Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein have the money, but Andy McPhail gets the GM of the Year Award in the American League East for very quietly putting together a team built with a core group of young talent and inexpensive veterans. Impact prospects for 2010 include catcher Matt Weiters, LHP Brian Matusz, RHP Chris Tillman, and OF Nolan Riemold while 3B Josh Bell and 1B Michael Aubrey are not far off from being terrific Major Leaguers in their own right. Past All-Stars Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Brian Roberts are in their prime, while veteran additions of RHP Kevin Millwood, 3B Miguel Tejada, 1B Garrett Atkins, and LHP Mike Gonzalez could help the O’s be the Rays of 2008. Yeah, I said it.
The Orioles defensive and offensive talent is apparent. They have arguably the best overall outfield in the Majors, Brian Roberts and Cesar Izturis up the middle, and the young Matt Weiters behind the dish. Miguel Tejada, Garrett Atkins, along with DH Luke Scott will add quite a bit of production from the power positions. They don’t have the big name veteran sluggers like A-Rod, Jeter, Texieira of the Yanks, or Pedroia, Martinez, Youkilis of the Red Sox, but these guy will hold their own.
The main thing the O’s will need to go their way is the quick development of their pitching staff, which got a major upgrade with the addition of a legitimate ace in Kevin Millwood. Millwood is 35-years old, but he has averaged 208 innings and 14 wins per season over a 13 year career. His leadership will help the staffs two developing studs in LHP Brian Matusz and RHP Chris Tillman. I see Matusz, who was 5-2 in a 8-start stint with the Orioles at the end of 2009, as the most important piece of the puzzle. With the short RF porch in the new Yankee Stadium and bounty of left-handed or switch-hitting sluggers in the league, they will need a big year out of the lefty, and I am picking him for the AL Rookie of the Year. Jeremy Guthrie should be a solid 12-15 game winner behind Millwood in the #2 spot – I expect him to bounce back to his 2008 numbers while picking up a few more wins thanks to a much better team around him. Brad Bergesen and Koji Uehara are both coming off injuries, but will both end up factoring into the Orioles success.
After trading closer George Sherrill to the Dodgers last year, the Orioles had to go out and get someone capable to locking down games. They got what they were looking for in LHP Mike Gonzalez, who has a lifetime 2.57 ERA and 10.6 K/9.