Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Can Showalter Save the Orioles?
To this generation of baseball fans, they likely view the Baltimore Orioles as a bunch of losers, and recently this has been true. Fact is, this is a franchise with winning traditions, and was still very competitive in the 90's but has fallen on hard times. Times haven't gotten much harder than this season. Buck Showalter was brought on last week to help right the ship, and the O's are now 6-1 with their new manager at the helm. He's not going to save this season, but can he save the future of this team? Perhaps. After all, there is some good young talent on this squad and help on the way.
C- Matt Wieters has received tons of hype over the past few seasons, and is now an everyday catcher in the bigs. His bat isn't blossoming as much as the front office and fans were hoping for, as he's taken a step backwards in his sophomore year (.687 OPS), but cut the kid some slack. He'll end up producing just fine. Craig Tatum is the primary backup, and has a typical skill set of others' around the majors in his role.
1B- Ty Wigginton is currently manning the position, but is almost certain to be elsewhere next season, if not by the end of August via trade. Joseph Mahoney (.322/.905 between A/AA) has progressed nicely this season in the minors and may be looking at a starting gig in 2011 if he's able to prove himself in spring training. If not Mahoney, then Rhyne Hughes seems to be the 1st baseman by default.
2B- Brian Roberts has finally gotten back to a degree of healthy considered fit for play. When he is truly healthy, there are not many second basemen in the majors better than him. Justin Turner and Scott Moore serve as backup, with Ryan Adams also in the wings (.301 at Bowie).
SS- Cesar Izturis and Julio Lugo have been splitting time here, but this is an area in need of a significant upgrade during the offseason. Robert Andino has been playing shortstop for the Tides, but his glove and bat are both suspect. Double-A Bowie doesn't offer any relief either, so the O's might have to go outside the organization to fill this void.
3B- Josh Bell has just taken over at the hot corner, and the O's would be smart to let him gain valuable experience for the remainder of the season with aspirations of him becoming a steadying force in the lineup for coming years. Slugger Brandon Waring is toiling with the Baysox, but is on his way to a 4th straight 20+ homerun season.
OF- Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Felix Pie. Markakis is the perfect 2-hole hitter, makes good contact, has gap power, and adequate speed. Jones is young and is still developing, but is already an established bat with quality defense. Pie needs to remain on the active roster, but when on the field has shown glimpses of what made him a top prospect in the Cubs organization. The 3 are all solid defensively and are 26 or younger, so their prime years likely still await them. The O's could end up leaning heavily on this outfield trifecta during their rebuilding stage and hopeful return to winning ways. The speedy Matt Angle, the forgotten about Nolan Reimold, and Tyler Henson will also be ready soon for MLB employment.
DH- Luke Scott can hit (.924 OPS, 20 hr in 86 games). He's going to get more expensive this offseason, but with Wigginton 3/4 out the door already, the O's would be wise to hold onto Scott and keeo his power bat in the lineup. Once highly touted prospect Joel Guzman is currently slugging away in Double-A (25 hr).
*Jake Fox has an unknown role, as he can play C/1B/3B/OF and has shown tremendous hitting skills in the minors, but continues to struggles as a big leaguer.
Starting Pitching- Jeremy Guthrie will be the 2011 Orioles "ace". He's a decent enough pitcher (4.04 ERA, 1.22 WHIP), and with better run support would have more success. Following him in the rotation will be Brian Matusz, Jake Arietta, and likely Brad Bergensen and Chris Tillman. Matusz has suffered his lumps this season (5.08 ERA), but most experts agree he has a bright future. Arietta has done an okay job as a rookie, but must improve his BB:K (35:29). Tillman has disappointed in limited MLB exposure (7.92 ERA in 6 starts), but once again has a bright future. Bergensen was great as a rookie in '09 (7-5, 3.43 ERA), but has been disastrous this year (3-9, 6.26 ERA). Still, he remains in the O's plans moving forward. Other rotation possibilities- Zachary Britton, Troy Patton, Rick VandenHurk, and Richard Zagone.
Relief- Alfredo Simon is currently the closer, but the club has to hope he can fall back into a setup role with high-priced free agent signing Mike Gonzalez resuming closing duties. Koji Uehara wasn't very impressive as a starter, but in the bullpen he's found his niche (2.18 ERA). Jason Berken has been a bullpen stalwart for the O's all season, and they will need him to continue eating up relief innings next year. David Hernandez and Matt Albers are mediocre, but Hernandez does have upside being only 25 and possessing the knack for striking batters out. Bullpen possibilities- Armando Gabino, Jim Miller, Dennis Sarfate, Frank Mata, Jim Hoey, Alberto Castillo, Eddie Gamboa, Pedro Beato, Pat Egan, Jose Diaz (300 lb.), and Chad Thall.
Looking at the future roster I see the offense improving, but the biggest question mark being the pitching staff. The O's will score runs, but will their pitching be adequate enough to win? Showalter's tutelage will be necessary for movement in the AL East, as the other 4 teams are considerably better than Baltimore. I just hope that the fan base returns to a beautiful stadium and storied franchise in what looks to be an improving team.