Can Brian Roberts Be a Huge Orioles X-Factor in the AL East?

Alex SnyderContributor IIJune 28, 2012

The Orioles hope that Brian Roberts will return to being the offensive catalyst that he once was.
The Orioles hope that Brian Roberts will return to being the offensive catalyst that he once was.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

When Baltimore Orioles All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts returned to the majors after a year plus on the disabled list, the O's and their fans got a big morale boost with how they think this season can turn out for the team after a strong start.

No one knows if Roberts will be the same force atop the lineup that he had been throughout his career prior to the concussion that kept him off the field for so long. So far during his comeback, going into Wednesday's action, he's batting .212 in 52 at-bats covering 13 games.

If his defense can remain above-average, and he can return to being the doubles (and occasional homer) machine that he once was, he could be a serious boost to an Orioles offense that's already pretty good.

The question of whether he can be a huge boost to the O's obviously remains to be seen, but if he returns to form, it could help out the O's offensive and (terrible) defense tremendously.

The O's were winning before Roberts returned, so they've proven they can win without the longest-tenured Oriole being active. But the return of a healthy Roberts to the O's is to them what a return of a healthy Evan Longoria is to the Tampa Bay Rays, or a healthy Mariano Rivera to the New York Yankees.

Not to say that Roberts plays the game at the same level as either of those two, but to the O's, he's one of the most important cogs to the team, just as those two are to their respective teams.

Everyone knows that Roberts has the ability. He played at an above-average/high level for nearly a decade before his unfortunate injury. With that ability, the question of whether or not he could be a huge X-factor for the Birds wouldn't even be asked.

The reason for the question, though, is obviously his health. Can he stay on the field for the rest of the season? Will he be able to play next year? Those are the biggest worries.

And as mentioned before, it isn't safe to assume that Roberts will be the same player he once was, considering the severity of his injury. He could return to form, he could become an average player, or he could completely tank.

The only way to know for sure how he'll turn out is to let him play.

Roberts has always been somewhat of a slow starter, in terms of beginning his season, so personally, I'm not worried about where he is statistically right now.

The main things I'd be looking at are whether or not he shows ability on the field, not in his stats. Can he still run hard? Can he swing naturally? Is he seeing the ball? It's more important to look at how he's playing, not what his numbers are.

If he is in fact healthy, his numbers will come around. With Roberts, they always do. And his defense will prove to still be good, as well.

Considering all of this, I believe Roberts will return to at least something similar to what he used to be, and prove to be a catalyst on an Orioles offense that sorely needs one.

What he does on the basepaths can't be matched by anyone else on the team right now, which is why the Orioles have struggled to score by any other means than the long ball.

Should Roberts return to form, that will change. Not drastically, but enough to make a difference.

Brian Roberts will prove to be a huge factor for the O's in their quest for the playoffs this season.