The Orioles were the featured team last night on MLB Network's 30 in 30 club previews. Analysts John Hart and Dan Plesac had several positive comments about the club and its outlook for 2011.
"There should be a lot of excitement with the finish they had with Buck Showalter," Hart said. "There used to be a time when the Oriole Way really meant something. I see that coming back with Showalter - attention to detail, fundamentals. I think they are really going to make an improvement, even though they are in the East."
"I played for Buck in '99 and 2000 with the Diamondbacks," Plesac said. "I think he brings instant credibility and accountability on the players' standpoint. I tell you what, 18 years I played at the major league level and I don't think I've been around a guy that is more adept at evaluating talent. He almost sees it from a scout's point of view. There was a sense in that clubhouse (last year), that they were being looked at with a different set of eyes."
Both talked about the improved lineup from last year's edition that was 27th in the big leagues in runs. Plesac said Brian Roberts is critical there.
"He's one of these game-changers, when healthy," Plesac said. "To me, he is the key to this Orioles' lineup. They need someone to set the table and get on base. Three times he stole 50 bases or more and is a key for me with the Orioles."
Hart said he sees Adam Jones as a .280 to .300 hitter with 20 homers. He said "let's slow down the hype" of Matt Wieters and said he will grow into his offense and "at some point produce as a .280, .290 hitter with 25 plus home runs."
Hart also spoke of Nick Markakis and said, "When you look at Markakis, he almost has taken over as the face of this franchise. I love this player. He doesn't have the prototype power, but he sprays the ball around. A .300 hitter every year for me, a guy that should always hit .300."
When taking a look at the rotation, Hart had some extra praise for Jake Arrieta.
"He's another guy they have a lot of high hopes for," Hart said. "This is a big, strong, physical kid with pluses all across the board. Big fastball, power slider, this kid is solid and has what you want out of that middle-of-the rotation starter. His delivery, at times, gets a little out of whack. If they get this ironed out, he has a chance to move up the rotation."
Here is Hart's take on Manny Machado: "I project out and this kid is going to be an offensive machine. This is a potential, impact, middle-of-the order bat. I think he has the hands and arm to stay at shortstop, at least for the foreseeable future."
Here is Hart's take on Zach Britton: "He's been developed very nicely by the Orioles. I think he is the next in line for them. He pitches off the fastball with that plus sinker. All the things you want to see young pitchers do, this kid does it. At worst, he's going to be a middle-of-rotation starter and could go as high as number two in a rotation."
In summing up the broadcast, they pointed out that Baseball Prospectus projected an 81-81 season where the Orioles finish fourth in the East, ahead of Toronto.
"I tend to agree," Hart said, "and think this club has a chance for a 15-game improvement, if not more. The Buck stops here, the Oriole Way is back. For the first time in a long time, there is a sense of optimism in Baltimore. This club is making good progress and they are going to be relevant this year."
Plesac added that "the days of the Orioles being the punching bag for the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox are over. This is a much improved team and excitement returns to Charm City. Orioles' baseball is back on the rise. This is one of the best baseball towns in Major League Baseball."