2010 Fantasy outlooks: Baltimore Orioles

Sometimes the best acquisitions and trades are the ones you don't make. And other times teams can improve significantly by just flipping the calendar.

The Orioles are that team this spring.

President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail is building a sleeping giant with all the potentially elite pitching prospects he has been hording in recent years. If they can stay healthy and reach their potential, the Orioles will not only have enough talent to stock one of the surprising young rotations in baseball, but they will have organizational depth and great trade bait, too.

After all, young pitching is what everyone wants. The Orioles have it on the come in bunches.

Oh, not to mention some burgeoning superstar by the name of Matt Wieters .

Breakout: Adam Jones , OF

We considered picking Wieters here, but he is so obviously going to be elite at a thin position, he will go for top dollar on Draft Day. Jones still has some cynics, if not detractors, and will be a bargain even in the middle rounds. If you followed us last spring, you know all about how we featured him as a sleeper for Fantasy 2009. In fact, he even envisioned 30-plus steals, while O's beat writers saw 25-homer potential. He sure looked the part in the first half of the season, hitting .303 with 12 homers, 47 RBI, 55 runs and six steals, before the wheels came off in the second half (.222-7-23-28-4) -- partially due to injury. The 24-year-old physical freak expects to be ready for spring training and is capable of going .290-25-100-100-20 even if we cautiously project (.278-24-79-89-12).

Bust: Mike Gonzalez , RP

Picking a sub-.500 team's closer as a potential bust is a page ripped right out of "Fantasy Baseball for Dummies." We just had to do it with Gonzalez, because the Tommy John survivor had issues holding down the closer's role with the Braves and he enters spring training as the odds-on-favorite to open in the role with the Orioles. We cannot yet be sure how consistently they might win and we certainly cannot guarantee Gonzalez will hold the closer's job through spring training, much less the whole season. Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara could be given chances to be manager Dave Trembley's choice to close games. Failing that, a slew of pitching prospects with great arms and futures could force the lefty Gonzalez into a situational role later in the season. Gonzalez is a nice late-round fall-back option on Draft Day, but if you're counting on him as one of your Fantasy closers, there is a lot of potential disappointment to come.

Sleeper: Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman , SPs

The Orioles are a team full of Fantasy sleepers, because very few tend to look to one of last season's worst teams for their Fantasy gems. Players like Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold can be undervalued because they are unproven, while Garrett Atkins and even Nick Markakis are coming off bad years and can be overlooked because of an unimpressive suppporting cast. Pitchers on bad teams, like Gonzalez, get especially downgraded. But Matusz and perhaps Tillman are so darn talented they could make a bad team mediocre. If that happens, Matusz could win AL Rookie of the Year and both pitchers could be instant hits in all Fantasy leagues. Both a projected to be late-round picks at this point. This might be the only time we say that about either for the next five years.

Baltimore Orioles Outlook
Projected lineup
Pos.
Projected Rotation
1 Brian Roberts 2B 1 Kevin Millwood RH
2 Adam Jones CF 2 Jeremy Guthrie RH
3 Nick Markakis RF 3 Brian Matusz LH
4 Miguel Tejada 3B 4 Chris Tillman RH
5 Luke Scott DH 5 Brad Bergesen RH
6 Garrett Atkins 1B Alt David Hernandez RH
7 Matt Wieters C Top bullpen arms
8 Nolan Reimold LF CL Mike Gonzalez LH
9 Cesar Izturis SS SU Jim Johnson RH
Top bench options RP Koji Uehara RH
R Felix Pie OF RP Mark Hendrickson LH
R Ty Wigginton UTL RP Cla Meredith RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2009 high Destination
1 Brian Matusz 24 LH SP Majors Majors
This lefty has it all: power, command, movement and great makeup -- front-line ace in the making.
2 Jake Arrieta 24 RH SP Triple-A Triple-A
Some bouts with wildness have him behind the O's other elite prospects ... temporarily.
3 Brandon Erbe 22 RH SP Double-A Triple-A
The O's large collection of elite pitching prospects may force him to the bullpen, perhaps as closer.
4 Josh Bell 23 3B Double-A Triple-A
We talk all the time about impact June 1 call-ups; this is one of those that could impact all leagues.
5 Troy Patton 24 RH SP Triple-A Triple-A
He made a mediocre return from major shoulder surgery, but we're too stubborn to give up on him.
Best of the rest: Zach Britton , LH SP; Matthew Hobgood, SP; Brandon Snyder , 1B; Mychal Givens, SS; Caleb Joseph, C; L.J. Hoes, 2B; Billy Rowell, OF; Justin Turner , 2B; Chris Lambert , SP; Pedro Beato , SP; Brett Jacobson, SP; Brandon Cooney, RP; Kam Mickolio , RP; Steve Johnson, SP; Brandon Waring, 1B; Xavier Avery, OF; Matthew Angle, OF; Greg Miclat, SS; Tyler Townsend, 1B; Randy Henry, SP; Ashur Tolliver, SP; Chorye Spoone , RP; Bobby Bundy, SP; Tyler Henson, 3B; Tony Butler, SP; Bob McCrory , RP; Ryan Adams, 2B; Robert Widlansky 1B.

You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

Crave freelancer Eric Mack is a writer, radio producer, and podcaster based in Taos, N.M., but he lives in Google+. He's also managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org... Full Bio

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