Fantasy baseball options from Baltimore? Well you better believe it, because the Orioles may just have the best collection of inexpensive fantasy baseball draft choices in the American League. Last year offered a mixed bag for fantasy baseball owners with players such as second baseman Brian Roberts getting injured and SP youngster Jake Arrieta cooling off in a big way. But The O’s did show promise especially when new skipper Buck Showalter took over in August, guiding the team to a 34-23 finish.
The off-season was just as impressive with acquisitions like Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Derrek Lee, and Kevin Gregg. Are they fantasy elite? Of course not, but they are players who—if drafted properly—can potentially be some of the cheapest steals of the 2011 fantasy baseball season.
Let’s take a look at why, and who, the Baltimore Orioles have to offer fantasy baseball managers in 2011.
Impact Players (Hitters):
- Adam Jones, OF: At some point, you have to believe this guy is going to breakout and I believe that breakout will occur this year…mark my word. Jones has put in two solid years of inconsistent ball for fantasy owners which could make people stay away from him…that’s a good thing. The guy is a prime candidate to be a 25 HR, 100 RBI type player, and in five seasons Jones does have a career .321 BABiP. There is some risk involved, but the O’s in general are a different hitting team, and Jones is not the only hitter being relied on now…I’ll take a chance in the middle rounds, will you?
- Nick Markakis, OF: A little disappointed in last year’s performance? Don’t be, there’s plenty to keep in mind for Markakis including a stellar .297 BA, and a .805 OPS both of which are slightly higher than normal. You had to expect a dip in his power and RBI totals considering the cast around him in 2010, but with a new and improved cast, Markakis is sure to be among the top outfielders in the league once more. Again, we’re talking about the Orioles being a value pick type team, and that’s exactly what Markakis will be in the middle rounds. He’s still good for 20-25 HR, and 80-90 RBI.
- Mark Reynolds, 3B: Reynolds has always been a value player capable of hitting for exceptional power, as well as, providing a good source of speed on the base paths (12 SB per 162 game avg over four seasons) which makes him a nice dual threat. But Reynolds has always been prone to strikeouts—a lot of them too. Last year we saw all those homeruns (32) become somewhat negated in most fantasy leagues thanks to his 211 SO. But let’s remember something, Reynolds was cruising along until that quadriceps injury, after which he was never the same AND Reynolds also dealt with hand and head injuries after the All-Star break. Mark Reynolds will be around in the middle to even late rounds, and don’t be shy about taking a chance on him.
The Pitching Staff: The following is a preliminary look at the projected lineup and what you could expect.
|1. Jeremy Guthrie: Guthrie has a lot of work to do to convince fantasy baseball managers that he is anything more valuable than a back end grab in your fantasy baseball draft. He’s not known to throw a ton of strikes, and while he really finished strong in 2010, he just doesn’t have much value right now. Keep him on your watch list, but you could do better even in the later rounds.|
|2. Brian Matusz: This should be the year that Matusz finally puts together a solid season building on an 11 game finish to 2010 that saw Matusz go 7-1 with a 2.18 ERA. He has solid command and control and can keep the ball in play and on the ground, and with a far better run support cast in 2011; Matusz is pushing to be a sleeper candidate.|
|3. Brad Bergesen: Bergesen is another guy who will not garner a ton of K’s (4.5 career), but he did show flashes of improvement towards the end of 2010 going 5-6 with a 3.94 ERA—yeah I know, but he started the season 3-6 with a 6.40 ERA so technically it’s an improvement. Bergesen is nothing more than waiver wire fodder.|
|4. Jake Arrieta: Arrieta started off hot, and if you were like the many who plucked him off of the waiver wire, you enjoyed some unexpected results out of the youngster. Unfortunately, he came crashing back down to earth real quick and leveled off as he finished 6-6 with a 4.66 ERA. Arrieta is an average strike thrower (4.7 K/9), and doesn’t give up the long ball (0.8 HR/9 last year) and while those numbers are typical of a 24 year old rookie, Arrieta should improve just a bit making him a tasty late round grab in mixed leagues. AL only format leaguers can do better, and are almost guaranteed to find him on the waiver wire at the start of the season.|
|5. Justin Duchscherer / Chris Tillman: The Duke is coming off of major hip surgery, and sat out of the entire 2009 season with an elbow injury and a bout with clinical depression, so it’s left to be seen what the guy can really do. Through 27 starts since 2007, The Duke has posted a 15-12 record with a 2.81 ERA and a 6.1 K9 rate. He’s worth a late round grab in deep leagues and mixed leagues if you’re looking for a last minute pitching idea. Chris Tillman doesn’t offer managers anything at all, He strikes out as many batters as he walks, and at times can’t even get out of the first couple of innings. Nothing to see here people.|
- Matt Wieters, C: Everyone really believed that Wieters was just going to waltz into the majors and live up to his hype as a number one prospect, and all they got was a jaw dropping disappointment. (and that’s what you all get for thinking a 24 year old catcher was going to just take the majors by storm) Catchers have to first focus on a full pitching staff before they can truly put more training into their hitting. Yes, there are players who are exceptions to the rule (Buster Posey anyone?). Don’t forget, though, Wieters did hit .343 with 32 home runs and a 1.014 OPS in 578 minor-league at-bats, so there is plenty of upside. With a full year under his belt, some new veteran mentors, and a team that is beginning to believe they can compete this year, Wieters has a real chance of being a true sleeper in 2011.
What You Should Know: Rounding out the bottom half of what the O’s have to offer is Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy, Luke Scott, and Felix Pie. Hardy has been on the decline since leaving the Brewers and is borderline undraftable, Luke Scott is a nice multi-position qualifier who will give you about 25 homeruns, but his impressive .284 BA and .902 OPS was a little overshadowed by his streakiness.
Felix Pie is playing with a huge shadow lurking in the background in Nolan Reimold, and while Pie does have talent, he’s more of a fancy waiver wire option in most leagues. Derrek Lee, saw a small boost in his overall performance after leaving Chicago, and should fare well in Baltimore’s hitter friendly Camden Yards. Traditionally, Lee always hits better with a strong supporting cast—just look at his haydays with the Chicago Cubs. Second baseman Brian Roberts should be viewed as a high risk/high reward player, as his age finally caught up with him. I’d let that goofy guy in your fantasy baseball draft (there’s always one) take him too early and keep shopping for someone more reliable.
And if you're wondering about newly acquired Vladimir Guerrero, just take a look at my initial Fantasy Baseball Player Profile on him.
Remember something: this team has a lot of potential, especially in the hitting department. At anytime, any one of the mentioned players could breakout or bounce-back which has a significant effect on relief pitchers Kevin Gregg, and Koji Uehara. You could very conceivably find either one of these guys in the back end of your draft making either player a nice value pick for a RP.