Written by Mike Chiari
Published: 09 March 2008
If you thought things couldn’t get any worse for the O’s, well, you were wrong. The Orioles are on their third manager in as many years, and they dealt away lefty Erik Bedard and former franchise shortstop Miguel Tejada prior to spring training this season.
Things look very bleak in Baltimore this season, and possibly for the foreseeable future. I fully expect the O’s to finish in last in the AL East in ‘08, and that’s with or without Brian Roberts. There have been rumblings for quite some time that Roberts could be on his way to the Cubs via trade. If this were to come to fruition, there would be very little left on this team as far as fantasy relevance goes. If nothing else, you may be able to find some late round sleepers on this squad. For the most part though, I’d stay away.
There are no Orioles deserving of a top tier grade. Their lone candidate, pitcher Erik Bedard, left in a swap with the Mariners.
Nick Markakis (OF):
Markakis took yet another step towards fantasy stardom in ‘07, improving upon his stellar rookie campaign. He proved to be a classic five category performer with above average skills in most of those areas. Markakis finished 2007 with a .300 average, 23 HR’s, 112 RBI, 18 SB’s, and 97 runs scored. He’s now the unquestioned offensive leader on the team following the departure of Miguel Tejada. While Markakis seems primed for great things, he could struggle at times due to a lack of protection in the weak Oriole lineup. While this may be true, he’s still worth the risk because somebody will have to fuel this anemic Oriole offense, and he’s the best bet.
Brian Roberts (2B):
It’s unclear where Roberts will start or end the season, but for now, he’s an Oriole. Regardless of where he goes, Roberts is one of the elite stolen base options in all the league. Roberts’ power surge in ‘05 seems to be a fluke (or chemically created) and likely will never return, but he won’t hurt you in any one category. In ‘07 Roberts put up numbers to the tune of .290, 12 HR’s, 57 RBI, 50 SB’s, and 103 runs. With the lack of high quality base stealers in today’s game, Roberts should be high on your wish list. While he may not be as well rounded as some of his second base counterparts (Utley, Upton, Phillips, Cano) he is the elite base stealer and one of the elite run scorers of the group. While he wouldn’t be my first choice, he could really wrap you up a category immediately. A move to the Cubs would benefit him greatly, and significantly raise his fantasy value.
Ramon Hernandez ( C ):
Following a breakout 2006 season, Hernandez suffered through an injury riddled ‘07 campaign. I would hate to think that Hernandez’s career year in ‘06 was a fluke, but it kind of appears that way. Hernandez set career highs in HR’s (23) and RBI (91) in ‘06, but was unable to build upon those numbers last season. While his ‘07 numbers (.258-9-62 in 106 games) are solid for a catcher, they’re nowhere near the elite. With an improving crop of young catchers, Hernandez has become a forgotten man of sorts. I wouldn’t count the guy out, especially if he’s able to stay healthy. He’s put up very steady production over the course of his career, and is still worth a look if you miss out on the top couple tiers of catchers. As long as he plays, you know what you’re getting. I would expect production along the lines of .270-15-70 in ‘08.
Melvin Mora (3B):
It appears as though the ageless Melvin Mora may finally be starting to break down. A hot start in ‘07 was overshadowed by injury problems and some less than stellar production down the stretch. After back-to-back 27 homerun seasons in ‘04 and ‘05 his power took a dip in ‘06. Mora’s ‘07 numbers were his worst since 2003. While age may have caught up with him, his great start last season suggests there may still be some magic left in his bat. Much like Ramon Hernandez, if Mora can stay healthy, he should be able to produce to a certain level. .274-14-58 was Mora’s line in just 126 games last season. In a full season, Mora should be able to give you solid numbers and be a decent fill in off the bench.
Jeremy Guthrie (SP):
Guthrie came out of nowhere in ‘07 to compete for rookie of the year honors. After the departure of Erik Bedard, it looks like he’ll have to take a huge step to staff ace in ‘08. Guthrie spent many uneventful seasons in the Indians’ farm system before he was cast off to Baltimore. The pitching starved Orioles gave Guthrie the chance he needed, and he delivered. Guthrie went 7-5 with a 3.70 ERA and 123 K’s in 175 innings in ‘07. On a good team, Guthrie would have won a significantly higher amount of games than he actually did. Guthrie isn’t likely to be highly valued on draft day, but he could continue to impress. Somebody is going to have to win some games for this woeful team, and Guthrie is already the most qualified to do so. Take a late round flier on him as he could be a low risk high reward selection if builds upon his solid rookie season.
Aubrey Huff (1B/3B):
Huff has teased fantasy owners with his great power potential ever since 2002. Huff had his real breakout season in 2003 when he hit 34 homeruns and drove in 107 runs for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He put up similar numbers the following year, but has been enigmatic ever since. Slow starts and red hot finishes seem to be a trend with Aubrey Huff. He’s the quintessential post-All Star break producer. Huff’s inconsistent play landed him on three different teams over two seasons, but he may finally have found some continuity with the Orioles. He put up decent overall numbers in ‘07 (.280-15-72) his first as an Oriole. Huff will be counted on to be a big contributor in Baltimore this season. Huff definitely has 30 homerun potential, but I wouldn’t count on it. He’s a decent utility guy for your bench, but nothing more.
Luke Scott (OF):
There’s sure to be a lot of competition for starting jobs in Baltimore this season. One guy who may finally get his big chance is Luke Scott. Scott was one of the pieces who came over in the Miguel Tejada deal. Scott performed admirably while missing 30 games for the ‘Stros in 2007. He hit .255 with 18 HR’s and 64 RBI in 369 AB’s. While he improved n some aspects from his rookie season, his batting average took a dramatic dip from .336 to .255. It’s hard to say which average he resembles more, but I tend to say it’s closer to .255. With regular at bats, Scott’s power potential could definitely shine. Scott won’t have a great amount of protection in the lineup, but he could definitely surprise in 2008. He’d be an excellent sleeper pick, in AL only leagues especially.
Chris Ray/Danys Baez (RP’s):
The Orioles’ two most qualified candidates for the closer job in 2008 will both be starting the season on the disabled list. Ray was coming off a fantastic 2006 in which he saved 38 games for the O’s, but a midseason injury derailed his 2007 campaign. Baez briefly took over the closer’s role which he struggled in before his season ended as well with ligament damage in his right elbow. It’s hard to say if or when either of these guys will return, but if they do it would likely take them some time to become effective. I would for the most part stay away from these guys, but if your league has a DL option where you can stash a guy, I might take a late round flier on Ray. He’s proven he can be an excellent closer in the past, so it wouldn’t be a he risk to spend a last round selection on him.
George Sherrill (RP):
It appears as though George Sherrill will be the heir apparent to the Orioles’ closer role. Sherrill had the best season of his career in 2007 with Seattle. He was so impressive that the Orioles acquired him in the deal for Erik Bedard. Sherrill accumulated 2 victories, a 2.36 ERA, and 56 K’s in 45.2 innings in ‘07. While he was a reliable arm in the Mariner bullpen, it’s hard to say if his success will translate to the closer role. At this point it looks like he’s the best option with both Chris Ray and Danys Baez on the shelf, and Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford floundering. The main problem will be that Sherrill will likely see a lack of save opportunities. Even though his chances will be limited he’s still worth owning since he’s a closer in the league. I just wouldn’t be over eager in pursuing him.
Daniel Cabrera (SP):
If you were to take all the pitchers in the league, put them in white t-shirts, and watch them throw off a mound, Daniel Cabrera would be one of the most impressive. This has been the story with Cabrera throughout his career. His size and stuff is so impressive, but the results leaves us wanting so much more. His 6’9” 270 lb. frame can strike fear into even the best big league hitter, but control problems have done him in time and time again. Cabrera offers opposing lineups far too many opportunities by walking tons of hitters. He’s also extremely inconsistent. He’ll throw a shutout one game, and then allow seven runs over three innings in the next. There’s simply no middle ground with this guy. Cabrera regressed greatly in 2007 just when it seemed he may have been starting to turn the corner. He compiled an atrocious 9-18 record, a bloated 5.55 ERA, and 166 K’s and 108 BB’s in 204 innings. This guy can just kill your ERA and WHIP, although he is a great source for strikeouts. By now you’re probably thinking that it’s a no-brainer… that you should stay away from Cabrera. While I probably wouldn’t touch him, he still has all kinds of untapped potential. If he could ever harness his great stuff, Cabrera could be one of the best in the game. This remains to be seen though, and I don’t know that we ever will see it.
Adam Loewen (SP):
The Canadian lefty, Adam Loewen, will be looked upon to become the next Erik Bedard for the Orioles. He certainly has all the tools to do so. Loewen showed off his great stuff in 22 games during the 2006 season, but was injured for much of the ‘07 season. Loewen was absolutely spectacular in 6 starts early in the 2007 however. Loewen went 2-0 with a 3.56 ERA and 22 K’s in 30 innings. It’s tough to predict how he’ll bounce back from a stress fracture in his throwing elbow, but he’s back and has already appeared in a spring training game. While he may be back to health, there are questions about his control. He walked 26 in just 30 innings last season. If Loewen can improve upon his command, much like Daniel Cabrera, he has all the tools. I’m much higher on Loewen than Cabrera though, I expect him to take a huge step forward this season. I think he’ll be a great sleeper pick.
Adam Jones (OF):
The crown jewel for Baltimore of the Erik Bedard swap, Jones should be thrust into the centerfield role and get every opportunity to succeed in 2008. Jones has tons of talent and has the ability to be a five category producer for the O’s. Jones saw very little action over the last two seasons for Seattle, but he should be an opening day starter in Baltimore. Jones shouldn’t be too sought after on draft day, so you should be able to get him at good value. In the best case scenario, Jones will produce admirably to the tune of something like .280-15-70 along with 15 steals or so. The worst case scenario is that he just isn’t ready yet. I expect him to be ready, and he should definitely be worth a late round pick.