Baltimore Orioles: Predicting the Opening Day 25-Man Roster

Sean PelletierContributor IIMarch 14, 2012

Baltimore Orioles: Predicting the Opening Day 25-Man Roster

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    The Baltimore Orioles haven’t had a winning record since 1997 when they finished in first place in the AL East. Since then, the Orioles have had 14 straight losing seasons and haven’t finished better than third in the division.

    The Orioles are looking to put all that behind them and are set to open the 2012 MLB season in a little over three weeks, at home against the Minnesota Twins.

    The O’s roster is far from being set. They dwindled it down to 49 players on March 12. By opening day, the O’s have to cut the roster down to 25 players.

    These are the players I believe will be sporting the new (old) Orioles logo at Camden Yards come April 6th. 

Catcher: Matt Wieters

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    The first-time Gold Glove Award winner Matt Wieters will be behind the plate for the Orioles this season. The 25-year-old is coming off his best defensive season. He increased his batting average from .249 in 2010 to .262 in 2011.

    Wieters looks to build on last year and work on his offensive side of the game. Entering his third full season, Wieters looks to become a better leader as well. 

    "Being a catcher, all the way up, at some point in the game you’re going to be a leader. You’ll be the leader of the pitching staff. And now, as you get more and more years in major league baseball, you’re going to try and become more of a leader for the whole team, not just the pitching staff. That’s kind of where I’m at now," said Wieters at Spring Training.

First Base: Chris Davis

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    Chris Davis came over from Texas with pitcher Tommy Hunter last season for Koji Uehara. In 123 at bats last season, Davis hit .276. From 2008-09 with Texas, Davis was able to hit 38 home runs. In the last two seasons, he was only able to hit 6 home runs.

    The Baltimore Orioles have tried tirelessly to get a power bat at first base. Derrek Lee was good, not great (12 HR) and Garrett Atkins was a complete disaster (1 HR). The O's hope that Davis can get back to the power he showed early in his career. 

Second Base: Robert Andino

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    Brian Roberts injury caused Robert Andino to transform from a utility infielder to an everyday second baseman. Andino faired pretty well last season. Andino hit .263 at the plate and only committed four errors in 94 games at second base. 

    Andino could go back to his utility role if and when Brian Roberts comes back. Andino has experience in both the infield and outfield. He is one of the most underrated players on this team.

Third Base: Mark Reynolds

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    Let's face it, Mark Reynolds is going to strikeout around 200 times every season. Reynolds did, however, lead the Orioles in home runs (37) and RBI (86) last season. 

    Reynolds was just awful last season at third base. He committed 26 errors at the hot corner last season. 

    I personally believe the the team should move Reynolds to first base or to designated hitter so he can focus on hitting and stop hurting the team in the field.

    Look for Reynolds to lead the team in home runs, RBI and strikeouts again this season. 

Shortstop: J.J. Hardy

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    J.J. Hardy hit a career high 30 home runs and committed only six errors in the field last season. The Baltimore Orioles rewarded the 28-year-old with a 3-year, $22 million contract extension last July.

    Hardy was the Baltimore Orioles team MVP last season. He has an injury riddled career and missed a couple weeks last season. The Orioles need Hardy to stay healthy, especially if Brian Roberts isn't able to recover.

Left Field: Nolan Reimold

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    Nolan Reimold was hit in the cheek with a fastball during a Spring Training game on March 9. Many in the organization feared he would be seriously injured. Reimold only sustained a chipped tooth and a swollen cheek.

    Reimold has not been able to stay in the majors for a full season in his career. A couple seasons ago Reimold suffered a leg injury and found it hard to get back to consistent play. If healthy, the Orioles would have one of the best outfields in all of baseball.

Center Field: Adam Jones

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    Jones was part of all kinds of trade rumors this past offseason. The Orioles center-fielder remains with the team through 2013 and is looking for a new contract.

    Jones makes some spectacular plays in center field. He needs to work on hitting off speed pitches. He finds himself out on his front foot many times on such pitches. If Jones is going to take his game to the next level, he will need to improve in that category.  

Right Field: Nick Markakis

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    Nick Markakis made his first appearance in Spring Training on March 14 after having abdominal surgery. This is a good sign for the right fielder who won his first Gold Glove Award last season. Markakis didn't commit a single error last season. 

    His batting average of .284 last season was the worst of his career and he had the second-worst home run total of his career with 15. Markakis is looking for a bounce back year at the plate. 

Designated Hitter: Wilsom Betemit

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    The Orioles signed Wilson Betemit to a two-year $3.25 million contract. General Manager, Dan Duquette signed Betemit to be the team's DH. Betemit also has experience as a third baseman, so don't be surprised if he switches positions with Mark Reynolds if he continues to struggle.

    Betemit hit .285 with eight home runs with Kansas City and Detroit last season.

Bench

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    - Endy Chavez (OF)

    - Ryan Flaherty (IF/OF)

    - Taylor Teagarden (C) 

    This will be Chavez's seventh team since 2001. He signed a one-year deal with the O's in December. Chavez will essentially replace Felix Pie. He will be responsible for giving the outfielders rest when they need it. He is also a great baserunner and can be used in pinch-running situations.

    Flaherty will be competing for the utility infield spot with Matt Antonelli, after Ryan adams was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.  

    Teagarden has been dealing with back issues and may not be ready for Opening Day. O's Manager Buck Showalter hopes Teagarden will be able to give starting catcher Matt Wieters more days off than he had last season. 

Starting Rotation

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    - Tommy Hunter (R)

    - Brian Matusz (L)

    - Jake Arrieta (R)

    - Zach Britton (L)

    - Jason Hammel (R)

    Tommy Hunter has a great chance to be this teams Opening Day starter. He is one of the only pitchers who hasn't been battling an injury in the offseason or Spring Training.

    Brian Matusz has the most potential of anyone in this group. He showed two years ago that he could dominate major league hitters. He never returned to form last year after being hurt in the Spring. Now healthy, Matusz has his velocity back in the low-to-mid 90's range of two years ago. His most recent outing was four scoreless inning against the Phillies. A game where he surrendered just three hits, struck out four and walked none.

    Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton were two of the more successful pitchers for the Orioles last season. Arrieta ended the season last year on the disabled list. He had surgery to remove a bone spur in his throwing elbow that caused him discomfort. In Arrieta's first Spring Training game, his fastball topped out at 97 mph. Britton has been battling a shoulder injury this Spring and could be replaced in the rotation by Wei-Yin Chen if he is not ready to go.

    Jason Hammel was acquired from the Rockies as a part of the Jeremy Guthrie trade. Hammel may hold this position because he has the major league experience that the new Orioles Asian pitchers (Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada) don't have yet. 

Bullpen

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    - Jim Johnson (R): Closer

    - Kevin Gregg (R): Setup Man

    - Jason Berken (R)

    - Matt Lindstrom (R)

    - Pedro Strop (R)

    - Tsuyoshi Wada (L)

    - Luis Ayala (R)

    - Dana Eveland (L)

    The Baltimore Orioles' bullpen is one of it's biggest question marks entering the 2012 season. There's a lot of possibilities for these eight spots. If there is one thing we do know, it's that Kevin Gregg will not be this teams closer. He made every outing "interesting", to say the least. If he didn't have the money invested in him he would have been cut a long time ago. The Orioles will put him in the setup role this year to try and bolster his trade value.

    Jim Johnson was rumored to be moving to the bullpen this year, but his demand his much greater at closer for this team.

    I could see Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen start the season in the bullpen to get some experience against major league hitters. Both could  be in the starting rotation by the end of the year.