players, especially the pitchers and at the bottom of the order where Wieters, Pie and Jones are all inexperienced.
One question that need answering
Can the O’s pitch well enough to finish out of last place? They should score plenty of runs, but in a division where they’ll play the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox almost 60 times, offensive alone isn’t going to cut it. That means they aren’t playing to contend but just hoping to improve enough not to finish last again. That means they’ll have to beat a weak, but better balanced, team in the Blue Jays.
This team will go as far as the offense can carry them, and the odds are that won’t be very far. They should be better than last year, but if the youngsters struggle their lineup will be very unbalanced. Still they are strong enough that overtaking the Jays and finishing in fourth is a realistic goal.