Reynolds, 27, was acquired by the Orioles in a December trade that sent pitchers David Hernandez and Kameron Mickolio to Arizona. The University of Virginia product has averaged 35 home runs and 100 RBI in his first four major league seasons. The power does come with the strikeouts as Reynolds recorded over 200 strikeouts in three consecutive seasons. Although Reynolds struggled with his batting average last season (.198), the Kentucky native should bounce back near his career average of .242 and hit between 35 to 40 home runs. If Baltimore can get a season similar to 2009 from Reynolds (.260 average, 44 home runs, 102 RBI) then the Orioles will be in great shape.
Hardy, who was taken in the second round of the 2001 amateur draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, was acquired from the Minnesota Twins on December 9. The 2007 all-star produced back to back 20 home run campaigns in '07 and '08. The only concern I have is the number of games he will play this season. Hardy has not played in more than 115 games since 2008. The Orioles will need him to play around 145 to 150 games to reach his past production. The organization wants to see him on the field with the past injury issues with Brian Roberts. If Hardy can stay healthy consistently throughout the season expect him to be one of the better shortstops in the American League.
Lee, who was signed as a free agent by the Orioles, will be the starting first baseman when healthy. The 35-year-old has been battling various injuries dating back to last season. When Lee is healthy he provides a presence in the lineup that is important to the rest of the team. Fans should not expect the MVP caliber numbers of 2005 which included 46 home runs and over 100 RBI, but a professional hitter that should hit 20 homers and drive in around 70 to 80 runs. Lee will fit in well with the organization.
It is always a positive when a team adds a career (.300) hitter with plenty of power and that is exactly what the Orioles did in signing Guerrero. The nine-time all-star has compiled 436 career home runs and nearly 1500 RBI in his 15 seasons. Guerrero had an excellent 2010 season for the Texas Rangers as he hit .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI. The Dominican Republic native has never struck out 100 times in a season. Guerrero will serve as the team's designated-hitter for most of the year. He is better served in this role due to his age and it will keep his legs fresh throughout the long grueling campaign. The Orioles didn't sign Guerrero for him to play the field and potentially injure himself. Expect solid numbers in 2011.
Roberts is expected to be ready for the opener against the Tampa Bay Rays. The 33-year-old veteran says his back feels great. Barring a setback he is deemed ready to go. Roberts is projected to be the leadoff hitter on opening day. The Orioles would love to see numbers to that of 2009 when he played 159 games, homered 16 times, drove in 79 runs, swiped 30 bases and doubled a career high 56 times. It is possible manager Buck Showalter could rest him certain days to keep him healthy. Roberts would compliment the power in the lineup with his threat on the base paths and batting average. Most fans are frustrated with the injuries of their second baseman, but if Roberts is in his past form the excitement will pick up with him again.
Nick Markakis struggled to produce his usual power numbers. The 27-year-old right- fielder homered only 12 times last season. Markakis did not see as many pitches to hit because the team struggled to score runs and teams chose to pitch carefully to him. The added punch in the lineup should give Markakis more RBI opportunities and potentially the best numbers of his career.
Matt Weiters will benefit the most from this deep lineup. The Orioles catcher cruised through the minor leagues and came to Baltimore during the 2009 season. Weiters hit .249 with 11 home runs and 55 RBI in his first full season at the big league level. The 24-year-old should excel because he is not the main guy that Baltimore will rely upon. Projected lineups have shown the former first round selection in the seventh or eighth spot in the lineup. This could provide plenty of RBI opportunities in the lower part of the order. Weiters will start to show the hype that followed him when he was drafted and played in the minor leagues. Various fantasy experts have predicted 15 to 20 home runs and around 70 RBI in 2011.
A player to keep an eye on throughout the 2011 season is Jake Fox. The 28-year-old has had a tremendous spring training hitting .300 with nine home runs and 14 RBI. Fox is slated to be a super utility player for the Orioles this season; primarily to spell Weiters at catcher when he needs a day of rest.
There is no easy out in this lineup. The offense will compete with anyone in the American League and will aid the young pitching that sets in for the Orioles this year. Baltimore is on the right track in their attempt to compete and get back to the postseason.
Bold Lineup Predictions:
1. Adam Jones will set career highs in average, home runs and RBI: Jones will be another beneficiary to the new added power in the lineup. Each year the centerfielder's average has increased (.284 in 2010) and will see more pitches to hit. Jones hit 19 home runs in 2009 and 2010 and is ready to make the leap. I project Jones will hit 25 to 30 home runs and 85 to 90 RBI.
2. The Orioles will finish top five in AL in runs scored: The Orioles will make a huge jump offensively as a team this season. Baltimore finished second to last in the American league in runs scored in 2010 (613). The veteran bats that have been added to their lineup will result in a much better offensive season.
3. The Orioles will hit at least 200 home runs this season: Baltimore ranked tenth in the American League in home runs hit (133) in 2010. The new additions to the lineup combined to hit 86 home runs last season. The home run totals will spike dramatically.
2011 Projected Baltimore Orioles Opening Day Lineup:
1. 2B- Brian Roberts
2. RF- Nick Markakis
3. 1B -Derrek Lee
4. DH- Vladimir Guerrero
5. LF- Luke Scott
6. CF- Adam Jones
7. 3B- Mark Reynolds
8. C- Matt Weiters
9. SS- J.J. Hardy