When I’m at home with my parents, Mom and I try to fix the Mets lineup on an almost daily basis, especially since Jerry Manuel had this thing with never using the same lineup two days in a row and it drove us crazy last summer (hopefully Collins won’t do that to us, too). Now I get to play the same game with the Orioles regarding their new signings, so Mom, if you read this, be proud that your daughter’s just as in love with baseball as you are!
Anyway, the Orioles completely revamped the team this off-season, so we’ve got a lot of work to do here.
When I went to Camden Yards on a ballpark tour back in November, I learned about a little superstition they have. The lineups for both teams playing are written on white boards, and they don’t get erased until the next game of the season. Since we were there during the off-season, the lineups from the last game of 2010 were still there (and will be until April). So here’s how the Orioles’ lineup looked when we last saw them play:
Doesn’t look very complete, does it? There’s a number of issues in there that the Orioles set out to repair over the off-season. Let’s see how they did…
Third Base. I personally like Josh Bell quite a bit, because I’m a fan of utilizing one’s farm system, but unfortunately he didn’t seem fully ready to me last year and could probably use some seasoning at Norfolk until he proves to the Orioles that he can keep up with Major League pitching at a more consistent pace. The Orioles responded to their recent inconsistency at the position by trading with the Diamondbacks to acquire Mark Reynolds, who will give them a power bat, which is what most people traditionally expect from a corner infielder. The problem with Reynolds is that he has a particular aptitude for striking out (current all-time record holder!), and although his fielding has sharply improved at third base, in 2008 he had the lowest fielding percentage of all Major League third basemen (.904). Expect decent fielding now that he’s fixed that problem, but don’t expect him to hit for average. He can, however, hit extremely long home runs.
DH. Sure, Luke Scott handled himself pretty darn well next year, but he apparently enjoys playing defense (or so he says), so signing Guerrero will allow for that. Guerrero will become the full-time DH.
This Wikipedia image of Gregg is just one sign that the Cubs are invading Baltimore.
First Base. This position was quite the revolving door for the Orioles last year, who saw several players play the position, including Wigginton, Atkins, Snyder, Hughes (remember Rhyne Hughes, everyone?), and even Jake Fox. With no regular first baseman, the Orioles went out and signed Derrek Lee to fill the position, providing long-term stability. (As you can see, there is a trend here – the Orioles are slowly turning into the Cubs.)
Bullpen. Kevin Gregg (another former Cub) isn’t always the greatest, but he’s an improvement over the bullpen from last season, which could be notably shaky at times. However, in my opinion, the far more solid Koji Uehara should win the closer role in Spring Training. Gregg did have a career year with Toronto last year, but it’s a little hard to completely forget about his shaky 2009. I’ll wait and see how he pans out, but for now, I’d trust Koji with the ball in the 9th. (Simon, on the other hand…well, let’s not go there.)
Rotation. Guthrie and Matusz are good. Matusz, especially, who will be the staff ace by the end of the season, if he isn’t considered so already. Arrieta and Bergesen are also strong starters (Arrieta moreso than Bergy). Duchscherer’s signing will provide some stability to that back end, although he’ll have to duke it out (see what I did there?) with Chris Tillman to earn the fifth starter position. (Zach Britton isn’t ready yet. Sorry, fellow prospect watchers.)
Shortstop. Yes, Izturis did well enough last season (by not being Julio Lugo), but let’s not forget that the Orioles signed J.J. Hardy this offseason. Izturis will likely be relegated to a backup role thisÃ‚Â year, because it’s highly unlikely that J.J. Hardy would be made a backup. Ã‚Â
What should the lineup look like? I’d lay it out like this:
- Brian Roberts, 2B
- Nick Markakis, RF
- Derrek Lee, 1B
- Vlad Guerrero, DH
- Mark Reynolds, 3B
- Luke Scott, LF
- Adam Jones, CF
- Matt Wieters, C
- J.J. Hardy, SS
That’s a fairly solid starting nine, although Luke’s defense in left will likely be a little iffy compared to other options. At the very least, we can expect this group to hit more than last year’s crew did. And let’s be honest, a lineup where God bats 8th has to be pretty darn good. Now we just have to wait and see.