Baltimore OriolesManager: Buck Showalter
Stadium: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
2008 Record: 68-93 (5th in AL East)
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Richard Wieters pitched in the minor leagues, and on weekends, he and his catcher, Bill Port, used to hang out together and tell stories. At their knee listening was Richard's son. This is how Matt Wieters, a switch-hitting backstop now widely considered baseball's top prospect, learned about the special relationship between battery mates. "The catcher needs to be an extension of the pitching coach," says Matt, who was selected out of Georgia Tech as the fifth pick of the 2007 draft and is already considered a smart, take-charge receiver. When an Orioles official went to watch him at Double-A Bowie last year, the exec was stunned to see the 22-year-old Wieters running the pregame pitchers' meeting like a coach. And his bat? One talent evaluator says Wieters will be "Joe Mauer, but with more power." The O's are tempted to bring him north, but he'll most likely spend some time at Triple-A Norfolk, the better to polish his skills (and delay his free agency). "Wherever they put me," Wieters says, "I'll be happy to be playing baseball." Spoken like a savvy backstop.
-- Buster Olney
HITTER TO WATCH:
You may have heard of Matt Wieters. He's good.
PITCHER TO WATCH:
Alfredo Simon has bounced around and at 28 is old for a rookie, but he has a low- to mid-90s fastball, a good split, and a spot in the O's rotation.
-- Keith Law, Scouts Inc.
Will Adam Jones rank among the American League's top center fielders? Is Brian Roberts the best second baseman? Register your vote.
Cesar Izturis is getting no love (he's owned in 1.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues), but the job is clearly his, and there's no reason he can't steal another 25 bases with an average that won't kill you. Not bad for a deep-league shortstop.
Aubrey Huff won't be terrible, but it doesn't make sense to pay for the 32 homers, 108 RBIs and .304 average he racked up in 2008. It's tough to find a "bust" on the Orioles, a team with such low expectations. Player in the fantasy spotlight: Matt Wieters.
-- Christopher Harris
Brian Roberts has missed a few games late this spring as a result of a respiratory infection and back spasms, which often go hand in hand for obvious reasons. Orioles fans may have become a little nervous when the Baltimore Sun reported that Roberts' pain on his left side was near the oblique muscles. Oblique abdominal injuries are notoriously slow-healing and can severely limit a hitter's swing, but it appears that Roberts may have dodged a bullet. He says he'll be back in the mix for the team's final spring games, meaning he'll be ready to start the season. If this is indeed a minor muscular issue associated with his recent illness, there should not be lingering concern for Roberts' health.
-- Stephania Bell
PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
No. 26 overall
No. 26 overall
No. 23 overall
No. 19 overall
No. 24 overall