The key to the Orioles' lineup in 2011, however, will be the return of Brian Roberts, who missed 103 games last year with back and neck injuries. The team received a scare with news that Roberts was taken in for an MRI on his neck in the opening days of spring training, but nothing came of it. Roberts made his spring debut on Tuesday and is expected to be in the lineup Opening Day.
Just two years removed from a ridiculous 110/16/79/30/.283 season, Roberts remains capable of 10-plus HRs, 25-plus steals and a .280 batting average.
Given Roberts’ health, the Orioles are in for an explosive offensive season. At least seven starters have the ability to hit 20 HRs this season, while Guerrero, Reynolds and Scott are all expected to push for 30. Further, six of their projected nine starting hitters have either a career batting average above .280 or hit at least that last season.
Ty Wigginton, Corey Patterson, David Hernandez, Kam Mickolio, Matt Albers
Will Brian Roberts bounce back with at least 10 HRs, 25 steals and a .280 batting average in 2011?
1. 2B – Brian Roberts (S)
2. RF – Nick Markakis (L)
3. 1B – Derrek Lee (R)
4. DH – Vladimir Guerrero (R)
5. LF – Luke Scott (L)
6. 3B – Mark Reynolds (R)
7. CF – Adam Jones (R)
8. C – Matt Wieters (S)
9. SS – J.J. Hardy (R)
Mark Reynolds is a fantasy player to target based on his current ADP of 129. Remember, Reynolds was widely regarded as a top-20 player this time last year after hitting 44 HRs and stealing 24 bases in 2009. In 2010, he hit 32 dingers but his .198 batting average was tough to stomach. Given an improved BABIP (.257 in 2010, .323 career), Reynolds’ average should creep back into the .240-.250 range. Ideal? No. Worth a 12th-round pick when it comes with 35 HRs and 10 steals at a very thin third base position? Absolutely.
1. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
2. LHP Brian Matusz
3. RHP Justin Duchscherer
Is Jeremy Guthrie a No. 3 fantasy starter?
4. RHP Brad Bergesen
5. RHP Jake Arrieta
The Orioles’ pitching staff is very young and inexperienced outside of 31-year-old Jeremy Guthrie, who will likely take the mound Opening Day. Since 2007, Guthrie has the 19th best ERA among qualified starters, at 4.06. Throw out his 2009 campaign (5.04 ERA), and his other recent seasons—3.70 (‘07), 3.63 (‘08), 3.83 (‘10)—are much more appealing to fantasy managers. He’s a solid No. 3 fantasy starter that generally flies under the radar.
Brian Matusz showed flashes of what made him the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft last season, particularly in the second half, posting a 3.63 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.88 K/9 and 3.13 BB/9. The 24-year-old southpaw and his four-pitch arsenal should improve on the 2010 totals, though he’s probably not yet ready to join the ranks of the game’s young elite fantasy pitchers.
Justin Duchscherer is an tricky option as he fights for a job as the O’s No. 3 starter. The 33-year-old missed all but 28 innings over the last two seasons due to elbow and hip surgeries. In 2008, Duchscherer pitched a career-high 141 innings and posted a 2.52 ERA. His peripherals (6.04 K/9, 3.69 FIP, 4.22 xFIP, .235 BABIP), however, suggest he’s not quite that good. He should generally be avoided in 2011.
Who Should be the Orioles closer?
RHP Koji Uehara (closer)
RHP Kevin Gregg
RHP Jim Johnson
RHP Jeremy Accrdo
LHP Mike Gonzalez
LHP Mark Hendrickson
Uehara will get the first chance at ninth inning duties, as his stellar 2010 peripherals (11.25 K/9, 1.02 BB/9, 66.1 percent first strike rate) have caught the eye of Buck Showalter. Kevin Gregg will likely serve as the setup man despite saving 121 games over the last four seasons. Both are worth owning.
Matt Wieters has failed to fulfill the monstrous hype that followed him into his 2009 rookie season. I remain convinced, however, that fantasy stardom is on the horizon. Despite apparent setbacks in 2010, the 24-year-old backstop improved on his walk, strikeout and contact rates. Based on his current ADP of 135, he could be a major steal in drafts this season.
J.J. Hardy hit 50 HRs between 2007 and 2008 with the Brewers but has struggled in each of the last two seasons. Given his new home park and his projected spot in the lineup (serving as a second leadoff man), Hardy could be a cheap source of 15 HRs, 75 runs and a .265 batting average at the shortstop position.
Have you given up on Matt Wieters?
Rookies to Watch:
RHP Chris Tillman and LHP Zach Britton are both expected to begin the season at Triple-A but could join the Baltimore rotation at some point this season. Tillman has struggled in 23 starts with the Orioles over the last two years (5.61 ERA, 5.31 K/9, 4.17 BB/9), but the team remains optimistic.
Britton is a hot prospect who has made major strides since being drafted in the third round out of high school in 2006. The 23-year-old is an extreme ground ball pitcher, featuring the “best sinker in the minor leagues” according to Baseball America to go along with a low 90s fastball and a plus slider. His 2010 totals between Double-A and Triple-A (2.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 in 153 1/3 innings), in addition to the fact that he’s a lefty likely give him the upper hand over Tillman should the Orioles look to the minors for pitching help. Expect to see him at some point in 2011.
Be sure to check back tomorrow as we continue our in-depth fantasy preview of all 30 MLB teams!
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: FANTASY BASEBALL INSIDERS
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