Yes, it seems late to be writing a fantasy baseball post, but as someone who doesn't actually enjoy playing fantasy baseball (despite several failed attempts) I didn't realize time was so short on this kind of thing. It's like, on one hand the off season was really long, but on the other hand Opening Day snuck up on me regarding this sort of thing.
But I don't think this kind if thing solely applies to fantasy as they do actually play in real games that will mean a lot to all of the Orioles fans out there.
Star: I'm not yet confident in any one on the starting rotation enough to declare them a star, especially on the fantasy stage, so for this one I have to go with Jim Johnson in the bullpen. Both in real life and in fantasyland, Jim Johnson is a fantastic pitcher to have on your side. While he probably won't match the 51 saves he racked up in 2012, he will be the team's full-time closer and has shown over the last several years that when the game is in his hands, he'll usually help the team to victory. While there are a great number of people who don't think the closer position is all it's cracked up to be (unless it's a category in your fantasy league), I think most people will admit that when it comes down to the 9th inning, it's more than a little reassuring to have someone like Johnson on your team.
Dud: Just as I'm not confident in naming a star starting pitcher, I don't feel that we know enough about them to name a dud starting pitcher either. Even so, I'm going to name Miguel Gonzalez as a possible dud. I want him to be awesome as much as the rest of you do, but history isn't on our side in this one. There is a reason he couldn't stick with a major league team and out of professional baseball when the Orioles found him. I hope, hope, hope that he'll be able to replicate his 3.25 ERA and his average of over 6 innings per start, but he had a pedestrian K rate and a not high, but not impressive BB rate last year. With a 2012 FIP of over a run higher than his ERA, it isn't hard to imagine him regressing.
Sleeper: We've been waiting for him to put it together for years now, but is this the time that Jake Arrieta finally puts it together? His ugly starts in 2012 got him sent back to the minors but the thing about Arrieta is that his stuff often looks good despite not getting the results we all want to see. He is a high strikeout pitcher and last year he only had a BB/9 of 2.7. That's the lowest of his major league career by quite a bit, but he still couldn't seem find success last year. Can he pitch to his peripherals? Will his BABIP against go down to a normal rate? Will he finally figure out that elusive put away pitch that he always seems to lack? That's a lot of things to count on, but it's worth keeping an eye on him to see.
Star: You have to go for Adam Jones in this category. Jones truly had a breakout year in 2012, hitting .287/.334/.505 with 32 home runs and 29 doubles. He'll be 27 years old for the 2013 season and he's prime to be even better this year than he was last. His power has finally come on, which makes him very valuable for a center fielder.
Dud: Let me tell you, it's a good day in Birdland when I struggle to find a dud in the lineup. The first one that jumps out at me is Brian Roberts, but I've already picked him as the sleeper (spoiler!). So in the interest of picking someone, I'll go with J.J. Hardy. Overall, Hardy is a very valuable baseball player. Even with an OBP of just .282 last year, his defense helped make him a player with a 2.6 WAR. But from a fantasy perspective, especially one that counts walks and/or OBP, Hardy disappoints in pretty much every category other than home runs. If Hardy can replicate his 2011 when his 30 home runs overshadowed his .310 OBP, that's one story. But it's unlikely he'll have that much power, and he is a perennial injury risk.
Sleeper: I already told you that I picked Brian Roberts, so the cat is out of the bag. Last week Jason Hunt at FakeTeams.com made an argument for why Roberts could be a good pick at the end of a draft based on his potential, but for me it comes down to this: I have no expectations for Brian Roberts. We know what he did years ago, but we also know he's 35 years old and hasn't played regularly since 2009. If Roberts offers anything above what Robert Andino did last year, that's a bonus in my opinion. And if he can even come close to replicating what he did before he was knocked out with injuries, well then it'll be like the team added a quality free agent at second base. He'll start the year batting ninth and how he hits will determine where he ultimately lands in the lineup. For all we know, he could bounce right back.
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