Final Spring Training Round-Up

It has been an eventful off-season with some nice surprises. The team really seems to be heading into the right direction, and it seems as if the youth will finally start shining through. The 2008 year is a lost cause in the eyes of the analysts, but I have reason to believe we will win it all, mainly because we haven't played a game and my Oriole optimism is running on all cylinders. In reality, we are probably playing for 4th place in the AL East unless a lot of pieces fall into place (Adam Loewen and Daniel Cabrera finding consistency leading to front end rotation stuff; Jeremy Guthrie showing why he was once touted as an ace prospect; Luke Scott & Nick Markakis putting in 30 home run efforts and Aubrey Huff not sitting out until August; the list goes on). I am extremely excited for this year, and I cannot wait to see the young talent coming up as the year progresses.

Since the final roster is set, I went back on my Review of the Team 2.0 entry that started this blog in the first place. There, I had predictions about what I thought the roster may look like. Lets check out how I did:

Starting Rotation Predicted:
1-Jeremy Guthrie
2-Adam Loewen
3-Daniel Cabrera
4-Steve Trachsel
5-Garrett Olson (I never designated it as I listed the candidates, but I favored him)

Darkhorses: Matt Albers & Brian Burres

Starting Rotation Actual:
1-Jeremy Guthrie
2-Steve Trachsel
3-Daniel Cabrera
4-Adam Loewen
5-Brian Burres

I was off a little with Loewen and Trachsel switching places, but I don't see how anyone predicted that Brian Burres would make the rotation. I remember making a comment that he's a darkhorse in the race as no one was talking about him in the press, but he stepped in when we needed him last year and did a commendable job. I was a little shocked that he was able to get it, but he earned it from the spring numbers. Albers struggled in the middle part of the spring and Burres put the final nail in the coffin with a great effort against the Marlins in his final start.

Honestly, I am not sure how long Burres will last in the rotation. I fell in love with his big sweeping curve as it resembles the one I throw (if you are not familiar, I used to pitch for a division 1 school), but he has a high contact rate and is a fly ball pitcher. Fly ball pitchers in a hitter's park usually do not get along well which is why I had sided with Albers getting the final rotation spot. Burres will have to put up quality starts in the 5th starters role to keep his job as Olson, Penn, Liz and others are chomping at the bit to get up to the majors. Burres will probably end up in the bullpen as long relief when our rebuilding is complete because of the quality of arms lurking behind him. I like the kid, and I hope he works out well.

What I am surprised about in this rotation is 3 righties in a row and 2 lefties in a row. This could be jumbled up as the season goes, but usually the arms are seperated like in a batting order. I don't think it will effect any performances, but I was just a little surprised to see it.

Bullpen Predicted:
CL - George Sherrill
SU - Dennis Safarte
Lefty Specialist - Jamie Walker
Righty Specialist - Chad Bradford
Middle/Long Reliever - Matt Albers
Middle/Long Reliever - Brian Burres
Middle/Long Reliever - Randor Bierd

Darkhorse: Greg Aquino

Bullpen Actual:
CL - George Sherrill
SU - Greg Aquino
Lefty Specialist - Jamie Walker
Righty Specialist - Chad Bradford
Middle Reliever - Randor Bierd
Middle Reliever - Dennis Sarfate
Long Reliever - Matt Albers

I mentioned that Greg Aquino would make the team as insurance at the closer's spot if Albers or Burres was the #5 starter in the rotation, and I was correct with that prediction. Aquino has been great this spring, and the Orioles will be looking for him to be in the late innings sharing setup duties with Walker and Bradford. Sherrill was announced closer as everyone expected, and I had been pulling for Bierd and Sarfate all spring. Those two will provide middle relief to gain experience in the major league pen. Bierd is a rule-5 pick, and he should make it through the entire season. I could see him staying on the big league club next year. Sarfate is hard throwing youngster who had a good spring as well. He was out of options, but he managed to pitch his way onto the club. I believe that the Orioles will eventually look to him to being a shut down setup man, but he will have to gain some experience and work on the control a little bit more before he gets that shot.

I like the make-up of the pen as it is being led by veterans and supported by a young cast. Nothing about this bullpen is over the top, but it could be a strength no one was counting on (please, don't let me just curse our team for what we said last year and our $40 million bullpen).

Line-Up Projected and Actual:
2B - Brian Roberts
3B - Melvin Mora
RF - Nick Markakis
1B - Kevin Millar
DH - Aubrey Huff
C - Ramon Hernandez
LF - Luke Scott
CF - Adam Jones
SS - Luis Hernandez

In my prediction, I had Scott and Huff at either the 5 & 7 spots of the batting order. Honestly, I think whichever one is hitting better will bat 5 while the other bats 7, so I expect that line-up to be a little fluid in that respect. Other than that, it is a concrete line-up in that each person's spot is cemented.

Luis Hernandez made the starting shortstop spot despite being out played by Brandon Fahey. Luis did well last year when filling in for Miguel Tejada, and Trembley took that into consideration. I think it is the right move because Hernandez will figure out his glove once he relaxes and gets settled into his position. Fahey is not an everyday player. Anyone who feels he should be playing everyday should really go back and look at how his numbers started to tank as an everyday left fielder. I think what may end up happening is a bit of a platoon between the players. Luis will get most of the playing time, but Fahey will spell him to get a fresh bat in there once in awhile. I think it will take some pressure off of Luis.

Bench Predicted & Actual:
C - Guillermo Quiroz
IF - Brandon Fahey
OF - Jay Payton
IF - Scott Moore

It became official as of Sunday that the man I have been touting all spring made the team. Scott Moore was named to the Orioles bench and Jay Gibbons was cut from the team. I have gone on and on about what I think Moore can do for this team with his ability to play the corner positions in the outfield and infield, second base, and shortstop if Trembley will let him (Trembley told him that he should stick to learning 2nd base and the outfield). Moore is 1B & 3B back-up with Fahey being the 2B & SS back-up. Moore will serve as 5th outfielder as well.

Jay Payton is the 4th outfielder and many people do not like the move. I, for one, do like the move. Despite him being old and taking at-bats away from younger players, he is the only other Oriole on the roster, as of now, that can play CF behind Adam Jones. Payton has decent range and pretty good defense while his bat is typically not much of a liabilty. I don't see him sticking with the club the whole year as the switch hitting Chris Roberson is in AAA and capable of doing Jay Payton's job. Payton could net some prospects at the deadline.

All in all, I was pretty on with my predictions on the team. I am a little shocked that they cut Jay Gibbons because of the Orioles past, but Andy MacPhail has proven that it is rebuilding mode for the Orioles.

The Stat Round-Up - Leaders of the Spring
Avg - Mora (.407)
2B - Mora (7)
3B - Fahey/Markakis/Mora (1)
HR - Costanzo/Mora/Millar/Scott (2)
RBI - Mora (13)
SB - Roberts (7)
ERA (Min 10IP) - Cherry (0.90)
K - Cabrera/Guthrie/Loewen (16)
BB - Loewen (19)
K/9 - Cherry/Sarfate (9.00)
K/BB - Sherrill (9:0)
WHIP - Sherrill (0.60)

Offensive Standout: Melvin Mora
He had his job challenged by Mike Costanzo and Scott Moore, and he stepped up this spring and is hitting the cover off the ball. Here's hoping that this is a sign to a solid season that sees his numbers move back up instead of declining once again.

Offensive Darkhorse: Ramon Hernandez
Ramon could give the Orioles a really solid middle of the order if he can return to form after having a healthy spring. We lack the 40 home run power, but with several guys threatening 20 home runs and capable of driving in runs, Hernandez could give us another solid contributor. If Millar stumbles in the clean-up spot, it is easy to place a healthy Ramon Hernandez in that spot and get production.

Pitching Standout: Brian Burres and George Sherrill
Burres pitched his butt-off to get into the rotation with great outtings and not walking people. 8:1 K/BB ratio and only 4 ER in 13 innings for a 2.77 ERA. I don't expect the ERA or the K/BB to stay as it is, but if he is able to keep the walks down, then he could be a solid #5 starter.
Sherrill dominated in his spring innings. He allowed 2 ER in 10 innings while only allowing 6 base runners total. He struck out 9 and walked none. These are the types of numbers we need from our closer because someone has to shut the door.

Pitching Darkhorse: Greg Aquino

The guy once had a good season as a closer and fell off the map. Now, he had a great spring and could give the Orioles a 1-2 punch at the end of games. One thing that we have trouble with in the past is getting the ball to the closer in the 9th. The Orioles have stretched their closer into the 8th inning repeatedly because we did not have a solid setup man. If Aquino can deliver as that guy, the Orioles are going to win a lot more ball games because of Walker and Bradford being more rested and effective. I could really see the Orioles bullpen protecting leads well if Aquino steps up and these guys deliver.

Biggest Camp Surprise: Brian Roberts not being traded.

I like to think of it as a blessing in disguise. Roberts is needed at the top of the line-up for it to perform well. It will be nice to have that part of our line-up solid, so young players are not shoved into roles they may not be ready to take over. Unfortunately, Roberts does not want to be a part of this rebuilding project. He is classy and will always play hard, so it is only a matter of time before he is traded to a contender. I could see him netting a large grab bag of prospects eventually, but enjoy #1 while he is still in Baltimore tearing up the basepaths.

Record Prediction: 72-90. 5th Place.

Yes, I predict we will be three games better than we were last year. I think a lot of our games were lost on the bullpen, and we won't lose those games this time around. I still expect us to fall into last place as the Rays seem poised to land one of their best seasons in franchise history. I am not worried because we will be chasing them up the standings soon enough.

Random Player Thoughts:

Adam Loewen - Expect Erik Bedard circa 2004-2005. I see a mid 4's ERA, roughly 150 K's and 75 BB's. He will probably lose more games at the beginning of the season than at the end because I believe we will see Loewen come into his own the 2nd half of the season. His W-L should break down to about even though I worry his high pitch counts won't let him go deep enough into games to get wins that he deserves.

Daniel Cabrera - Call me a believer or an optimist, but I see a different pitcher this year. ERA should be in the low 4's, 190K's, and 80 BB's. The walks will go down a bit; he will go deeper into games; and the change-up will become an important pitch. I think he shows this year that he is capable of being a front-line starter. It wasn't until Erik Bedard threw an effective change-up that he became the K-artist that we all loved. D-Cab gets himself into trouble because of walks, but we will see a much more controlled version of him. Sure, the ugly starts will still happen but with much less frequency.

Luke Scott - I think he proves a lot of people wrong about his lefty on lefty hitting. I think he'll put up 25-30 home runs at lefty friendly Camden Yards and drive in 80 Rbi's. I put his batting average around .270.

Luis Hernandez - .240 average, 5 HR, 35 Rbi coming from the 9 hole of the line-up. I see him putting in roughly 120 games as the Orioles wouldn't want to over-expose him this year.

Adam Jones - Like Loewen, Markakis circa 2006. Nick's numbers were .291 avg, 16 HR, 62 Rbi. I don't expect anymore out of Adam than numbers like that. I, also, see him stealing 10-15 bags this year. Nick didn't really steal at all his first year, but I see more speed in Adam Jones.

Well, here's to a great 2008 season! It will bring much excitement to Baltimore and really give us fans the optimism we have been wanting for over a decade. As always, feel free to comment and ask me any questions you would like.

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