The FanBall network is full of good bloggers, and one of the interesting things we thought we could do is have each blogger of one of the teams in the AL East answer a few questions about each other team. So I sent out my list of 9 queries about the Orioles, and I’ll be posting the various responses in a five part series (with the thoughts of another O’s fan at the end).
Today we have Craig Williams, who covers the New York Yankees at The Blog The Ruth Built.
(I’ve included any additional comments I may have had in italics.)
(1) How good is Matt Wieters? (Can you put it in the form of a Matt Wieters Fact?)
I know what he’s looking for here and I hate to suck all of the fun out of this question but, this is my Matt Wieters fact: “Matt Wieters, while very talented, has not yet been Beast Mode certified.”
Comment: No fun indeed.
(2) How good you you think Matt Wieters will really be?
I have to agree with 99% of the baseball-following population in that Wieters has a chance to be an absolute stud – maybe even certified Beast Mode before too much time passes. He’s got the frame, skills and Minor League track record that suggest that he could and should start producing big numbers sooner rather than later. His .362/.425/.511 finish he had in September suggests the type of potential he has. I see the average and OBP coming down a little bit but I see the power increasing. We have to remember that he’s still young though. It is often hard to keep that in perspective when talking about these nitro-prospects because the hype is so loud that you can’t even hear yourself think. Luckily, I think the Orioles will let Wieters take any and all the time he needs to get completely acclimated.
(3) After a somewhat down 2009, how well do you think Nick Markakis will bounce back and at what level do you think he’ll produce in the coming years?
I was definitely high on Markakis coming into the 2009 season and he did disappoint. However, I do expect a bounce back and I expect him to build on his numbers from 2008. I do not know exactly what the problem was but I trust his talent and I trust the coaches to work with him to iron out any kinks. I would not be surprised at all to see a line in the neighborhood of .300+/.400+/.500 with 200-100-25-100-10. Lofty, I know, but I’m just saying I could see it happening.
Comment: That .300/.400/.500 line is what I always hoped Nick could become.
(4) Which young Orioles position player do you like most? (If Wieters/Markakis, who’s #2?)
No. 1 is definitely going to have to be between Markakis and Wieters – maybe even a tie. As far as No. 2, I think it has to be between Adam Jones and Brian Roberts. Jones is exciting, not only because of his talent but because there is always something attractive about the unknown – and fans don’t know, yet, how high Jones’ potential will take him. Of course, there is also something to be said for consistency and steadiness. Brian Roberts delivers year in, year out and does a good job of filling up the stat sheet – even providing some nice pop from the 2B position. So, if you want to assign a definitive No. 2 (or No. 3, technically) you will have to choose between young potential or veteran production. In this case, it is tough to argue either way.
Comment: Brian Roberts probably likes being considered young, but as a second-baseman on the wrong side of 30 he’s pretty clearly on the decline (but still good!).
(5) Which young Orioles starter do you like most?
I definitely like Brian Matusz the best. He got roughed up a bit in his first taste of Major League action but he put up nice strikeout and K/BB numbers. Furthermore, a good friend of mine who follows the O’s religiously talks about how Matusz “gets it”. Now, I don’t know EXACTLY what that entails but, I trust his judgment. And, of course, you can’t overlook the fact that he’s a lefty and even the average lefties have a way of giving batters fits over stretches – and Matusz should be a lot better than average.
(6) What are your thoughts on the Orioles’ off-season, including their acquisitions (Millwood, Atkins, Tejada, Gonzalez) and any moves they should have made but didn’t?
I like the signing of Mike Gonzalez. The O’s needed a closer bad and Gonzalez, while a bit erratic at times, can be a dominant force in the ninth inning. The Kevin Millwood signing is not the type of move that is going to vault Baltimore into the upper tier of the division but it is an important one that can play a role in the O’s making noise down the road. He’s a veteran guy who can impart some wisdom on the young guys coming up and, more importantly, he is going to throw a lot of innings – something that is needed from a staff that is going to rely heavily on young arms that will be learning on the job. As far as the offensive signings, I don’t really have anything bad or good to say about them. Tejada is clearly on the downswing and Atkins has not been good at all but, since they won’t be contending this year, there is nothing wrong with bringing in a couple of guys who have a chance to provide some profit. Not to mention, they are keeping the spot warm for some of the young guys who could use some more seasoning down on the farm.
Comment: Just to note, Millwood was acquired through a trade and is gone at the end of the year.
(7) Are the Orioles going to get out of the cellar this year, and how good of a chance do they have of breaking their streak of losing seasons?
No disrespect intended but, it will be a dogfight between the O’s and the Jays to stay out of the cellar in 2010 but, in all seriousness, I think it should be an interesting race to watch. Each team has some young pieces that figure to become the foundation of some potential success in the somewhat-near future. I do think the Orioles have a slightly better team so I like them to finish fourth in the division. I don’t see them snapping their streak of losing seasons this year but, an improvement on last year’s 64-98 record should be in the cards.
(8) Do the Orioles scare you for 2011? 2012?
The Orioles do not scare me for 2011 or 2012. As a Yankees fan, I know that my team has the ability, financially, to add talent BUT, more importantly, I feel like our “new” regime (minus The Boss’ interference) gets it in terms of balancing our resources. With that said, I am well aware of the threat that the O’s present in the near future with the continued development of their offensive core and the potential of Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arietta. It won’t be long before they are crashing the three team party atop the Beast. The Yankees and Red Sox certainly need to take notice but the team that should be most concerned with the O’s is the Rays as they do not have the financial resources to overcome injuries and other unexpected occurrences.
(9) More generally; does something need to be done with division restructuring, given that (for example) there’s a fair chance that the 3rd best team in baseball will miss the playoffs in 2010?
No, nothing needs to be done in terms of division restructuring. Sure, the Yankees and Red Sox have dominated the division for the last decade but sports run in cycles and there will be a day when the Yanks and/or Sox go a few years without making it to the postseason. The Rays, Twins, A’s and Marlins, among some other teams, have shown that success can be achieved without a large payroll. I’m not delusional though, I realize that it is a lot harder for those teams to compete on an annual basis. I don’t think the salary cap is the right answer though – it’s just the most popular because people, rightfully so, want to point their target straight at the Yankees. Instead, I think a better idea could be to tinker with the playoff field. Allow more of the good teams a chance to make it in and there will be more happy fans around the nation.
Thanks very much to Craig for participating. For a Yankee fan, he’s not a bad guy.