Baltimore Orioles: 5 Young Players Who Will Either Step Up or Fall Flat in 2012

Jonathan Ty LangCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2012

Baltimore Orioles: 5 Young Players Who Will Either Step Up or Fall Flat in 2012

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    Any success the Baltimore Orioles have this year depends heavily on the performance of several young players trying to prove that they belong in the MLB.

    If all of these players improve and have solid seasons, the Orioles will win.

    If all of these players regress and have bad seasons, the Orioles will lose.

    In all likelihood some of these young players will meet expectations and others will fall short.

    Here is a look at five of these players and whether they will step up to the challenge or fall flat on their face. 

Jake Arrieta: Step Up

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    Jake Arrieta is entering his third season as an Orioles starter, and this is the year the O's hope he puts it all together.

    Arrieta is 16-14 with 4.88 ERA in 40 career starts. Those numbers are solid for a young pitcher trying to learn how to pitch in the AL East, but Arrieta turned 26 earlier this week and needs to be better now if he wants to keep his job.

    After having a bone spur removed last summer, Arrieta pitched for the first time on Friday and was impressive.

    "That's really the best I've felt, not only this year spring training, but I think in my professional career to date," Arrieta said. "[It felt] free and easy, not much effort, but the results were as expected."

    I believe that the bone spur limited Arrieta, and now that it is gone he will have a fantastic year for Baltimore.

    Prediction: 16-9, 3.91 ERA

    Don't be surprised if Arrieta has a breakout season and is able to win over 15 ballgames. If the O's score like they can and the bullpen doesn't blow his good games in the later innings, I believe Arrieta will lead Baltimore in wins this season. 

Brian Matusz: Fall Flat

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    When Brian Matusz was drafted, the Orioles saw a future ace who would lead the rotation for years to come in the powerful A.L. East.

    For a while, it appeared Matusz was turning the O's vision into reality. He finished the 2010 season on fire, but a 2011 spring training injury forced Matusz to start the season on the DL.

    When Matusz came back, his velocity had dropped and he went on to have the worst season ever by a starting pitcher.

    Now that Matusz is healthy, the Orioles are hoping he becomes the top-of-the-rotation starter they thought he could be. I don't believe Matusz will be that for the Orioles this season.

    Prediction: 11-13, ERA 4.35

    Matusz won't be awful for the Orioles this year, so maybe saying he will fall flat on his face is harsh. However, when you consider he was once looked at as a future star having a season like the one I think he will have will be considered a disappointment.  

Chris Davis: Step Up

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    Chris Davis has dominated the minor leagues over the past few seasons, but that success hasn't translated yet to the MLB level.

    During his rookie year with Texas, Davis was dominant. He hit 17 home runs and had an .880 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) in only 80 games. That success did not carry over to the next season and Davis found himself back in Triple-A.

    Davis has jumped back and forth between the bigs and the minors ever since but has now been given a chance to play every day with the Orioles.

    Manager Buck Showalter is high on Davis and with a full season of at-bats. I believe he will have a solid year for Baltimore.

    Prediction: Avg .265, OBP .330, HR 29, RBI 98, SLG .515, OPS .845

    If Davis can stay healthy, I believe he is capable of reaching these numbers. Davis will strike out a lot because he sees a lot of pitches, but this means he will walk a lot, too.

    Don't be surprised if Davis puts up big numbers this year for the Birds.

Nolan Reimold: Step Up

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    Back in 2009, Nolan Reimold had a solid rookie season for the Orioles. He had an OPS of .831 in over 100 games and looked poised to join Nick Markakis and Adam Jones in one of the most talented young outfields in the game.

    Reimold was sidelined at the end of his rookie season because of an Achilles injury that required surgery. Entering the 2010 season, Reimold was slotted to play left field but struggled because his Achilles injury continued to bother him. He was eventually sent down to Triple-A.

    After a decent half-season last year, Reimold appears to be back to his old form, and I believe he will have a really good season for the Orioles.

    Prediction: Avg .274, OBP .345, HR 21, RBI 84, SLG .465, OPS .810

    Reimold's tendency to see a lot pitches will pay off big time for the O's this year. The guy gets on base, and if he is healthy look for him to breakout this season.

    Expect a high on-base percentage and decent power from Reimold this summer.

Robert Andino: Fall Flat

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    After spending his entire career as a utility infielder, Robert Andino is getting his chance to be an everyday player.

    Andino performed well for the Orioles down the stretch last season, and because of Brian Roberts' injury, Andino will start the season as the everyday second baseman.

    Early in his career, Andino has had trouble getting on base. His career OBP is only .302 and his OPS is a lowly .634. 

    Andino will need to improve his OBP if he hopes to stay in the lineup with players like Ryan Adams breathing down his neck and with Roberts working on his return.

    I don't think he will be productive enough with the stick to prove he is an everyday player in the MLB.

    Prediction: Avg .260, OBP .310, HR 4, RBI 39, SLG .333, OPS .643

    Andino will be solid with the glove and might steal some bases, but that alone won't keep a guy like Roberts, with a career .353 OBP, out of the lineup if healthy.

    Plus, Andino will have to be productive enough to keep Showalter from seeing if Adams can be a productive major league ballplayer.

    I am not saying Andino can't help a big league team, but I do think he isn't a consistent enough hitter to be a regular.