O’s spring training: The 25 who will make it (#10)

March 02, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Until the Birds wooed Miguel Tejada back to the orange nest for a one-year deal, the most talked about acquisition of the off-season was former Colorado Rockies infielder Garrett Atkins.

And even though questions remain about Atkins and the team’s decision to sign him, there’s one thing for certain.  He’s coming north with the club in April.  That, therefore, also gets him a spot in this blog series — The 25 who will make it.

Odds he’ll be on the roster when the season starts: 100%

Odds he’ll be on the roster when the season ends: 80%

Odds he’ll be an effective contributor in 2010:  70%

Odds his name will be mentioned at the trade deadline in late July: 50%

Summary: I was not opposed to the Atkins signing in December until I realized the Birds were going to use him at FIRST base, not THIRD…as we all sort of originally thought.  I wanted the Orioles to sign Adam LaRoche in the off-season.  I made no secret about that.  Their offensive numbers (Atkins/LaRoche) are fairly comparable.  LaRoche hits more HR’s and, predictably, strikes out more often.  Everything else about them is roughly equivalent, give or take some percentage points either way.  LaRoche, though, is a lifetime 1st baseman and in six big-league seasons, he’s never made more than 8 errors in the field.  And he hits left-handed, a big plus in Baltimore.

The Orioles didn’t get LaRoche.  They opted instead for the cheaper solution in Atkins, but the move might still pay off for the Birds if he can bounce back from a miserable swan-song-season in Colorado.

I’m not ANTI-Garrett Atkins.  I was just PRO-Adam LaRoche.  I guess that’s the best way to put it.

And I do think Atkins can help the O’s this year.  As most of you who listen to the show know, I subscribe to a theory that “players have bad years from time to time…they just do”.  It’s part of sports.  If you’re great EVERY year, you’re a Hall of Famer.  Atkins isn’t a Hall of Famer.  Not even close.  So he can have a bad year and it’s entirely forgivable.

With no American League history at all, it’s tough say to how Atkins will fare in 2010.  I would expect he’ll get off to a slow start while he feels his way around a little bit.  Without question, he’s going to see a different “kind” of pitcher in the AL than he has experienced in the NL.  A good hitter usually figures that stuff out, but don’t be overly shocked if Atkins doesn’t burst out of the starting gate on fire.

In the field, he’s apparently more adept with the glove than we all might have pre-supposed.  He DOES have first base experience, although most of his time in the field while with the Rockies was at 3rd base.

The big question for the O’s is this:  Can he rebound at the plate?  If he’s “just OK” with the glove but has a productive season at the plate, I think the O’s will be more than happy…especially at $4.5 million with a club option for 2011.  And if he hits the cover off the ball in the first 100 games, the Birds could always ship him out to a contender and try to get a couple of prospects for him.  They’re enamored enough with Brandon Snyder’s potential that perhaps that’s what MacPhail was thinking all along when he picked him up in the off-season.

Not to put all the heat on Atkins, because the team’s ability and potential improvement definitely doesn’t rest totally on him in 2010, but he DOES figure to play a key role in the club’s (hopeful) better on-field performance this coming season.  If he returns to his ’07 and ’08 numbers in Colorado, the Birds have themselves a steal at $4.5 million.

Drew’s projections for Atkins in 2010:

* .277 avg.

* 17 HR

* 84 RBI