Roberts, Jones and Markakis at the top

It is hard to project what the Orioles batting order could or should be for the 2011 season since all the parts are not in place yet.

But I still think the most effective top of the order, or top three spots in the order, could be with Brian Roberts batting first, Adam Jones second and Nick Markakis third.

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I suspect many fans first thought about this will be negative.

They don't see the free-swinging Jones as a number two hitter at all and most realize Markakis statistically hits better batting second, than third.

But Markakis is still respectable with a career batting average of .286 and OPS of .804 batting third compared to .324 and .930 when hitting second. Yes, those are strong numbers.

Jones is a career .293 average hitter when batting second with an OPS there of .835. In his career, he has better numbers when hitting sixth and eighth.

But I can well remember April of the 2009 season when the O's offense was stellar. The team average that month was just .273, but the on-base was .352 and the club scored 116 runs in 22 games for an average of 5.3 per game.

That was with Roberts, Jones and Markakis hitting one, two and three.

They hit only 19 homers in those 22 games, so long-ball power had very little to do with all that offense.

It was about working counts, taking walks and using great speed at the top to set the table. I am a big believer in getting the speeds guys on first and let them create havoc as the bigger hitters stand in.

Almost nothing about Jones screams number two hitter right now. But I sense it's where he really wants to bat (he never says that, just says hit me anywhere) and that he would be very motivated to handle that spot in the order.

I like his combination of speed and power there and, with Roberts on first, he may get a higher percentage of fastballs and fewer breaking stuff. Plus, he will not hit into many double plays, negating any Roberts' leadoff hit or walk.

I have long since felt you didn't need a lot of homers to score many runs and that month it was true for the Orioles. I have never had a problem with Markakis batting third and actually prefer it.

He has extra-base power, if not big raw power, a great eye and a career .302 average with runners in scoring position. He gives you what you need in that spot.

Let Mark Reynolds, Luke Scott and maybe a power hitting first baseman follow in some order with Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy and whoever is in left mixed in.

Maybe the O's will make an acquisition or two later that will make more sense for the first three spots, but I stand fully in favor of taking another look at Roberts, Jones and Markakis at the top.

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