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MLB Team Roundup: Baltimore Orioles

Adley Rutschman

Adley Rutschman

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

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Baltimore Orioles

2022 Record: 83-79 (Fourth Place, AL East)

Team ERA: 3.97 (17th in MLB)

Team OPS: .695 (20th in MLB)

What Went Right

If we’re being honest here, what didn’t go right for the Orioles in 2022? The O’s entered the season with the lowest projected win total in all of baseball at 61.5. Not only did they absolutely shatter that number – they finished over the .500 mark for the first time since the 2016 season and played meaningful baseball games in October while challenging for a Wild Card berth. Star prospect Adley Rutschman finally debuted in late-May and established himself as one of the premier offensive backstops in the game already, slashing .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers and four swipes in 470 plate appearances. Gunnar Henderson impressed in his debut as a 21-year-old and looks like he should be the club’s everyday third baseman in 2023. Jorge Mateo swiped an American League-leading 35 bases (one better than teammate Cedric Mullins), Anthony Santander crushed 33 long balls and the Orioles unearthed several dominant late-game relievers (Jorge Lopez, Felix Bautista, Cionel Perez and Dillon Tate). For the first time in a long time, the future looks very bright in Baltimore.

What Went Wrong

Not a whole heck of a lot truly went wrong for the Orioles during the 2022 season. It was sad to see them ship off fan-favorite (and 2021 American League Comeback Player of the Year) Trey Mancini off to the Astros at the trade deadline, though he’ll be a free agent after the World Series concludes and could wind up re-signing with the O’s. Staff ace John Means was sidelined in early April with a left elbow strain that ultimately resulted in him undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’ll be ready to return midway through the 2023 campaign. Top pitching prospect Greyson Rodriguez had been expected to arrive in the big leagues during the 2022 season, but he wound up missing a couple months at Triple-A due to a lat strain which unfortunately pushed his arrival to 2023.

Fantasy Slants

** After a mid-season trade sent closer Jorge Lopez to the Twins, Félix Bautista stepped into the ninth-inning role and performed flawlessly. On the season, he registered a terrific 2.19 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 88/23 K/BB ratio across 65 2/3 innings while notching four victories and securing 15 saves. He’s being selected as a top-10 closer in early 2023 fantasy drafts – residing inside the top 90 players overall – so don’t expect to secure him at a discount on draft day.

** Cedric Mullins ascended to fantasy super-stardom with a 30/30 season in 2022. While he wasn’t able to completely replicate that breakout performance, he still slashed .258/.318/.403 with 16 long balls, 64 RBI and 34 stolen bases in his encore performance. That’s probably a better baseline as far as expectations for the 2023 season are concerned. His draft day price should also be much more palatable – going just inside the top 50 players overall in early 2023 drafts.

** It’s extremely difficult to know what to make of Jorge Mateo heading into 2023. The 27-year-old has always had tools – specifically speed to burn – and he was finally able to produce a fantasy-relevant season while playing in a career-high 150 games for the Orioles in 2022. He paced the American League with 35 stolen bases (in 44 attempts) – but also provided some punch with 13 homers and 50 RBI. Overall though, he slashed just .221/.267/.379 in 533 plate appearances. If he retains the starting shortstop gig, he will once again have mixed-league relevancy on the strength of his legs – though the club could look to upgrade that position this winter.

** Though he’s just 113 games into his big league career, Adley Rutschman already looks the part of an elite offensive weapon at the catcher position – and he’ll be drafted as such heading into 2023. The 24-year-old finished the season especially strong, slashing .279/.380/.496 with five homers and 16 RBI over his final 30 games. In early 2023 drafts, he’s being selected in the top 75 picks overall and as the fifth catcher off the board – behind only J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith, Daulton Varsho and Salvador Perez.

** Gunnar Henderson is going to be a very interesting player to watch as the 2023 draft season begins to unfold. The 21-year-old held his own in his first taste of big league action, hitting .259/.348/.440 with four homers, 18 RBI, one swipe and a 34/16 K/BB ratio over 132 plate appearances. He possesses a dazzling blend of power and speed and should function as the club’s everyday third baseman and hit in a premium spot in the Orioles lineup. It’s easy to see why fantasy managers are enamored with the skillset – the helium could be getting a bit out of control though. Henderson is currently being taken right around pick 100 overall in early drafts – and has gone as high as pick 59 overall. He’ll need everything to go right in order to return a profit at that cost.

** Grayson Rodriguez was on the verge of making his big league debut in June before a lat injury shut him down for the majority of the season. He eventually made a couple of rehab starts at the end of September, but never ade his highly-anticipated big league debut with the O’s. Overall, the 22-year-old right-hander posted a 2.62 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 109/28 K/BB ratio over 75 2/3 innings in 17 starts across three minor league levels (14 of those at Triple-A). He’s got absolutely nothing left to prove in the minors and there’s reason to believe that he has a chance to crack the club’s Opening Day starting rotation. With a current average draft position of 225, he’ll be a popular mid-round target in many fantasy drafts. The only concern is that the Orioles will assuredly limit his workload over the course of the season – which caps his overall upside.

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Key Free Agents: Jordan Lyles (club option), Robinson Chirinos, Richie Martin, Jesus Aguilar

Team Needs

As is often the case, the Orioles biggest need heading into the offseason is upgrading their starting rotation. It seems highly unlikely that they’ll throw their hat in the ring for the Jacob deGrom‘s or Carlos Rodón‘s of the world, but they’ll surely need to do something. That should start with exercising their $11 million option on Jordan Lyles – who led the team in wins, strikeouts, games started and innings pitched during the 2022 season. On the offensive side of the ball, their young nucleus will return fully intact, but the O’s need to improve their overall depth by adding quality bats to their bench. With the free agent market looking especially strong at the shortstop position, the Orioles could also look for an upgrade over Jorge Mateo there if they really want to make a big splash.