The Orioles’ 2022 season was a huge success. Nobody can argue that.
Sure, Baltimore missed the postseason for the sixth consecutive year. But the team was competitive, staying alive in the American League Wild Card race until Sept. 30.
After going 52-110 in 2021, the O’s had a 31-game turnaround, finishing 83-79, three games back of the Rays for the third AL Wild Card berth. As MLB.com research expert Sarah Langs shared, the only teams to win more games coming off a 110-plus-loss season were the 1890 Louisville Colonels (88-44-4) and the 1899 St. Louis Perfectos (84-67-4).
“The way that this team played and competed at the Major League level is something that I think, rightfully, our players and coaches deserve a lot of credit for,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said at his end-of-season press conference.
Defining moment: Adley’s arrival
The moment Orioles fans waited nearly three years for came on May 21, when catcher Adley Rutschman was called up for his MLB debut. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft -- and MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect at the time -- tripled in his first game and quickly lived up to the hype with his stellar play.
Late in the season, manager Brandon Hyde told reporters the O’s “started playing a lot better when [Rutschman] got here.” To be exact, they went 16-24 before Rutschman’s arrival and 67-55 after he joined the team. His contributions in all phases of the game made a huge impact.
What we learned: The rebuilding phase is over
Elias took over as GM in November 2018, tasked with leading the Orioles through their rebuild. The on-field product didn’t look great at first -- as evidenced by Baltimore's .341 winning percentage from 2019-21 -- but it was all about development.
Now, the Orioles are back in a position to better compete. And after a strong ‘22, winning Major League games will be a more realistic expectation moving forward.
“I feel this team is officially in the fight in the American League East,” Elias said.
Best development: The pitching took a huge step forward
It’s challenging to win games when giving up as many runs as Baltimore did in 2021. That season, the Orioles ranked last in MLB in both rotation ERA (5.99) and bullpen ERA (5.70).
In 2022, the O’s were 21st in rotation ERA (4.35) and ninth in bullpen ERA (3.49). Their pitching may get even better in ‘23, when more prospects should arrive and John Means will return from Tommy John surgery.
Area for improvement: The top of the rotation
While the pitching staff has taken massive strides, there’s still room for improvement from the starting rotation. The Orioles would greatly benefit from having a true ace at the top.
Jordan Lyles (4.42 ERA in 32 starts) was a workhorse in 2022, but Baltimore will need to decide whether to pick up his $11 million club option for ‘23. Means may not be back until midseason, and top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez has yet to pitch in the big leagues.
Adding a top-of-the-rotation arm to this budding staff could quickly take it to the next level.
On the rise: Gunnar Henderson
Rutschman should receive plenty of votes for the 2022 AL Rookie of the Year Award. An early favorite to win the honor in ‘23? Henderson.
This season, Henderson went from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk to the Majors. After batting .297/.416/.531 in 112 Minor League games, the 21-year-old infielder impressed in his 34-game stint in the big leagues. The Orioles’ No. 1 prospect will only get better from here.
Team MVP: Rutschman
Rutschman was named this year’s Most Valuable Oriole by the local media, as he was the obvious choice. The 24-year-old backstop hit .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers, 35 doubles and 42 RBIs in 113 games, while also doing a tremendous job behind the plate.
Rutschman’s 5.3 fWAR led the team and was tied with Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez for best among all rookies.