Into the off-season, GM Andy MacPhail made a statement by turning the franchise into a rebuilding state. Unfortunaltly, it will be a while before the O's climb back on the horse and become a contender. Peter Angelos did them in for the past ten years. Now, the O's lose one of the best southpaws in the game, Erik Bedard, but gain a new closer, a very talented center fielder in Adam Jones, and three young pitching prospects. Before that, macPhail dealt shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for outfielder Luke Scott, two young pitchers expected to step in immediatly in Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate, a third base prospect expected to see some playing time and one of the best southpaw prospects in the game, Troy Patton. Even with the departures of Bedard and Tejada, I expect the O's to be better. Both Bedard and Tejada were bad clubhouse players. The O's tossed them out and started new. The 2008 Orioles have a good chemistry of young components along with some oldies to help the young guys out.
Offense: The Offense of the O's will be a torture to watch at the beginning, but expect it to get a fire lit underneath after a bad April. Expect to see Ramon Hernandez to bounce back to somewhat of his 2006 form, where he hit .275 with 23 home runs and 91 rbi's. Kevin Millar will start the season at first base. Millar is a good team player, but he is not at all a starter. Hopefully Mike Costanzo or Scott Moore can take over at some point. Brian Roberts comes back to the Orioles after dodging a spew of trade rumors this off-season. Roberts may very well be the best player on the trade block, and will be a hot commodity at the trade deadline. Unfortunatly, shortstop is a horrible position of the O's as well. Luis Hernandez is currently the starter, but is absolutley horrible in Spring Training. Brandon Fahey may very well be a better option and with Hernandez's play, could be the starter at shortstop on opening day. Melvin Mora is doing very well in spring training , but probably will not bring it over to the regular season. He could be a trade chip, but I don't think too many teams will be interested. Maybe either Costanzo or Moore will take over eventually. Here is where the O's are best, the outfield. Nick Markakis is just one of the few top 20, under 25 outfielders. He will get help from Luke Scott, who becomes the new starter at left field. Stuck in the middle of these two is youngster Adam Jones. Expect good seasons from all three of these players.
Pitching: Last year proved that just because you have one of the top 10 pitchers in the game dosn't mean you pitching is good. Adam Loewen and Jeremy Guthrie are in a tight battle for the ace of the staff, while Daniel Cabrera and Steve Trachsel basically sit calm in the 3-4 spots. The other battle is between Matt Albers and Lance Cormier for the 5th rotation spot. The bullpen was where the team was a blow up last season. The had two non-closer's under 4 ERA(Chad Bradford and Jaime Walker). Both Bradford and Walker along with closer george Sherrill will be on the trade block come deadline time. Other than that, the bullpen becomes a toss-up. There are two others who will probably make it, they are Dennis Sarfate and Randor Bierd, who was a Rule-5 pick this off-season. There is also Garrett Olson, Radhames Liz, Brian Burres, Greg Aquino and other battling for the last one or two spots.
Strengths: The O's have a few bright spots. There strong at catcher(Hernandez), second base(Roberts) and outfield(Markakis, Scott, Jones). It will not be a pretty year to be a Birds fan, but it will be fun watching the new guys and the young guys form the team and try there hardest. Probably there best strength is that they have around $30-$40M to spend in free agency next year on young but talented guys like Mark Teixeiria
Weakness: Man, was it easier to just name the strengths. The O's need a first baseman, shortstop, third baseman, and a lot of good youth pitching to become a contender. The good news, they have a potential prospect at just about every position. The offense is half and half, kind of like they have been in spring training. They will be great one day, then come out and fiddle around for 3 hours the next day. If they can become a team that wants to win, who says they can't.
1. Brian Roberts/2B
2. Melvin Mora/3B
3. Nick Markakis/RF
4. Aubrey Huff/DH
5. Ramon Hernandez/C
6. Luke Scott/LF
7. Adam Jones/CF
8. Kevin Millar/1B
9. Luis A. Hernandez/SS
*Editors Note: The Projected Line-up is what I believe the O's opening day line-up should look like.