StrategyFebruary 22, 2012

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles

By Brendan Horton

One of the slogans for the 2012 Baltimore Orioles is “This is Birdland.” Don’t believe me? Check out their team home page. Maybe this has been a long running thing in Baltimore, I don’t really know. Frankly, though, it’s very fitting for my opinion of the O’s this season. I don’t get it. I mean I kind of get it, but I don’t really get it. And what I do know is that it isn’t very good, and neither are the Orioles. Playing within the AL East certainly isn’t doing Baltimore any favors, but when Tommy Hunter is threatening to be your Opening Day starter, even the Padres are laughing at you.

We’re not that far removed from when we were waiting for the O’s to make “the jump,” similarly to how the Kansas City Royals are currently being viewed. They had this wealth of young pitching talent that we were just waiting to break through and well, they simply haven’t. They may eventually, they may not. 2011 wasn’t a good year for Baltimore, and unfortunately 2012’s outlook isn’t much brighter. They may have a few more options on the fantasy forefront, however.

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.

Offensive Starters

C Matt Wieters.262.328.4507222681500 
1B Chris Davis.266.305.402255191199w/2T
2B Brian Roberts.221.273.331183196163 
SS J.J. Hardy.269.310.4917630800527 
3B Mark Reynolds.221.323.4838437866534 
LF Nolan Reimold.247.328.4534013457267 
CF Adam Jones.280.319.46668258312567 
RF Nick Markakis.284.351.40672157312641 
DH Wilson Betemit.285.343.452408464323w/2T

Unsettled: The Orioles might have a longer “Unsettled” list than any other team in Major League Baseball. How does Brian Roberts fare recovering from last season’s concussion? If he isn’t good to go, how does Robert Andino fare in his place at second? Can Nolan Reimold take his hot finish to 2011 and roll it over into a solid 2012? Is this the year Chris Davis finally performs at the MLB level that he does at the MiLB level? Will Nick Markakis return to previous form? Is J.J. Hardy capable of repeating his 30-HR performance? Your guess is as good as anybody’s on all of these matters. We’ll likely see a couple of booms and busts in this group. The difficult part is prognosticating who will fall into which category.

Target: Mark Reynolds. People knock him cause of his batting average (and let’s face it, the guy bat under .200 in 2010), but he’s the one consistent rock that the Orioles have. His HR totals in each of the last three seasons: 44, 32, 37. Difficult to find another player who has put 113 balls into the stands over that same stretch who also qualifies at what is largely considered 2012’s thinnest position in terms of fantasy value. Not to mention there’s always the slim possibility Reynolds manages to luck his way into batting .260, as he did in 2009, which would make him a monster fantasy asset. If Markakis can regain some of his form and Reimold can sustain his production from last September over the course of a season, Reynolds will have some more protection and may see more pitches to hit. Maybe I’m dreaming. If you don’t nab one of the high end 3Bs early, Reynolds could be a steal in Round 8 or 9.

The Rotation

Tommy Hunter (R)4 – 44.681.36451584.2w/2T
Wei-Yin Chen (L)8 – 102.681.039431164.2in JPN
Zach Britton (L)11 – 114.611.459762154.1 
Jake Arrieta (R)10 – 85.051.469359119.1 
Jason Hammel (R)7 – 134.761.439468170.1w/COL

Unsettled: Brian Matusz. The formerly “can’t miss future ace” has suffered a fast and severe fall from grace, to the point where he’s fighting for his spot in one of the worst rotations in baseball.  He’s just a few weeks into his 25th year so the lefty is far from a lost cause, but his 1-9 record and 10.69 ERA in 2011 are painful to look at, as were his performances that earned them. They’re also difficult to forget for those who drafted him a year ago expecting production. The good thing Matusz has going for him is that the arms ahead of him in line for the Baltimore rotation aren’t exactly wowing anybody either, making greater opportunity for another shot on the bump in Baltimore.

Target: If you’re “targeting” an Oriole starter, you’re either in a very deep league or in very deep something else. Zach Britton and his 52.6 GB% on another team (say, Tampa) would be incredibly enticing; but when you’ve got Mark Reynolds manning the hot corner being about as effective as somebody over there without a glove, he likely remains a guy with an ERA over 4.00 and a WHIP much higher than he deserves to have, unfortunately. Any serviceable Baltimore starter in standard leagues will likely be nabbed off the waiver wire in April, and it will either be Japanese import 26-year-old LHP Wei-Yin Chen or the aforementioned Matusz, if he’s able to make some of his potential come to fruition. You’d like to think that Hammel may benefit from leaving Coors Field, but he went out of the frying pan and into the fire of the AL East.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Jim Johnson (R)92.671.11582191.0 
Kevin Gregg (R)224.371.64534059.2 

Chasing Saves: Kevin Gregg served as the primary closer for the O’s most of last season, but Johnson emerged as a much more stable option in the 9th inning last September and looks to hold onto that job into 2012. He’s currently being drafted just inside the Top 300, making him a very nice sleeper option for both saves and solid ratios. It is possible that if he falters that, along with Gregg, Matt Lindstrom sees some save opportunities, as he did lock down 22 games for Houston back in 2009. Don’t let their terrible record fool you: the Orioles could provide plenty of save opportunities for your fantasy team this season, and Johnson looks to be the primary beneficiary.

Final Thoughts

The Orioles are a team that may be painful to watch play baseball in 2012, but there is a mountain of fantasy potential hiding within its roster, and while the haystack may be monumental, finding the needle can often be the difference between winning a championship and having regret.

Check back tomorrow for our look at the Boston Red Sox.

Brendan Horton is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brendan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigh0rt.
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