Brief 2011 Recap
It was pretty much more of the same, as the Orioles finished in the East cellar for the fourth-straight campaign (five-straight sub-70 win years). Jeremy Guthrie—now with the Colorado Rockies—headlined yet another rotation that featured underdeveloped and straight-up stagnant young pitchers on a team that has struggled mightily, despite scads of young arms coming through the system. Bright spots included the continual development of Matt Wieters into one of the best catchers in the AL, J.J. Hardy drilling 30 home runs as the Orioles more or less fleeced the Twins in that trade and Zach Britton had an uneven, but pretty solid overall rookie campaign to garner the top slot in the rotation heading into '12.
Brief 2012 Prediction
This is bound to be another rough year at Camden Yards, but that doesn't mean that there won't be some fun individuals to watch. Wieters, Hardy, Jones and Markakis should front an offense that is likely to score more than the 708 runs it combined for in '11, but after that, there's a misplaced DH, a couple of power hitters with big holes in their swings and then a cast of misfits all looking to make their mark in arguably the toughest division in all of baseball. The team will be hard-pressed to win too many more games than they did in '11 (69-93), but even shooting for a modest five-or-so game improvement will be a good start. At least one more young starter needs to develop, or this rotation will be an absolute mess.
Projected Starting Lineup
Top Bench Options
Top 101 Prospects (According to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus)
SP Dylan Bundy (6th)
SS Manny Machado (8th)
IF Jonathan Schoop (85th)
Why the Orioles Will Contend in ‘12
To be painfully blunt, the O's won't contend. If it were to happen—in a feel-good, Indians kind of way—it would probably require a healthy Brian Roberts, old-version Adam Dunn production from Davis and Reynolds and some sort of miracle production out of an enigmatic group of young starters. Regardless of whether or not this club contends, the bullpen could be fun to watch. Johnson is very good, and throws really hard—a legit 95-plus heater according to FanGraphs—and Strop, Lindstrom and company could make for a decent back-end of a bullpen. A good goal for this year is .500, and continued growth for the future.
Why the Orioles Will Not Contend in ‘12
The rotation is a mess, the batting order is solid in the middle but soft at DH and a couple of the corners and the defense is likely to be downright ghastly, at least in the infield, despite Hardy's wizardry at short. This is not a good growing environment for young starters—in other words, all of the rotation—and it'll likely be a pretty rough ride in Baltimore this year.
Final Prediction: Fifth, AL East (Out of Five)
O/U Wins: 70.5