It seems quite a few of you out there are jumping off the Orioles bandwagon lately. Why?
The Orioles early success in April was great and maybe it gave to many people a false sense of hope. They had one of the best offenses in baseball during the opening month. When April changed to May, they bats cooled off but the young pitching started to shine. Mighty Matt Wieters was promoted and struggled at the plate while shining behind it.
Then May turned into June and the wheels fell off the apple cart. Except for Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott the rest of the lineup went into a slump. We couldn’t buy a run. When someone got into scoring position we would strike out. If we started to rally, our base running would run us right out of the inning. The starting pitching has been inconsistent except for Brad Bergesen.
If you fooled yourself into thinking the Orioles were going to be competitive or win the AL East, the April Fools’ Surprise is over. Reality has returned and the O’s are what they are. A sub .500 to .500 team that will struggle with consistency until it gains more experience.
And to all this I say, SO WHAT! As Tripper, Bill Murray’s character in Meatballs said, IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! We should be watching and supporting the O’s for what is to come.
They have shown us glimpses of the future and the future looks bright. We have a very solid foundation. All of the pieces aren’t here but we have the beginnings of a winning team. We haven’t had this much young talent on the roster since the 70’s.
I have never been more optimistic that we will turn the 11 year losing streak around. It won’t happen this year and may not happen next year. After that we should be competitive for at least five years.
Our outfield is young and could develop into one of the best in baseball.
LF – Nolan Reimold is 25 and leads all rookies in HR. He has shown he is not overmatched at the plate and was ready when he was promoted to the bigs. He has played well in the field and been an upgrade over Felix Pie.
CF – Adam Jones is 23. He has shown tremendous improvement over 2008. He has struggled of late and is still hitting .324. He has shown he can hit for average and power. He covers as much ground as any CF in baseball. Jones is tied for the team lead with 41 RBI. He looks to be our leading candidate to make the All Star team. He appears to be a perennial All Star.
RF – Nick Markakis is 25. He is known for having a good eye and patience at the plate. Lately, he has struggled and not shown his usual patience while pressing at the plate. He is hitting a respectable .284 and has 40 RBI. He has the swing of a perennial .300 hitter and a 100+ RBI man. He has one of the best arms in all of baseball. He should be another All Star for several years.
Everyone knows about Matt Wieters. He just turned 23. He was the top prospect in all of baseball. He has a big bat and a big-time arm. He has excelled at handling the pitchers and calling a great game. He struggled at the plate early and has had a couple of multi-hit games lately and appears to be coming out of his slump. He needs to play and get his AB’s. As we continue to develop and promote our young pitchers he can grow with them.
Speaking of our young pitching, how can you not be excited by the possibilities? The best pitchers are still supposed to be in the minors. Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Troy Patton, and Dave Hernandez are all at Norfolk. Tillman and Arrieta are supposed to be front of the line #1 or #2 starters. They will likely spend the rest of the year at AAA before they get a chance to make the major league roster in 2010. Brandon Erbe, Zach Britton, and Brian Matusz are all at AA. Erbe is hurt but he and Matusz have dominated hitters at AA. Matusz is another potential #1 starter. This doesn’t include this years #1 pick Matt Hobgood. The more I read about him the more I love the pick. He is mature beyond his years and shouldn’t be a head case like some of our past prospects.
At the major league level we have some very good talent in the bullpen. Matt Alpers and Brian Bass have worked well in the Middle Reliever/Long Relief role. They are both under 30 and should continue to be solid barring any injuries. Jim Johnson has been a great setup man. He has an ERA around 3 and could move into the closers role when the Orioles trade George Sherrill and Danys Baez. Chris Ray is at AAA trying to regain the form that made him our closer in 06 & 07.
The surprise of the young starters has been Brad Bergesen. He has been fantastic lately. He has four straight quality starts and has been the most consistent starter since being promoted from Norfolk. He has gone deeper into the games as the weather has warmed up. He had his first complete game yesterday.
Jason Berken and Rich Hill have been inconsistent but have shown potential as starters. As the higher rated prospects move into the starting rotation they may be moved to the bullpen or traded to acquire some needed position players.
I didn’t include any of our players who were over 30 because they will be trade bait before we become competitive. Luke Scott has been fantastic this year and could provide a contender a much needed bat and bring us a young quality infielder.
I know we have been bad for soooo long and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve waited this long and will probably wait another year but there is hope. Believe good things are around the corner and help is on the way. Training Camp opens in July but the young O’s should be intriguing enough to be worth following. Stay on board and watch how the young players mature over the rest of the season and dream of what’s to come.