You Heard It Here First, The 2023 Baltimore Orioles Are Making The Playoffs
We have finally made it...Opening Day is here. Tell your friends, tell your family, the Baltimore Orioles are here and they finally have some expectations. This is going to be my 9th season covering the Birds for Barstool and it may be the most excited I've been to watch this club since I joined the ship.
This won't be a traditional 26-man roster breakdown, we're gonna answer some questions, spit some takes and I'll tell you why the Birds are going to have a hell of a season. Just going to highlight some players and point. Buckle up, baby. And real quick, this is the first season the Orioles will have some sort of positive expectations. They aren't playing for draft positioning, those days are over. It will be exciting to see how these young guns respond to the pressure and expectations. I think they're up to the task.
Adley Rutschman Is Good....Like Really Good
I know I talked up Adley a lot last year, like A LOT. But it's because he's unreal, he's already a top 2 catcher in the game. I'll give it to J.T. right now, but Adley isn't that far behind. You can point to his 18 defensive runs saved last year, second in the league. Oh, and he played only 90 games at catcher. The entire Orioles season turned around the day he came up. Everything changed for the better. And he's still improving. He was AWFUL his first 50 games, and then took off from there. The second half of 2022 he hit .275, had a .399 OBP, slugged .462, and an OPS of .861. He's arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball and may well become the best overall catcher by the time you're reading this. Born leader, face of the franchise, and a guy who is going to finish top 5 in AL MVP voting this year. Book it. Probably going to start the All Star game too.
The rest of the supporting cast are going to hit BOMBS
Get to know the name Gunnar Henderson. He's going to be your AL Rookie Of The Year, just accept it. The #1 prospect in baseball came up and made noise right away. A massive tank in Cleveland jump started his MLB career and was just the appetizer for the abuse he's going to inflict on pitchers this season. He doesn't turn 22 until June which is terrifying. A guy this good at the plate, and that good with the glove shouldn't be that young. He's the odds of favorite for ROY on the Barstool Sportsbook for a reason. He's going to play awesome defense all over the left side of the infield, be ready for the Gunnar breakout.
Another guy who I think is really going to have a great season? Ryan Mountcastle. Guy got super unlucky last year and still ended up with decent numbers. Battled through a wrist injury mid-season and put up 22 homers with 65 RBIs and a .250 average. He's bigger and stronger this year so some of those unlucky balls that hit the wall for doubles? They're homers now. I expect Mounty to take the next step at the plate, get that OBP up and have some better 2-strike approaches. Would not shock me at all to see Ryan end ups with 33-35 homers at the end of the year.
Anthony Santander had a sneaky really good year in 2022. 33 homers and 89 driven in, decent numbers for a guy who always seems kind of forgotten. His defense has taken a step back the last few years but he can still swing it. .240 average isn't great but the power is. Another guy who can add 30 bombs to the lineup, we'll likely see him at first and DH a decent amount this season. Kyle Stowers is another guy with sneaky power. Super limited at-bats last year but I fully expect to see more Stowers this season. He'll get his fix in the OF but probably not against lefties, at least not early on. Austin Hays really needs to stay healthy this year and not fall off a cliff in the second half. Another guy with 20-25 homer power….he just has to be consistent. He does a damn good job in that monstrous RF but the bat was awful after the break, need his bat to come alive again. Need it. He's got some guys breathing down his next too, Colton Cowser is begging to be up and likely will be at some point.
The Boys have SPEED
This is a team that was drooling when they heard about the bigger bases. Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo were 2 and 3 in stolen bases last year and those totals are going to go up. Mateo may be the fastest guy in baseball, he's incredible. He's one of those guys who if he walks you might as well put him on second, he's going anyways. The only problem is he isn't a great hitter. Get that average up to maybe .250-.260 and the OBP around…..300? He may steal 60 bases if that happens. Mullins should sniff 40 bags this year too, both of these guys can create havoc on the base path and will put a pitcher in a pretzel. Both also play unreal defense, two of the better defensive players in the game.
Couple more notes on some guys…
-Terrin Vavra is going to be your mom's favorite player. He can literally play all over, was born to hit, and is a hell of a utility guy. The O's said they needed a lefty backup first baseman…so you know what Vavra did in the offseason? Learn how to play first. Ultimate grinder guy, someone every team needs. All about the ripping and the Terrin.
-Ramón Urias won a Gold Glove at third last year and may not have a job in 2023. He's likely going to be a bench guy because that is how good the left side of the Orioles defense is. Gunnar will likely play third and Mateo at short with Frazier/Vavra at second. Ummm where do you put Ramón? Could be trade bait, who wouldn't want a GG third baseman? Weird problem to have.
-They finally got a backup catcher for Adley, welcome James McCann. That is all I have on him.
The rotation still needs some help
This isn't a rotation that scares anyone, the names don't send goosebumps down your spine. Kyle Gibson is…a guy. He's for sure a guy. He's going to eat innings and I really think he's going to like the wall out there too. He had an ERA over 5 last year but played in front of a disgusting Phillies defense. That ERA will drop with the defense of the O's and the wall. Slotted in at 2 is Dean Kremer. He isn't the big K guy we thought he was coming from LA but he showed last year he can be a hell of a pitcher. 3.23 ERA in 22 games, he ended up with a really good season. WHIP could be lower but he's doing great at limiting damage without racking up the Ks, would love another sub 3.5 ERA from Dean.
Cole Irvin is the lone lefty in the rotation after coming over in a trade with Oakland. Irvin is another guy who should love the awesome defense behind him along with the wall being moved back. He doesn't have the filthiest stuff, but he's got an ok fastball that he'll throw a lot. He's got a good changeup and his breaking stuff is good enough to get outs with. Going to be a fun guy to watch this year. On paper Kyle Bradish's season didn't look great, but his second half of the year was really good. He had some great starts down the stretch and really showed how nasty his stuff can be. Had one bad blow up inning in spring when he was working on something and that's really it. Super excited to see how Bradish comes out this season. Tyler Wells will round out the rotation and it shocked a lot of people. Was having a good season last year before an injury knocked him down for a while, I assumed he'd be in the pen to start the season but he won a spot in camp. I was told he dropped a ton of weight and looked really good in Sarasota, stuff you love to hear. I think he admitted last year he wasn't in the best shape so it's nice to see him rebound and take it more seriously. A big dude with a big fastball, a bulldog on the mound too.
Pitcher Notes -
- John Means will be back from Tommy John this season, probably mid-summer. That will be huge for this club. From a leadership/mentor role as well as a guy in the rotation. Can't wait to see 47 back out there. Remember when he threw that no-hitter? That was awesome.
- Grayson Rodriguez was supposed to be in this rotation out of camp, we were shocked last week when it was announced he was going to AAA. Did I flip out? Yes. Was he awesome in AAA last year before his lat injury? Yes. Has he looked the same since? No. It sucks to hear but that is the truth. I talked to guys down at Orioles camp and they said they needed to see more out of GRod this spring and he didn't show it. I have all the faith in the world that he will continue to shove in AAA and we see him in Baltimore after a handful of starts in Norfolk. Don't worry O's fans, he's coming.
- D.L. Hall is also coming up eventually. The lefty top prospect battled some spring injuries and will be stretched out as a starter in Norfolk. They didn't want to stuff him into the BP when he could be getting starts in the rotation down below. After a shaky start last year he was AWESOME his last 8 games. Kid is going to be so good.
We need to recognize Félix Bautista as one of the best relievers in the game
Let's have a short talk about Félix Bautista. He is simply one of the best relievers in baseball. He came out of nowhere last year to take control of the Orioles bullpen and closers role after they traded their closer away. He was unbelievable. Not only is he like 6'9, 270, he also throws unhittable junk. 100 MPH? Sureeeee, not an issue. Oh, he also has a disgusting splitter that you will not hit. He's incredible. 2.19 ERA, 88 strikeouts in 65.2 IP in 65 games last season and averaged 12.1 K/9. Hilarious. He's one of the best late inning guys in baseball and I think we see him in the All-Star game this season. God damnit I love him.
The rest of the bullpen are just dudes. Guys who pitched really well last year and kinda came out of nowhere. Cionel Pérez was a waiver claim from the Reds and now throws 100. Keegan Akin has been a pretty decent lefty long man in the pen for Brandon Hyde. Bryan Baker finished the season really well after a rough start, Mike Baumann literally just joined the bullpen and is now sniffing 99? Orioles pitching lab strikes again. Austin Voth was awful in DC before coming to Baltimore and having a really, really good year. He'll be in the bullpen now and see if he can replicate that success he found late last year. The bullpen did take a hit with Mychal Givens and Dillon Tate beginning the season on the IL. Hopefully both are back soon, but until then we'll see a rotating cast of guys.
There it is folks, close to 2,000 words on a ball club that shocked the hell out of everyone last year. No one thought they'd compete for a Wild Card spot up until almost the final day of the season. No one saw them over .500. No one saw them winning 10 straight. No one had them winning 83 games. This is a team who gets stronger because of the balanced schedule now. No more 19 games vs the Yankees, 19 vs the Blue Jays, 19 vs the Rays. That is gone and HUGE for the Birds. This gives them a chance to beat up on some weaker teams they usually wouldn't play in a season. You couple that with slight upgrades at second base, slight upgrades in the rotation and a full season of Adley, Gunnar and hopefully close like 4/5ths of a season for Grayson and D.L…..PLUS more prospects on the way.
These aren't the Orioles you remember from a few years ago, they aren't the doormat of the East. This is a squad with a hell of an offensive roster, some holes at pitching, but some mega prospects still on the horizon. It's an exciting time to be an Orioles fan. This team has to be better than last year, it just has to. Baring any injuries I think this is a 88-90 win team. I just think that. I think they make a Wild Card spot. I think they have 3-4 All Stars. I think that the tide is turning in Baltimore and I think it's almost over for you hoes. I think it's time to crank this bad boy up to 15 and win some damn ball games!!!!