Since the hiring of manager Buck Showalter in late July, the Orioles had an incredible end to the season. Finishing at 34-23 under Showalter, the Orioles had a better last two months than the Yankees, who finished a mediocre 29-30 in the same time frame.
Showalter made an immediate impact for a team that was thought to be lost. Can last year's late success translate into a possible postseason run in 2011?
The O's made a splash early this offseason by acquiring Mark Reynolds for next to nothing. They also signed Derrek Lee to a no-risk one-year deal. The Orioles front office has taken advantage of a hitters ballpark this offseason. They now have a very deep lineup, adding Reynolds and Lee to what they already had with Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Nick Markakis.
Orioles Projected Lineup
1. Brian Roberts 2B
2. Adam Jones CF
3. Derrek Lee 1B
4. Mark Reynolds 3B
5. Nick Markakis RF
6. Luke Scott DH
7. Matt Wieters C
8. J.J. Hardy SS
9. Felix Pie LF
If you look at this lineup, one through seven it is arguably the best in the division. If it is not the best it is definitely the deepest, compared to the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays. The only team that is comparable the Red Sox.
In my opinion, Baltimore has about seven solid hitters compared to about five or six on the Sox. The Orioles lineup is definitely deeper; however, the Red Sox have two legitimate stars in Crawford and Gonzo, while the O's have two good hitters and no real stars.
While the Orioles have one of the better lineups in the league, their pitching rotation is among the worst in the league. When you see Jeremy Guthrie listed as the ace of the rotation, you should be concerned. They do have some young arms that have potential, but they are not ready to make a positive impact this season.
Orioles Projected Rotation
1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Brian Matusz
3. Jake Arrieta
4. Justin Duchscherer
5. Chris Tillman
The Orioles have four very good pitchers in the bullpen, three with closing experience. Mike Gonzalez was the closer to start last season, but saw limited action after going down to an injury. Gonzalez, along with Jim Johnson, will likely set up for recently acquired closer Kevin Gregg. Alfredo Simon was 17 of 21 in saves last year replacing Gonzalez. If Kevin Gregg is unable to close, look for Simon to be replacement.
Right now the Orioles look like a fourth place team, unless the Blue Jays go cold. But right now the Rays don't have enough talent to pass the O's. Don't expect anything better from them this year, but if Derrek Lee works out and the pitching develops the Orioles have real potential for years to come.