MLB Power Rankings: Baltimore Orioles Add Vladimir Guerrero,Now Third in AL East
The Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a one year, $8 million deal with Vladimir Guerrero. Add him to fellow 2011 offseason acquisitions Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Justin Duchscherer and JJ Hardy and suddenly, this team looks like it can compete right now.
They will need Brian Matusz to mature a great deal, and it still doesn't look like they will be close to the Yankees and Red Sox, but to put it in perspective, they could finish with a better record than anyone in the AL West.
Matt Wieters and Adam Jones are a year older and closer to fulfilling their massive potential. Let's run down their impressive lineup.
C- Matt Wieters
At 24 years old, Wieters is one of the most anticipated catchers in recent memory.
As with many young hitters, he struggled to make contact early on and disappointed hype-grabbers with a .249 average and just 11 home runs. But he improved as the year wore on, and simultaneously learned how to handle the young pitching staff.
Wieters has the talent to be a top-5 catcher this season. He has 20 HR power and is in a lineup that makes 80 runs scored seem like a realistic expectation. On top of that, he provides solid defense and his relationship with young ace-in-training, Brian Matusz, could prove invaluable.
1B- Derrek Lee
Lee is one year removed from batting .306 with 35 HR, 111 RBI and 91 runs scored. He struggled last year, partially due to having no protection in a lineup that was missing injured third baseman, Aramis Ramirez.
Lee will bring a lot of veteran leadership to a mostly young lineup and should enjoy having the guys ahead of him in scoring position early and often. He is certainly capable of 100 RBI again. He is also a reliable glove at first base.
Moving to the AL also allows Lee the occasional day as a designated hitter to rest his body.
2B- Brian Roberts
Contrary to popular belief, Roberts is not an injury risk.
Before last year, he played three straight seasons of 155 or more games. In those years, he was a lock for 30+ stolen bases, including 50 in 2007. He also batted over .280 every year since 2005, before an injury cut his 2010 to 59 games.
Many people point to 2009 where he only had 30 SB and say he was aging, which might have been the case, but he hit 16 HR, more than he had since 2005.
No question Roberts is past his prime, but he brings a solid glove and will terrorize pitchers on the bases. He should score 80+ runs with the power behind him.
3B- Mark Reynolds
He is what he is. But even Reynolds won't bat .198 again.
He was coming off a 2009 that saw him hit 44 HR for 102 RBI, 98 R, and 24 SB. Even if he splits the difference in 2011, he is a bargain for the O's. I would expect something like .240, 35, 95, 90, 15. Those are majorly useful numbers. And if he learned to shorten his swing with two strikes, he could bat .260 or better.
At 27 years old, there is still some room to grow. Reynolds could provide serious pop in the middle of this lineup, with speed ahead of him to knock in. It wouldn't be a surprise to see 40 HR and 100 RBI again.
SS- JJ Hardy
JJ Hardy has had health issues the last two years, but in his two seasons of 140+ games, Hardy hit 50 HR with 154 RBI with 167 runs scored.
All reports are he is 100 percent.
At 28 years old, another 25 HR, 77 RBI, 83 R season would be huge out of a normally light-hitting position. With this lineup, he could be in line for a ton of at bats with runners in scoring position. His glove isn't flashy, but it also isn't a liability.
There is a lot to like in Hardy's potential and he is another member of this team who could finish a healthy season with 90 RBI or 90 runs scored with no surprise.
LF- Luke Scott/Felix Pie
Before the Vladdy signing, this would be Felix Pie and Scott would be the DH, but with Guerrero mostly a DH at this stage in his career, Scott will move into left field.
He is coming off three straight seasons of 23+ HR, 65+ RBI and 60+ R.
Pie could challenge for playing time here, but Scott is another big bat in this Baltimore lineup. At 32 years old, Scott may decline some, but Pie will be there to give him days off, and this could become a platoon situation, with Scott getting 2/3 of the starts.
Pie stole 24 bases in only 101 games in 2009, and stole 13 in only 82 games last season. Even in a platoon, he could steal 20+ and his batting average has improved every single year since his call-up in 2007.
CF- Adam Jones
Adam Jones came into the league with high expectations, and struggled out of the gate, but he has improved his batting average every single year since coming up in 2006.
He has hit 19 HR each of the last two years and scored over 75 runs. While he has never stolen more than 10 bases in a season, the speed is there and the steals should come with experience. Jones will be 25 this year, meaning he still has some upside and his wheels make him an asset in centerfield.
RF- Nick Markakis
In five seasons, Markakis has NEVER batted below .291 and never played less than 147 games.
While his home runs dropped from 18 to 12 last year, he still ended with 45 doubles and an .805 OPS. The power should return as he will enjoy much more protection around him.
In the field, Markakis is unremarkable, but also not a liability. He has an average arm and good instincts. Still only 27 years old, Markakis has stolen as many as 18 bases, while showing 20+ HR power. He is a dark horse 20/20 threat, while batting close to .300.
Jeremy Guthrie is probably still the opening day starter. He is coming off a 2010 that, despite the 11-14 record, showed an impressive 3.83 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.
Brian Matusz is the ace-to-be. He struggled to meet expectations out of the gate last season, but had a 3.63 ERA and 1.19 WHIP after the All-Star Break. He has loads of potential, which will take time to mature, but should start to come out this year.
The O's added Justin Duchscherer who was hurt in 2009 and much of 2010, but in 2008 he posted a 2.54 ERA and .995 WHIP in 141.2 innings. If he could recapture that level, he would be the best pitcher in the rotation for 2011.
24-year-old Jake Arrieta and 25-year-old Brad Bergesen round out the rotation.
The Orioles quietly brought in Gregg, who notched 37 saves for the Blue Jays last season. He will be setup by Michael Gonzalez, who struggled to stay healthy last year after competing for the closer job in spring training.
Alfredo Simon looks like a capable seventh inning guy who could leapfrog Gonzalez for the closer job if Gregg struggles or is injured.
Koji Uehara might be the most talented of the group, appearing in 43 games last year and ending with 2.86 ERA and .95 WHIP. These four together combine to produce a sneaky good pen, who won't surrender many late-inning leads.