The Orioles acquired shortstop J.J. Hardy from the Minnesota Twins this past off-season as part their plan to revamp the infield. Hardy is a very formidable defender and has a .263 career batting average. He is more of a base hit guy than anything, but he has shown that he can hit for power as well. While with the Milwaukee Brewers, Hardy hit 50 home runs between 2007 and 2008 and had 154 RBI in that time period as well. The 28-year-old shortstop has declined in power over the past few seasons, though, which was most likely the result of a bone bruise he suffered to his left wrist. The injury caused him to miss 61 games in 2010, but hopefully he will be fully recovered coming into this season.

I don’t think he will be able to match his numbers of a few seasons ago as it pertains to power, but in this lineup he won’t have to. The O’s should have a decent amount of power so they won’t necessarily need to rely on Hardy for big numbers, although I’m sure they’ll take it if he can provide it.

But if Hardy can avoid injury this season, I don’t see why he can’t turn in another 20-plus home run, 80-plus RBI season especially playing half of his games in a hitter-friendly park like Camden Yards. I’m not sure where he’s going to bat, but it will most likely be seventh or eighth considering the O’s depth throughout the rest of the lineup. But he should do well no matter where he bats and I’m predicting at least a .275 average for him this season. Either way, Hardy will provide the O’s with an offensive upgrade from Cesar Izturis as Izturis will be a backup for both Hardy and Brian Roberts.

Hardy and Izturis’ defensive statistics are similar, with Izturis’ being slightly better. But when you consider how much better Hardy is offensively, it’s a definite upgrade. Hardy was part of an infield facelift that included the signing of first baseman Derrek Lee and third baseman Mark Reynolds. The O’s now have a very solid infield both offensively and defensively as long as they can all stay healthy, and Hardy is one of the main pieces of that puzzle.

Submitted by Steve Giles