First, let me qualify this article by saying I DON’T think the Orioles will compete this year. But, if all goes well the Orioles should be a force to be reckoned with in the American League East sooner rather than later.
The Orioles are building a strong foundation. First, all great franchises are built by solid pitching and the Orioles’ collection of young arms seems to be the most impressive in recent memory. According to scoutingbook.com, the Orioles have four pitching prospects ranked in the top 50.
Heading this list, ranked as the 11th best pitching prospect in the Majors, is former Mariner prospect, Chris Tillman. The 20-year-old right hander has a mid 90s fast ball complimented with a sharp breaking curve to the tune of 154 strikeouts in 28 starts last year at Bowie. Following Tillman is Brian Matusz. Matusz, ranked 34th overall, has been heralded as one of the best left handers available in the 2008 draft.
Fortunately, this story continues. In the post-steroid era, we are seeing noticeably different rosters. Today’s rosters contain more speed and defense whereas rosters of the past were comprised of expensive power hitters. In this era, the Orioles will be more than adequately stocked.
The Orioles’ balance and strength up the middle is exceptional. Orioles’ centerfielder, Adam Jones, will be one of the most exciting five-tool players in the game. His combination of speed and strength makes him an immediate offensive and defensive threat.
In the middle infield, the Orioles possess two very fast and strong fielders in Brian Roberts and Cesar Izturis. These two standouts provide stability and presence up the middle. Behind the plate will be Matt Wieters who is known by many scouts as “Mauer with Power.” Not only will he provide the Orioles with great power, he is solid defensively as well.
Will this solid foundation be enough to win the American League East?
Yes. In fact, it should be more than enough. Although the Yankees and Red Sox seem to be adjusting to a faster game with additions such as Jacoby Ellsburry and Brett Gardner, I don’t think these additions will be sufficient to keep them atop the division. The Yankees and Red Sox will be slow to complete this transition because their rosters are full of older and expensive talent. For example, the Yankees have more than $400million invested in Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have about $150million tied up in ageing stars Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, and J.D. Drew.
As the game becomes faster, more athletic teams like the Rays are thriving. While teams like the Yankees and Red Sox continue to pay ageing players, younger and more athletic teams like the Rays and Orioles are becoming more competitive. The Yankees and the Red Sox are more vulnerable than ever. Turns out, the Orioles have them right where they want them.