While the Orioles won't go anywhere this season, a few platoon players could make the Orioles fantasy options interesting. Plus, there is a young outfielder that may be overlooked.
The Best of the Bunch:Nick Markakis (OF): A solid five category contributor, Markakis is an asset to any fantasy roster. He won’t put up a ton of steals, but he will contribute 10 or so. However he did regress in power, RBIs and steals last season instead of making the step forward that many predicted for him. Still that probably is more a sign of youth than a real concern - he’s a top 15 outfielder in any case.
The Second Tier:
Brian Roberts (2B): Even though he’s past his prime, Roberts is still an upper tier second base option because he can steal, hit for average and will score plenty of runs as the O’s lead off hitter. Problem is that rumors are still abounding that Roberts won’t finish the season in Baltimore. Thats ok, he can steal bases anywhere. His little bit of pop is a plus, his fragile health isn’t.
Aubrey Huff (1B/DH): 2007 was a rough season for Huff and many thought that the end was near. However 2008 was a renaissance as Huff had one of the best season’s of his entire career (.304-32-108 with 3 steals to boot). It looks like he’s hitting his stride in Baltimore and as the offense continuing to improve he could easily post similar numbers. He’s likely to lose some at bats to Ty Wigginton, but he’s still a lock for at least 450 AB as the O’s cleanup hitter.
The Third Tier:
Melvin Mora (3B): Mora turned it on over the last third of the season and finished with solid numbers .285-23-104, but that was his best season in the last three years. At age 37 it's not realistic to expect him to match those numbers but .275-15-82 would still be good production from a third tier third baseman. With luck you’ll get better.
Ty Wigginton (3B/OF): Wigginton has the potential to hit 20 home runs and hit for average as he’s done time and time again. The question is if he’ll get enough at bats to do it while playing in Baltimore. He’ll take at bats from a number of players, including Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott and Melvin Mora, but expect to see him a lot more against lefties than against righties (check the splits).
Adam Jones (OF): The ubertalented Adam Jones didn’t look that great in his first season with the big club (.271-9-57 with 10 steals), but he’s got tremendous talent, and he spent the off season bulking up. That should help the power numbers, but not surprisingly rumors about any player who added 25 pounds of muscle during the offseason are creating a buzz.
George Sherrill (CL): Sherrill was a more than adequate closer in 2008, but his 4.72 ERA and 1.50 WHIP should tell you that saves are often rather adventurous. That’s enough to keep Chris Ray in the closer mix - even to the point that we could see some closing by committee in Baltimore. Of course he should be good for 30 saves, if he can keep the job.
Luke Scott (OF/DH): The acquisition of Ryan Freel and Ty Wigginton is going to cut into Scott’s playing time -- especially since he struggles against left handers. Because of that the odds of him hitting 20 plus home runs again is slim. He’s worth a pick in deeper leagues, but don’t overvalue him.
Question Marks, Cheap Buys and Sleepers:
Felix Pie (OF): It was just two years ago that Pie was hyped as the Cubs can’t miss prospect, but once he hit AAA, his potential seemed to stall as his strikeout rates jumped and his .280s BA in the minors fell to less than .225 when facing Major League pitching. The real question is if the talent is there or if Pie was just massively overhyped. Either way, he’s got plenty of speed and the O’s seem determined to give him the chance to prove he can handle it in the bigs. He could be a major sleeper but the odds are against him at this point.
Rich Hill (SP): Hill was coming along nicely before 2008 when all of a sudden he hit a wall and began struggling to control his pitches in the strike zone. That lead the Cubs to demote him back to AAA where he posted a 5.88 ERA. While he claimed it was a back injury that caused the problem, the Cubs dealt him away to Baltimore for little return. Draft him only in late rounds or scoop him up off the free agent wire if you see some early season success.
Koji Uehara (SP): Thirty-five-year-old Japanese import Koji Uehara has been a solid pitcher in his career in Japan, however he hasn’t thrown more than 90 innings in a season since 2006. He’s got a good strikeout to walk ratio, has posted solid ERAs and has a winning record in his career. However his career has been on a slide and how well his stuff will translate to the majors is a concern. Even if he has early season success, expect the workload to start catching up with him about the time of the All-Star break. That may make him a good first half pick up,
Gregg Zaun (C): Don’t expect Zaun to keep his job the whole season, but he’s likely to at least start the season as the primary catcher for the O’s. He’s a pick up only in very deep leagues.
Matt Wieters (C): Already being heralded as the favorite for Rookie of the Year, Matt Wieters hasn’t escaped the media spotlight in any fantasy guide. He’s got great tools and will be a stud, maybe even in 2009, so he’ll probably be worth stashing on your bench until the O’s call him up sometime in June or July.
Chris Ray (RP): Former closer Chris Ray is coming off Tommy John surgery and might have some control or arm speed issues off the bat, but that doesn’t mean you can write him out of the closer battle in Baltimore. Keep an eye on the situation this spring, but realize Ray will have to really prove he’s all the way back to really be considered. Even if he’s not, he’s probably next in line to get the job. A closer by committee approach is possible too.
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