Very Few Sure Bets for 2011

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Going into the 2011 season the Baltimore Orioles have very few sure bets. These are players you can count on every season to stay relatively healthy and put up consistent numbers. It has been a while since the Orioles have had a team filled with sure bets and more often than not over the last 13 seasons the Orioles have gone into the season with a lot of question marks.

2011 will be no different, but that doesn’t necessarily mean another horrible season is on its way. It just means the Orioles need the majority of their players to stay healthy and reach their upside. Unless you’re a Yankees fan, most fans have to go into the season unsure of how a lot of their team’s players will perform. It would be nice to have Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano but most teams don’t have this luxury. It should be noted; however, that even the Yankees have their share of question marks going into 2011. Jeter, Rivera, and Posada are getting older and sooner rather than later they will no longer be sure bets.

Every season it seems like the Orioles success depends on whether a Garrett Atkins or Aubrey Huff can have a bounce back season. This year is no different. The Orioles don’t know what they are going to get from J.J. Hardy or Derrek Lee. In fact, they don’t know what they are going to get from most of their players. The only sure bets I see on the Orioles roster right now are Nick Markakis and Kevin Gregg.

Not even Brian Roberts is a sure bet, coming off an injury plagued season, the Orioles can’t count on Roberts playing 150 games as their leadoff hitter. Players like Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold, and Matt Wieters are all question marks because they are still young and you just don’t know how much better they will get. Then there are Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, and Derrek Lee. The Orioles new infielders are question marks because the Orioles don’t know how they will respond after down years.

Orioles fans know by now the questions surrounding the team’s young pitchers and how good they will be. There are also a lot of questions in the bullpen and whether or not Mike Gonzalez, Jason Berken, Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara can stay healthy this season. Jeremy Guthrie is probably the closest thing to a sure bet in the rotation, but I wouldn’t say the Orioles can count on him being as effective as he was last year.

Nick Markakis is the only Orioles position player who fans can count on playing almost every game and giving them a .290 to .300 average with around 15 home runs and 80 to 100 RBI’s. Gregg, although not a dominant closer, is at least reliable. Since 2007 Gregg has pitched in at least 63 games every season, saved at least 23 games, and had an ERA over 4.00 only once. He had an ERA of 4.72 in 2009 and saved only 23 games that season, but I wouldn’t say he had a bad season. He has proven over the last four seasons that he will be a solid reliever.

Despite all this, Nick Markakis and Kevin Gregg could still end up having bad years or only playing half a season, because when it’s all said and done, the games still have to be played. My point is that the Orioles have a lot of uncertainty going into 2011. That doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. Maybe 2011 will be the season all those question marks for the Orioles stay healthy and play well.