• Sep

    Finding the positives

    Well thankfully that's over.

    As I'm sure you know by now the Orioles completed their 11th straight losing season with a fitting 10-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Well, maybe you didn't because judging by the empty seats and the lack of hits around here, not too many of you are still following the Orioles right now.

    It's hard to blame you really. Honestly, it was hard to tell if the Orioles players cared either. After playing hard through the first week of August, injuries and what appeared to be a general lack of enthusiasm took a hold of the club and watched them free fall to an abysmal 68-93 record and their first last place finish since 1988.

    The good news is that the Orioles will get the fifth overall pick in next year's draft and the team actually answered some questions for 2009 and beyond.

    So let's take a quick look at the good that came out of 2008:

    1. The Erik Bedard trade looks like it could end up an extreme steal by Andy MacPhail. On the major league side, Adam Jones played a fantastic center field and put up some decent offensive stats (.272/.312/.403/.712) for his first full season. Left-handed reliever George Sherrill put up an All-Star first half before injuries marred his second half of his season and although he was over exposed as a closer, he should be able to settle back to his left-handed relief role in 2009 and will be an asset. Kam Mickolio brought his 96 MPH fastball and 88 MPH slider through the minor leagues this year and ended up in Baltimore where he struck out more than a batter an inning. He may still need some minor league work but he has some special stuff when he's on. Despite the three that have already played well in the major leagues, Chris Tillman may end up the crown jewel of the trade. The 20-year old right-hander was named Baseball America's 2nd best prospect in the prospect laden Eastern League after going 11-4 with a 3.18 ERA with 154 strikeouts in 135.2 innings pitched. All four of these guys could be making a difference for the Orioles in 2009 and beyond.

    2. Jeremy Guthrie solidified himself as a solid major league starter and may be the only starter from the opening day 2008 rotation who will part of the 2009 rotation.

    3. The Orioles found an outstanding setup guy in Jim Johnson. Although his season ended prematurely due to a shoulder impingement, the hope is he'll be fully recovered for 2009. either way, he was a great find.

    4. Seems strange to put Radhames Liz in the positives for 2008 after he posted a 6.72 ERA in 17 starts, but the Orioles most likely have seen enough of Liz to make the move to the bullpen in 2009. Liz can be dominate when he's throwing in the high 90s and he may just hit triple-digits if he knows he only has to pitch an inning or two.

    5. The Orioles got rejuvenated performances from Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora and although either could be moved this off season for the right deals, both could return and contribute in 2009.

    6. They found a cheap replacement for Jay Payton in Luis Montanez who not only won the triple crown in the Easter League but hit .297 with a .769 OPS. He'll still be a rookie in 2009 and should keep the Orioles away from overspending on that fourth outfielder position.

    7. Nick Markakis (.893 OPS) and Brian Roberts (.830 OPS) continued to be cornerstones of the Orioles offense.

    8. In the minor leagues, catcher Matt Wieters flew through the minors and showed no reason why he won't be given the Orioles opening day starting catcher's assignment next year. Former number one pick Brandon Snyder finally started to put up the numbers expected of such a high draft pick and pitcher Jake Arrieta, Tillman, and left-handed pitcher Zach Britton all took solid steps forward.

    9. Scouting Director Joe Jordan was given a two-year extension after the season and was allowed to draft players like RHP Bobby Bundy, RHP Jesse Beal, and RHP Oliver Drake for way above slot deals.

    Since this season had enough disappointment, I'm going to leave it with the positives. Needless to say MacPhail has his work cut out for this off-season but the good news for Orioles fans is that this winter should be another interesting ride.


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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.