Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions: Baltimore Orioles

by Nicholas Minnix on February 2, 2012 @ 12:40:39 PDT


KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Baltimore Orioles?

What can the O's expect from Brian Roberts?

Frankly, not much. The club's handling of his situation would seem to say one thing: Let's be happy with anything we can get from him between now and when his deal expires, at the end of the 2013 season. No team will be interested in trading for damaged goods at $10 million per for two seasons, and Roberts has become a local icon and is a natural face of the franchise.

Baltimore Orioles 2B Brian Roberts
Roberts sliding into uselessness?

Roberts, 34, played about one-quarter of the 2011 season before he ended up on the disabled list again because of concussion-like complications after he made a head-first slide into first base in a game in mid-May. Although the O's initially expected him to return at some point last season, the switch-hitter's condition never improved enough to allow that to happen.

Roberts' history of concussions and the length of time it takes him to recover from them now are distinct warning signs. It didn't take much to set off his last one; lingering symptoms forced him to skip the team's FanFest in January. Roto players should be willing to risk nothing on the former upper-echelon commodity, but they should hope for the best for him.

He's the face of the organization, but, unfortunately, Roberts' case seems to be a metaphor for it as well: There are things to like, but there are reasons not to be optimistic.

As a result, Robert Andino, Ryan Adams and Matt Antonelli (remember him?) warrant fantasy baseball investigation. Andino, 28 in April, has a bit of speed and an adequate ability to hit and represents the only player interesting enough to warrant a low AL bid. Adams has utility infielder game at best. Antonelli could be worth a flier as a reserve in a deep AL format.

What the heck happened to Brian Matusz?

If the Orioles could answer that kind of question, they wouldn't have so many failed pitching prospects on their hands. Optimism abounded for the left-hander entering 2011 after he'd breezed through the 2010 second half with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.

Matusz had a good relationship with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, but Buck Showalter replaced Kranitz with Mark Connor that offseason. The severing of that relationship could've had some effect on the southpaw, although there's been no great public discussion of it.

The 2008 No. 4 pick also endured a choppy spring training. It began with rumors that he wasn't in peak condition. He had a wart on the middle finger of his pitching hand removed at the beginning of March, which limited his workload early. He took a liner off his left biceps in a sim game near the end of March, and then he had to begin the season on the DL because of a strained intercostal muscle in his back.

He was expected to miss only three to four weeks. He didn't begin a rehab assignment (of only three starts, plus his extended ST work) until mid-May and then rejoined Baltimore on June 1. As careful as the O's seemed to be, it stands to reason that Matusz's abbreviated inconsistent training and exhibition schedule prior to the season plus the relatively short buildup to his regular season debut probably played a part in his struggles.

And struggles were they. He posted a 10.69 ERA, the highest mark ever by a pitcher who pitched at least 40 innings. A demotion didn't do the trick. He never had his low- to mid-90s fastball velocity that sets up one of the nastier changeups in baseball, and he had massive problems locating.

As bad as he was, and because he has a ton of competition for only one or two rotation spots, you shouldn't touch him in 2012, right? Not so fast. No one wants to touch him. Early reports are that he's taken his preparation seriously, and both mentally and physically, he's in much better shape. Building up arm strength is crucial for a pitcher prior to a season, and he clearly did not do that in 2011.

Although Showalter won't hand him a spot, Matusz is possibly the most talented hurler in the club's camp. He doesn't call for much of an investment - low bids in AL leagues, maybe a deep-mixed flier if you're feeling lucky - but there's something to be hopeful for, at least.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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