C Javy Lopez: He was used quite a lot last season and the lack of a credible backup hurts Lopez’s outlook. The plan to use him at DH makes sense, but it will make it impossible for the team to field their best offensive lineup. A Todd Pratt-type would look good here.
1B Jay Gibbons: Let’s see…chronic back problems, chronic hip problems, and his OPS never topped 800 in the first place? Here’s a red flag if I ever saw one. Worse, the treatment for his hip flexor was rest; with the back, well, they’re considering one of those psychic surgeons in the Philippines. Andy Kaufmann gave them some names.
3B Melvin Mora: Sure he’s had some hamstring problems, but he’s still something of an unknown quantity in many places. Get to know him.
LF Larry Bigbie
CF Luis Matos: Metal. Rod. Those aren’t words you want associated with your speedy, slap-hitting center fielder. It is what Matos had inserted in his right shin late last year. The lack of options gives him the job, but it can’t keep him out there unless he hops really well.
RF Sammy Sosa: Sosa’s at an age where things either break down completely, or the player is such a physical specimen that he can bust the curve of normal aging. Sosa’s had injuries, but almost all have been either fractures or flukes. Expect a motivated Sosa to stay healthy.
DH Rafael Palmeiro: Palmeiro passed the 500-home-run mark through consistency more than anything else. Like Henry Aaron, Palmeiro showed up for work, hit his 35-plus homers a season, and went home. If Canseco’s telling the truth, Palmeiro’s one of few players who has had no side effects from steroids, though I guess it could put those Viagra ads in a new light.
SP Sidney Ponson: Big. Fat. Consistent. Not consistently good, but at 28, the potential is still there. Making 30 starts will give him a lot of chances to have good things happen.
SP Bruce Chen: Consider this a holding spot for Matt Riley. Of course, Riley’s had shoulder problems off-and-on throughout his Tommy John recovery, so while I wouldn’t advise Chen to take out a mortgage, he doesn’t need to keep his bags packed, either.
SP Daniel Cabrera: He’s inexperienced and was pushed up early, but his workload wasn’t horrible. At 24, he’s not really that young. Worry if he gets above 175 innings.
SP Erik Bedard: Bedard suffered a lot of stress (as defined by PAP) last season. His mechanics give him electric stuff, but electricity can shock. He’s right on the verge of a red light; I’m more worried than this rating indicates.
CL B.J. Ryan
If there were a Redbook this year (and there’s not) you’d find the Orioles right in the middle of the pack. Not average–that’s skewed by a couple of freakish results the last few years–but median. Think “mediocre” and that’s pretty much what you’ve got as far as results. The O’s, on the field and in the training room, seem to have all the parts. Richie Bancells and his staff are well-regarded by their colleagues, yet their numbers are never high or low.
There’s certainly something to be said for consistency, but it also shows that they’re not preventing more than would be expected by luck. They don’t really have much to work with, with some older established players like Palmeiro and Tejada and some younger guys who’ve had problems already, like Bedard and Riley. The worst news has come from the minor leagues, where hard data is tougher to come by.
The case I look at most is Javy Lopez. A premier free-agent signing, Lopez was actually a pretty good player last year. The problem was, he really wore down under the workload of only 125 games. He complained about fatigue regularly, yet there’s not much help behind him. The front office says they want him to spend some time at first base or DH, but if Geronimo Gil makes 40 starts, this team has no hope of chasing down the Yankees or Red Sox.
On a pure risk profile, this isn’t a bad team. The likely injuries they have aren’t damning and they have some reasonable depth and flexibility with David Newhan and Mora. In the end, they’ll probably end up in the middle of the pack again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it just doesn’t show a lot of ambition.
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