Saturday, May 30, 2009

I'm liking the potential for next season...and the rest of this season

I honestly think the O's could finish .500 this year, although that isn't incredibly important. What's important is that they prepare for next season to really compete from start to finish. On offense, that means developing Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold into solid hitters and getting them comfortable in the big leagues. It also might mean giving Brandon Snyder a call up to see if he could be the O's everyday first basemen next season. He's hitting .342 with 9 HRs and 38 RBI's for AA Bowie.

With Jeremy Guthrie finally starting to return to form, the Orioles need to determine who could fill out the remaining 4 spots in next year's rotation. They don't need to know exactly, but they should have 3 or 4 starters set and a good competition for the last couple spots (that means no Adam Eaton, Mark Hendrickson, John Parrish, or Brad Hennessey). The O's need to give David Hernandez, Brad Bergesen, and Jason Berken prove which of them are legit back-end starters and which need to move to the bullpen. That leaves Rich Hill and more elite prospects like Chris Tillman, who is 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 8 starts for AAA (44 Ks in 38 IP) to compete for the front end jobs. Tillman should earn a callup sometime after the All Star break unless the current rotation exceeds more than expected. Troy Patton (6-1, 1.75 ERA in 9 starts for AA) and Jake Arrieta (4-3, 2.98 ERA, 56 K/45 IP in 9 starts for AA), also considered higher prospects, should also get chances after the All Star break or in September.

The Orioles have to make some big decisions. Aubrey Huff's contract ends after this season. They could trade him and get a few good prospects, or if they believe they can compete, resign him. I don't see the O's keeping Melvin Mora, so they could potentially move him to 3B to make room for Snyder, or move Huff back to DH. Huff has proven to be consistent and I wouldn't mind seeing him back in an Orioles uniform.

Reimold appears to have earned the left field spot. I think he will be a .270 hitter with 20-25 home runs (think Luke Scott). He's a valuable switch hitter. Scott has also proved in this ridiculous stretch that he is a hitter. I think they should keep him as their DH. That leaves Felix Pie out of room, and I think it's time to cut him loose. He really isn't needed at this point, even if he does have potential. Lou Montanez could easily replace him as the backup outfielder when he returns from his injury.

If the O's pitching prospects live up to their hype, they may have more than 5 major league starters. That could mean moving Koji Uehara to the bullpen. I would agree with that move, as Uehara has struggled after the fifth inning. I think the rotation will look something like: Guthrie, Hill, Tillman, Patton, and a competition between Arrieta, Bergesen, Berken, and Hernandez. I think Bergesen could be an upgrade over Hendrickson as long reliever and Hernandez an upgrade over Matt Albers in the bullpen.

Jamie Walker needs to be released. He is a left handed specialist but lefties are hitting over .400 against him. All he does is come into the game and face one batter, and it's almost 50-50 whether he gets them out. This is his last year in his contract, and the O's would lose $2-3 million, but they could give his roster spot to someone who really deserves it, like Wilfrido Perez, the closer for AA. He has a 0.92 ERA in 17 games, striking out 24 in 19 2/3 innings and earning 7 saves.

Ty Wigginton should be traded, possibly to the Mets, who need a first basemen. He was signed because he normally crushed left handed hitters, but he's hitting like .210 against them with absolutely no power. He's just keeping Scott and Reimold from getting at bats. He's only worth keeping if they trade Huff.

If all goes right, I could see the O's making the playoffs next season. Even if not everything goes right, I could still see them making the playoffs. An outfield combination of Reimold, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis could have 80 HRs and 300 RBIs. Throw in Luke Scott. Add a rotation that can actually get people out. This streak might come to an end.


ali said...

I wouldn't look at trying to stop the losing streak quite yet...

But -- I must admit, next year is looking positive.

Matt said...

Haha, their chances at ending the streak will start with a Rays rebuilding project and a Yankee collapse. The Blue Jays were never as good as they started out...

In the meantime, I like the way the Os look this season, but I know next season will be the real deal.