Orioles Opening Day; my bold predictions

April 01, 2011 |

Welcome to another “April Fools Day” and ironically, the start to another Orioles season. Am I drawing a comparison? Nah …. this team is actually pretty promising and for the first time in many years, Baltimore’s baseball fans will likely be interested in the on-field product through the end of September.

While I’m optimistic, I’m also realistic and clearly recognize that injuries, inexperience and organizational depth will most certainly affect the win/loss record in a detrimental way, throughout the duration of 162 games. It is what is and the Orioles are a fundemental “work in progress” …..

From the heart and mind, I believe we’re witnessing another step in the process. And, I think we’re entering that stage where the team demonstrates a competitive trait that has not existed in a long time. It will be an exciting season and I look forward to a renewed hope that awaits our city.

With due consideration, below I have a half dozen bold predictions regarding this latest edition of our Baltimore Orioles …..

Markakis Competes For American League MVP

No doubt, Allen McCallum will spit whatever he’s drinking when sees this prediction. Nobody has been more critical of Nick’s overall production, than me. To be blunt, he’s stalled over the past couple seasons and that has been disappointing to see from such a promising player.

I do think he’ll benefit greatly with a healthy Lee and Guerrero behind him. With such a stable 3&4 combination, I think Markakis’ value and emergence as a #2 hitter will truly come to light. I can foresee him hitting a few notches above .300, with 20+ homers and 40+ doubles. Along with his superb defensive play, he we collect some MVP votes.

Britton Goes To School

Everybody loves Zach Britton, and for good reason. He appears to be a legitimate big league pitcher and a candidate for a spot in the rotation for the foreseeable future. While I believe he’s that DAMN GOOD, I’ll simply caution Orioles fans with one name; Brian Matusz.

Just a year ago, we were touting Matusz as a prime candidate for “Rookie Of The Year” honors. Instead, we witnessed a talented young pitcher, as he experienced the trials of learning to pitch to the best hitters in the game. Matusz made strides and struggled, at times, while ultimately finishing with a 4.30 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.

Zach Britton will taste big league hitting before long, but his reception will undoubtedly be more brutal than anything he encountered in the Grapefruit League. He’ll hang a few ill-advised pitches or miss on location to Teixeira, Cabrera, Hamilton and/or A’Rod and they’ll express mail it 400+ feet for a fitting lesson.

He’s the real deal, but expectations should be rightfully tempered toward his inexperience in pitching at this level.

They Will Stay Relatively Healthy

As I’ve suggested on numerous occasions, aging veterans, such as Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero have high stakes reasons for playing through the nagging ailments that arise during the course of a 162 game schedule. Both players are looking to extend their careers beyond the 2011 season, and the one year deals here are emphasized on showcasing their talents.

Considering the relative youth of the starting pitching staff and many of the position players, I can view the Orioles as a rather healthy product, in 2011. That said, Brian Roberts, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez are red flags for concern. And, lets not even work Justin Duchscherer into the conversation, yet.

Injuries always arise and have an effect on every team. Regardless of the spring anxiety of the walking wounded, they’ll stay in pretty good shape – especially given the skipper is intolerant of pansies.