Ten Bold Predictions for the Baltimore Orioles in 2009

Lawrence BarrecaAnalyst IFebruary 24, 2009

The sound of the ball hitting off of the mitt...The aroma of a freshly-cut outfield...The sound of spikes racing around the base paths.

All of these senses are finally beginning to be perceived, for I’m finally pleased to announce...baseball season is here!

Life around this time of year is usually tense for Orioles’ fans, as we never really know what the team will look like come Opening Day. Last season, we were without a shortstop or an ace; this season, we have that and so much more.

This offseason has been grand, to say the least.

Free agents Ty Wigginton, Mark Hendrickson, Cesar Izturis, Chris Gomez, Gregg Zaun, and John Parrish were welcomed to the squad.

Andy MacPhail, the Orioles’ President of Baseball Operations, helped in designing key deals to help bolster the starting staff and the defense. He brought in both Rich Hill and Felix Pie from the Cubs, while also dealing Randor Bierd to the rival Red Sox for pitching prospect David Pauley.

How could we forget the first deal of the young offseason, as he traded away former catcher Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati for utility-man Ryan Freel, Justin Turner, and Brandon Waring.

The O’s even shocked us all by journeying into the Far East, where they found newly acquired Koji Uehara to man the number two spot in the starting five.

Finally, the two biggest moves of all came in the form of contract extensions. Nick Markakis would receive the long-awaited money he deserved, as he raked in a six-year, $66 million extension. Roberts wasn’t too far behind that mark, as he was given a four-year, $40 million deal.

Whew! That’s a good bit that’s been accomplished since the end of ‘08.

I’m here today, though, to give us O’s fans something to feel good about—something to make you sit down, maybe share a smile or two, and just enjoy the game for what it is.

I’m going to make 10 bold (and I mean some are really bold) predictions for the 2009 season.

So now, just sit back and enjoy.

(Before I begin, please understand that some of these events may never, ever, happen. That’s the beauty of baseball, though; you never actually know.)

1) Adam Jones will hit 25 or more home runs next season.

Ok, I’m going to start off with one that is very possible, though unlikely.

Many have gazed on as Adam Jones struts his stuff, running down fly balls in center field, making leaping grabs in the air (while in the process of blowing a bubble, of course), and laying out in front of a crowd at Camden Yards.

Even though we all recognize him for his defense, it’s about time that he showed us that bat that he is supposedly known for. Many analysts have him hitting anywhere from 10-20 home runs in 2009, so I thought to up it a notch.

Isn’t this guy said to have 30+ homer potential?

I want to see some of it. Who knows, maybe 25 home runs isn’t too far or a reach.

2) John Parrish will not only stay with the team the entire season, but he will also win 11 games with the club.

That’s right, you read it correctly. Our boy Parrish, one of the million pitchers in camp this spring, will win eleven games for our beloved Orioles this season.

You all must think this is crazy, right?

If you seriously ponder it, you will figure that it is plausible if all the right things fall for him. Heck, he won 10 games in the minors last season, so who’s to say that he couldn’t win one more in the pros.

Oh, and before I forget, some of you may be wondering why I chose such an odd number in 11. My answer is simple: 10 was too low, and 12 was too high. Just deal with it!


3) Aubrey Huff will repeat his production from 2008.

I hear so many people say the same thing: “There is no way Huff can pull off that kind of year again!” Normally, I would agree, but today, I’m feeling ambitious.

Last season, Aubrey hit for a .304 average, with 32 home runs, 108 RBI, and four stolen bases. All of this, plus a Silver Slugger Award, and you can say that Huff had a decent year.

So I ask you, “Why couldn’t he do it again?” Is he too old? Too weak? Are you still mad at him from what he said about “Charm City” last offseason? Just learn to forgive and forget if you haven’t, and if you have, look forward to seeing him do it all over again.

Besides, most of you will probably end up drafting him on your fantasy team anyway. Come on, you can admit it!

4) Justin Turner will be the starting shortstop in Baltimore before October begins.

This statement alone should let you know exactly how high I am on this kid.

The day I looked at his stats and saw his numbers at Double-A last season, I knew he had potential. Let me feed them to you now.

He hit for a .289 average, with eight home runs, 42 RBI, and two stolen bases in only 280 at-bats. Not bad for a 23-year old at the time. Now, he has the opportunity to take the starting shortstop spot in Baltimore, barring a bad showing from Cesar Izturis.

It seems as though Turner may start off at Triple-A Norfolk; however, Double-A Bowie is always an option. If he has a quick start to the year, he could find his way onto the big-league roster sooner rather than later.

So for all you Izturis fans out there, watch yourselves. This kid could be up here before the end of September even rolls around.


5) Rich Hill will win 15 games for the O’s this season.

Some of you had to see this one coming.

In all honesty, I think that this prediction could very well end up as a fact. We’ve heard all of the reports about his horrible season in ‘08, as he related his control problems to a lower back injury that screwed up his mechanics.

So this means when he’s healthy, he will return to his “future ace” form.

At least, that’s how I interpret it. All-in-all, Hill could become the ace of this staff someday, especially if he can rebound from last year’s “lost season”. Life should come easy for Hill pitching out of the number three spot, giving him every opportunity to thrive at the pro level once again.

Before I conclude, I would personally like to thank the Cubs organization for giving him and Felix Pie to us for virtually nothing. Trust me, if they both end up bombing out, I’ll be the first one to take the criticism.


6) Felix Pie, Nick Markakis, and Adam Jones will combine for at least 60 home runs.

If you need a calculator for this one, please leave right now. Let me assist you, if you’re having some trouble. 20+20+20=60! In other words, I expect each of them to hit a minimum of 20 homers in 2009.

Is this really all that bold? Some will say that it is, others will say that it’s plausible. We aren’t sure of Felix Pie’s true talent, and we have yet to see Jones show the “pop” in his bat.

At least we can count on Nick to hold his own.

7) At the end of 2009, Oriole fans will be drooling to see Brandon Snyder more than they would to see Jake Arrieta.

Does anyone else agree with me here?

I honestly think this one is possible, due to the fact that Snyder had such an excellent year at Single-A Frederick last season. He hit for a .315 average, with 13 home runs, 80 RBI, 70 runs scored, and three stolen bases.

He would be even more productive during his span in the AFL, as he would then hit for a .349 average, with four home runs, 10 RBI, and 10 runs scored.

The reason why Snyder has been in the minors so long is due to injuries. Now that he is healthy, he is beginning to prove his true talents to the baseball community.

Watch out for Snyder, for he could find himself at Triple-A at the end of this season and knocking on the door to be Melvin Mora’s successor in 2010.


8) Chris Tillman will find his way into the big-league rotation before September.

Ahhh, just the thought of viewing Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, and Brian Matusz exhilarates my mood, and knowing that two of the three could be in the pros by ’09 only puts a smile on my face.

Last season at Double-A Bowie, Tillman went 11-4, with a 3.18 ERA and 154 strikeouts. Not bad for a 20-year old. Now is the time for him to really step it up. He goes into 2009 not knowing where he will begin the season (even though I believe it will be a Triple-A.).

Wherever he ends up, he should be turning heads. Look for Tillman to make his way up to the pro roster sometime before September; who knows, Matusz may be accompanying him for the ride.


9) Radhames Liz will fit better as a reliever than a starter.

I just threw a primed-Barry Zito curveball at you.

Was there any indication that I was going to even mention Liz’s name? That’s what I thought.

Liz goes into the 2009 season coming off of an average showing as a starter in ‘08. Here’s what I noticed about him, though, that makes me feel this way.

Did anyone else see how he would be strong for the first few innings, then slowly begin to die down as the innings piled up?

That seems like the perfect description for a middle reliever. Liz, as we know, has nasty stuff. He possesses a mid-90's fastball, plus some solid breaking pitches to throw in there.

His main problems are control and durability. In other words, look for him as a key reliever for the O’s in ‘09.


10) The Baltimore Orioles will win 85 games in 2009.

I had to put this one in here.

We end the list of bold predictions with perhaps the most daring of all—the fact that the O’s might have a winning season.

Who’s to say that it can’t be done? Kevin Millar once said something that still lingers in my mind (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We start off 0-0 just like everyone else.” To better explain, everyone has a shot at the title, it’s just the ones that actually pull it off that have the opportunity to grasp it in their palms.

The Orioles now seem to have a solid lineup, led by core players Jones, Markakis, Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, and the up-and-coming Matt Wieters (who, if you noticed, I didn’t predict anything for).

The team also bolsters an above average bullpen, anchored by the three “rocks” at the back end in Chris Ray, Jim Johnson, and George Sherrill.

The defense is top-notch, and it has only improved with the additions of Izturis, Wieters, and Pie.

The only question is the starting five, for whom only one is proven at the big-league level.

You never really know, though. As an O’s fanatic, you always just learn to keep dreaming. I just say to myself, “Hey, if the Tigers, Rays, and Brewers could do it, then so could we.”

Keep dreaming on, just keep dreaming on.


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