Miguel Tejada (SS): He’s not going to steal 66 bases like Jose Reyes or even 20 like Derek Jeter but Tejada has more power than both and is still one of the elite shortstops in the game today. He set a personal best with a .330 average last year while hitting 24 long balls and driving in 100. The addition of Aubrey Huff to the lineup should add protection for Tejada in the lineup and help his numbers rise again.
Ramon Hernandez (C): He’s not quite an elite catcher but he’s really on the cusp of becoming one when it comes to fantasy value. His career high 23 home runs last season came with a .274 average, 91 RBIs and 66 runs scored. There is no reason to think he won’t come close to those numbers again.
Brian Roberts (2B): He steals 25 plus bases, he hits for average, walks a lot, and contributes a dozen or so home runs and leads off for the Orioles. What more could you ask from a fantasy second baseman? Runs scored? Well he crossed the plate 86 times in ’06 and the addition of Aubrey Huff to the lineup should help him too.
Chris Ray (CL): Ray is the real deal and arguably the best Baltimore pitcher when it comes to fantasy value. Last year he managed 4 wins, 33 saves, a 2.73 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 51 Ks in 66.0 innings. There is no reason to think you can’t already pencil him in for his 30 saves.
Eric Beddard (SP): While Beddard is the ostensible staff of the Baltimore Orioles he’s a flawed pitcher when it comes to fantasy ball because of a high WHIP (1.35). That however is the only real flaw that this fantasy pitcher has to offer. He’s a solid ERA guy (3.76), strikes out a bunch (171 last year), has a good K to BB ration (roughly 3:1) and even with last year’s Orioles managed to win 15 games. He’s still got upside and could get better but concerns about inexperience and age relegate him to a middle or late round second tier pick.
Jay Payton (OF): Payton isn’t a player who’s going to set your fantasy league on fire but his pathetic power numbers of last year (10 home runs) will be helped by the move from pitcher friendly Oakland to Camden Yards. He should hit for average, add a few home runs and get enough RBI chances to make him a late round pick if you are strapped for outfield or bench help. Think .285-15-65 and he’ll probably make you happy.
Melvin Mora (3B): Mora has been a staple in the top of the lineup for a while in Baltimore but those days are likely coming to an end this season as his .733 OPS is suggesting that he’s slowing down. His fantasy value takes a big hit if he’s moved down to the bottom third of the order so keep an eye on the Oriole lineup card this spring and watch what happens. That being said he’s still got a little pop and enough speed to be a 15-15 candidate but it’s not likely.
Aubrey Huff (1B/3B/OF/DH): Just what positions Huff really qualifies at is always one of the great questions of any preseason. In the end it doesn’t really matter so long as he qualifies somewhere besides DH so you can plug him into your lineup. Last year at age 30 Huff put up one of his worst seasons ever (the numbers .267-21-66 with 57 runs scored) which came on the heels of a sub par 2005. Whether he’ll ever be a .300-30-100 guy again is a question, but he’s still young by baseball standards and smart money probably wouldn’t bet against him improving on those numbers.
Daniel Cabrera (SP): So much talent, so much potential, so much wildness. Cabrera is plagued by bouts of wildness that cost him games and drive his ERA and WHIP up. He’s got A level stuff but until he learns to cut down on the walks (104 last season with a 3:2 K:BB ratio) he’s a very flawed pitcher and a fantasy liability. That being said if he can ever learn to master the strike zone he’s got ace written all over him. I wouldn’t bet that this will be the year however. Still 151 K’s is nothing to sneeze at if your league doesn’t value WHIP.
Kevin Millar (OF): There are still traces of the old Kevin Millar, the one who hit for a solid average and hit about 20 home runs each year, but age and injury have definitely slowed him down. He showed a bit of the old spark last season with a .272-15-54 campaign which was enough to show he’s still a serviceable player. Expecting the same and crossing your fingers for more is probably a wise move if you can’t find a surer thing elsewhere.
Nick Markakis (OF): In his first full big league season Markakis impressed with a .291-16-62-72 performance but the question now is can he improve upon it? The answer is probably but like many sophomore players some growing pains are to be expected. He’ll probably be slotted into a better spot in the lineup where his peripheral numbers and confidence can improve. Still, don’t bet the farm on Markakis he’s not proven enough to rate as anything higher than a low third tier player at this point.
Corey Patterson (OF): Will the real Corey Patterson please stand up? Years ago fantasy experts thought he could be 30-30 guy but that never materialized. The speed is still there though – he stole 45 bases last year but his .314 On Base Percentage and his past performance show that he’s a real wild card. Like most low OBP hitters he’s as likely to have a big season as vanish in his entirety as far as fantasy value goes. That makes him a high risk, high reward kind of player.
Jaret Wright (SP): It only seems like Wright has been around since the days of the dinosaurs, in reality the soft tossing Wright is just 31 years old and a fair to middling pitcher when healthy. On most staffs he’d be relegated to 4th or 5th starter status but he’s likely to be asked to do more this season. Last year’s numbers (27 starts 11- 7, 4.49, 1.52 WHIP, with just 84 Ks as a Yankee) pretty much tell the tale of what you should expect from Wright, which is to say very little. Still if your league is so deep you are considering him – at least you know what to expect.
Hayden Penn (SP): There is no question that Hayden Penn has the goods. He’s been dazzling them at all levels of the minors and is waiting for the maturity and stuff to all gel into a Major League ready package (AAA Ottawa 7-4. 2.26, 85K, and 27 walks in 85 innings). He wasn’t ready last year (0-4, 15+ ERA in 19 major league innings) and the O’s see no reason to hurry him into the rotation but he’s going to be ready at some point this season. If he gets the chance he’ll be a valid Rookie of the Year contender.
Steve Trachsel (SP): If anyone tries to tell you that Steve Trachsel is a great pitcher and deserved to win 15 games last year, they are pulling your leg. Trachsel is a serviceable 4th or 5th starter because he eats innings and keeps teams in the game. In terms of fantasy value he’s a guy to pass on except in the deepest leagues – he may have won 15 games last year for the Mets but the rest of his numbers were the worst he’s put up since 2003 (4.97 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 78 Ks in 164.2 innings).
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