Orioles Fantasy Players to Watch

J.J. Hardy is probably not going to hit 30 home runs this year, but he could still be a nice addition to your fantasy team.

Are there any Orioles who will be valuable from a fantasy perspective in 2012? A few years ago Brian Roberts was a good choice, I used to like to stash Luke Scott on the bench so I could use him when he went on a home run binge, and last year J.J. Hardy was pretty good to me with his 30 home runs. But what about this year? It's hard to say, really.

Rotation:

Oh, well, um....yeah. The candidates for starting rotation going into Spring Training are Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Zach Britton, Wei-Yin Chen, Dana Eveland, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Alfredo Simon, Chris Tillman, and Tsuyoshi Wada. You'd have to be in a very, very deep league to want any of those guys on your team.

Bergesen and Simon will most likely end up in the bullpen, with Wada not far behind them. Tillman and Matusz are a mess and Eveland isn't any good. Hunter doesn't strike out enough batters and after Hammel's 2011 he's really more of a wait-and-see pitcher. Chen is an unknown coming over from Japan where his K rate has been dropping the last few seasons. Arrieta has been a disappointment and who knows what will happen with him coming off of his surgery. Also, he just walks too many and hasn't proven that he can pitch deep into games.

That leaves Britton, and honestly, Britton is no gem. At least, he isn't yet. Pitching for the Orioles won't get him many wins, and last season he walked too many batters, didn't strike out enough, and gave up too many home runs. But he's young and talented and could certainly have a good year. So if you absolutely must have one Oriole in your starting rotation, I'd go with Britton. But wait until the last few rounds of the draft.

EDIT: When I wrote this last night, none of us knew Britton was still injured. So look, just don't, under any circumstances, draft an Orioles starting pitcher. Unless you're in a wacky league where the point is to be the worst. In which case, take them all!

Bullpen:

The only real option is Jim Johnson. He will presumably start the year as the closer, and he's awesome. If he fails as closer or gets injured, Pedro Strop could pick up the slack. And while I fully expect Strop's walk rate to inflate from his time in Baltimore last year, I do love to watch that kid throw the heat.

Outfield:

The starting outfield will be Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. Given the general amount of talent in the outfield in the majors, none of these guys will be drafted early in any draft. Even when Markakis was playing better than he did last year, he has never been a fantasy stud. And Jones has some power going for him, but he just hasn't proven he can get on base enough. If you play in a league that requires a LF, CF, and RF and opposed to three OF, Jones could be a nice choice in CF since power from that position isn't as prevalent.

When I play fantasy baseball, I usually like to take someone that I like but who isn't really good enough to matter with my last pick. If you're playing in a league with a bunch of Orioles fans, Reimold probably won't last that long, but if not he could be a great late round pick. If he finally gets regular playing time who knows? OK, I'm a Reimold homer. I know it, I accept it.

Infield:

Here it gets a little interesting. Matt Wieters isn't a bad choice to draft at catcher. A ton of his value comes from defense and of course that doesn't matter in fantasy, but a catcher with 20 HR power and a decent OBP (that could easily go up in 2012) is worth having. So if it comes down to drafting a catcher and Brian McCann, Mike Napoli, and Carlos Santana are already taken, Wieters is a great choice. (I'm not sold on Alex Avila putting up those kind of numbers on the regular just yet)

Then there is J.J. Hardy, who hit 30 home runs this year and was generally awesome in every way (well, every way except on-base %). He'll be drafted early, especially in an O's fans league, but he's a very good choice at SS if you miss out on Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki. His power is almost a lock to go down, but that could correspond in a jump in OBP. I'd put him in the second tier of SS along with Asdrubal Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta (although I wouldn't bet on Peralta this year to repeat).

The only other infielder on the Orioles worth considering is Mark Reynolds. He can be plugged in at 3B or 1B, and while it's a negative for Wieters, it's definitely a positive for Reynolds that defense doesn't count. He's good for 30 HR and a decent number of walks, but if you play in one of those leagues that deducts points for strikeouts, watch out. As with Hardy, I'd put him in the second tier at his position.

As it is in real life, the more Orioles you have on your fantasy team, the worse you are likely to be. But if you are able to snag some stars at other positions, there are definitely a few guys that could be a nice complement to them.

But seriously, don't draft any of their starting pitchers.

***

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