1B Derrek Lee, SS J.J. Hardy, 3B Mark Reynolds, INF Brendan Harris, RHP Justin Duchscherer, DH Vladimir Guerrero.

Ty Wigginton, Corey Patterson, RHP Matt Albers, probably Kevin Millwood.

Projected Roster:
2B Brian Roberts
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
DH Vladimir Guerrero
LF Luke Scott
1B Derrek Lee
3B Mark Reynolds
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy

RHP Jeremy Guthrie
LHP Brian Matusz
RHP Justin Duchscherer
RHP Brad Bergesen
RHP Jake Arrieta

CL RHP Koji Uehara

The Orioles don’t have as much money as the Red Sox or Yankees  so they have to develop talent, as president Andy McPhail will attest. In recent seasons, Baltimore has produced a handful of talented, young players: Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, and Chris Tillman. But none of them have yet developed into stars.

This offseason, Baltimore signed 1B Derrek Lee and DH Vlad Guerrero, two over-the-hill sluggers who might have enough left in the tank to help the O’s improve on last season’s woeful team slugging percentage. They also traded for 3B Mark Reynolds, who we know will hit homers, but is also certain to lead the league in strikeouts if given enough at bats.

Baltimore’s best offseason move was trading for J.J. Hardy, who remains a premier defender and could rediscover the pop that allowed him to hit 50 homers over 2 seasons in Minnesota. Hardy is the kind of high upside player the Orioles need to pursue at every opportunity. Duchscherer was another great low-cost, high-upside signing.

If the magic managerial touch of Buck Showalter carries into 2011 and if Vlad, Lee and Reynolds send a few balls into the outfield seats, it’s possible this year’s O’s will win a few more games and sell a few more tickets. But if the team is going to make a run at respectability, it’s going to need to see improvements from Matusz, Wieters, Reimold and Tillman. These guys are the future and, as Keith Law points out, there’s very little held on the way from the farm:

[T]he system at this moment is two Top 30 prospects and no one else I’d put in my Top 150. The lack of international talent in the system stands out.

That’s why it’s a little perplexing that Baltimore signed Guerrero, who will bump Luke Scott to the outfield and send Reimold to the bench or the minors. Reimold hit 15 homers and stole 8 bases in 2009, in just over 350 at bats. It looked then that he could be a long term solution in left field. But last season he struggled and was demoted. It would have been nice to see the O’s give Reimold one more chance in 2011. Then again, Reimold is 27 and maybe Baltimore’s brain trust feels we’ve already seen his best? It’s certainly possible.

At any rate, the 2011 Orioles should have more pop and decent, if not great, defense. The pitching is a total mystery, but isn’t likely to be good enough to keep the team from finishing in last unless Matusz and Tillman make great strides and Duchscherer returns to form.

Grade: B

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