Welcome to the 2008 Know Thy Enemy series. A staple of Fire Brand that covers all AL East foes plus itself, it starts early this year because the Red Sox are headed to Japan to open the 2008 season against the Oakland Athletics. What follows is Fire Brand‘s predicted order of finish, from last place to first place. As you might have guessed, the Orioles are our pick to finish last in the AL East. You will see the rest of the teams covered this week, with the predicted first-place team on Monday. Tuesday, the 2008 season officially kicks off, and with that you will find daily content at Fire Brand for the first time since October. Every day will be a new post, and Shawn Medeiros will make his long-awaited return to do game recaps. Onwards!
Boy, the Orioles are going to be bad. Real bad. They’re clearly rebuilding but have no exciting people on the major league roster save for two: Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. By the end of the year, Adam Loewen may be on this short list, but the Orioles don’t have much to look forward to this season. With the four other teams in the division all looking like they’ll be challenging, the Orioles might crack 100 losses this year.
Fire Brand Quote of the Team: “At least they have the non-Pac Man Adam Jones to root for, and Nick Markakis will be fun to watch develop before he moves elsewhere. You can always hold out hope that Daniel Cabrera throws strikes?” (Tim Daloisio)
Statistics code: AVG/OBP/SLG for hitters. W-L, ERA, WHIP for starters. ERA, WHIP, IP for relievers.
C: Ramon Hernandez (2007 stats: .258/.333/.382) | Guillermo Quiroz (2007 stats: .400/.455/.500)
Hernandez signed a big contract with the Orioles and was worth the money in 2006… not so much last year. If he can return to his halycon days with the Oakland Athletics this year, he’s prime trade bait. He’s reportedly in tremendous shape after slogging through an injury-marred year. Guillermo Quiroz was supposed to be the Toronto Blue Jays’ next great catcher, instead he’s 26 and on his fourth team. It’s not over for him yet, but he’ll need to turn in a strong season as a backup and potential starter should Hernandez be traded.
1B: Kevin Millar (2007 stats: .254/.365/.420) | Jay Gibbons (2007 stats: .230/.272/.348)
Millar may have a great clubhouse presence, but it’s not going to serve him that well on a terrible team. He’s a key candidate to be moved to a team desperate for a first baseman, outfielder, or some combination thereof (hello, New York Mets). He won’t light the world on fire, but he’s a more than solid hitter. Jay Gibbons finds himself out of a starting spot and serving a 15-day suspension for PED use to start the season. When he returns, he’ll suck — and drain Baltimore’s budget as he’s owed $11.2 million over the next two years.
2B: Brian Roberts (2007 stats: .290/.377/.432) | Freddy Bynum (2007 stats: .260/.290/.448)
Brian Roberts might be traded by the time the Red Sox get back on American soil. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry reportedly upped his offer for Roberts the other day (adding Jason Marquis, so I use the term “upped” loosely) but he’s still an Oriole at the time of this writing. He’ll contend for another All-Star spot, and he will not be an Oriole after July 31st, no matter what. He’ll be the latest star to depart Baltimore. Bynum is a nondescript backup who will start the season on the DL to repair a torn meniscus. The Orioles will plug his spot with Brandon Fahey or someone who hasn’t donned Orioles gear yet this year. Once Bynum returns, he’ll anchor the bench.
3B: Melvin Mora (2007 stats: .274/.341/.418)
Mora was once upon a time one of the elite third basemen in the league. As is wont with age, he’s clearly declined and also someone the Orioles are looking to move. One problem has him with a no-trade clause, but come on, who doesn’t want out of Baltimore? Rotoworld.com speculates he could be moved to the Dodgers for Esteban Loaiza and a prospect. Not bad. Either way, the 36-year old’s prime days are gone, but he can still contribute.
SS: Luis Hernandez (2007 stats: .290/.300/.362)
Don’t be fooled by his statistics, they come with a small sample size. The man can’t hit, period. He’s got a good glove, but put a bat in his hands and you’re going to be disappointed. If the Brian Roberts deal goes through, Ronny Cedeno would theoretically come from Chicago and be the Orioles’ shortstop. For now, the incumbent is Luis Hernandez. Move along, nothing to see here.
LF: Luke Scott (2007 stats: .255/.351/.504)
Scott finally gets a crack at starting fulltime. With his career numbers similar to his 2007 numbers, he could really open a lot of eyes. With a team struggling to score runs, the 29-year old probably won’t be traded and will help anchor the middle of the order, but this is exactly the kind of low-value pickup the Orioles should be making. I’ve been high on Scott for a long time and he could bring back some good prospects should he keep up his career numbers.
CF: Adam Jones (2007 stats: .246/.300/.400) | Jay Payton (2007 stats: .256/.292/.376)
Jones is a big player. He’s young, he’s got five tools, and he’s a lock to get a ton of playing time. A lot of people view him as a future All-Star, and he’s a big reason why the Orioles might have the best outfield in a few years along with Nick Markakis. Jones will be one of very few reasons to tune into an Orioles game this year. As for Payton, do you think he’ll make a stink about being a backup on a terrible team? He should take a hard look at his statistics and realize that he really doesn’t have any cause to open his mouth.
RF: Nick Markakis (2007 stats: .300/.362/.485)
The next budding star, Markakis enjoyed a great year in 2007. He should continue to take a step forward and anchor himself as one of the best rightfielders in the game. He’s unhappy with the Orioles for renewing his contract. Go Orioles! Hopefully Markakis will be in Sox red once he becomes a free agent.
DH: Aubrey Huff (2007 stats: .280/.337/.442)
Huff had a rocky debut in Oriole orange this year, but he’s always been a solid hitter. He should help offensively, but I can’t decide whether or not his .280/.337/.442 line as a DH is a testament to how bad the Orioles are and how good the Red Sox are (Ortiz is at .332/.445/.621). I’m thinking both.
SP: Jeremy Guthrie (2007 stats: 7-5, 3.70, 1.21) | Daniel Cabrera (2007 stats: 9-18, 5.55, 1.54) | Adam Loewen (2007 stats: 2-0, 3.56, 1.75) | Matt Albers (2007 stats: 4-11, 5.86, 1.60) | Steve Trachsel (7-11, 4.90, 1.59)
Nice rotation. Nahhhht. Guthrie had a nice season as a rookie, but faded as the season wore on. He’s a nice source of innings as cheap as he comes, but he’ll likely never be anything better than the 2007 season he turned in. He’ll be looked at to anchor a rotation full of cast-offs (Albers — okay, may be a little too harsh on Matt, but this year will go a long way in deciding Albers’ future role in the bigs), potential stars (Loewen — keep your eye on this kid, he’s only 23 and has big potential), has-beens (Trachsel — surprised for the O’s last year, went to the Cubs in a deal and bombed and is now back for more) and unrealized dreams (Cabrera — no, I don’t think he’ll ever turn it around). Ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 Orioles rotation!
RP: Chad Bradford (2007 stats: 3.34, 1.44, 64.2) | Jamie Walker (2007 stats: 3.23, 1.21, 61.1) | Greg Aquino (2007 stats: 4.50, 1.29, 14.0) | Dennis Sarfate (2007 stats: 1.08, 0.72, 8.1) | Brian Burres (2007 stats: 5.95, 1.70, 121.0) | Lance Cormier (2007 stats: 6.40, 1.73, 32.1) | James Hoey (2007 stats: 7.30, 1.74, 24.2)
Bradford and Walker anchor abullpen that is otherwise going to be a bunch of question marks. Even as good as Bradford and Walker were and can be again, the amount of money the Orioles committed to those two last year doesn’t make it likely they’ll be shipped out. Aquino has tantalized multiple teams with his potential and is now 30. Sarfate was gotten by the Astros and struck out 14 batters last year while walking one. I’m keeping my eye on this 26-year old. Burres and Albers are currently fighting for a bullpen job, but I projected Albers to win — not that it matters. Cormier, 27, looked to be on his way to being a viable reliever after a solid 2006 but sucked hind tit last year. I project him to grab a spot in the bullpen. Hoey is a great young pitcher who could become the closer of the future for the Orioles, and he is also someone to keep an eye on, but he’ll have to beat out Rocky Cherry for a job.
CL: George Sherrill (2007 stats: 2.36, 0.99, 45.2, 3 SV)
He’s 30 years old, he’s left-handed, and he’s closing for a bad team. I can’t help but think the only reason he’s going to close is so he can boost his trade value. I bet I’m right. You watch. Sherrill is a very good reliever (56 K, 14 BB), and I wish the Red Sox had picked him up. It’s not too late…
MGR: Dave Trembley
Trembley managed in the minors for 20 long years before getting a crack at the Orioles. When Sam Perlozzo was fired in June, Trembley took over and managed to a 40-53 record. That record will only get worse, but if he can weather the bad times, I do think he could end up the manager of a pretty good team. Since the Orioles have only just started their rebuilding effort, however, look for him to exit stage left in a couple years.
GM: Andy McPhail
McPhail takes over for the two-headed GM tandem of Jim Duquette and Mike Flanagan. While Flanagan still remains with the club, his role has reportedly been much marginalized, and McPhail is the President of Baseball Operations (there is no General Manager title). McPhail has had a long career in baseball and is looked at by some as the next commissioner of baseball. Given enough time and latitude, he could help turn the Orioles around, but Peter Angelos will continue to meddle and foul it up.
Categories: Adam Jones Adam Loewen Andy McPhail Aubrey Huff Baltimore Orioles Brian Burres Brian Roberts Chad Bradford Daniel Cabrera Dave Trembley Dennis Sarfate Freddy Bynum George Sherrill Greg Aquino Guillermo Quiroz James Hoey Jamie Walker Jay Gibbons Jay Payton Jeremy Guthrie Kevin Millar Lance Cormier Luis Hernandez Luke Scott Matt Albers Melvin Mora Mike Flanagan Nick Markakis Ramon Hernandez Steve Trachsel