Orioles set on beating the projections in 2023
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Some external expectations for the Orioles are a bit low. Internally, they’re quite high.
That’s again the case entering 2023, despite Baltimore coming off an 83-win campaign in 2022. PECOTA has the Orioles regressing and going 74-88. ZiPS is also projecting a sub-.500 season at 80-82. Many sportsbooks have the over/under for the club’s win total set around the mid-70s.
First baseman Ryan Mountcastle is confident the O’s will be better than that.
“We’re really good,” Mountcastle said. “I was looking at some of the averages just in spring, and it seems like everybody’s hitting .400. It’s insane how many guys are hitting the ball. The guys are pitching really well, too. I’m really excited for the year.”
Of course, spring results aren’t always indicative of regular-season performance. But there is ample reason to believe Baltimore is on an upward trajectory that will continue with even more success in 2023.
What needs to go right? Steps forward for the rising stars
The Orioles didn’t go on a major offseason spending spree, opting instead to sign complementary players such as right-hander Kyle Gibson and second baseman Adam Frazier. One of the reasons for that? They believe their young talent is set to take major strides in 2023.
Catcher Adley Rutschman hasn’t yet played a full MLB season. Infielder Gunnar Henderson (MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect) owns only 34 games of Majors experience. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (the No. 7 overall prospect in all farm systems) has yet to throw a pitch off a big league mound.
If Baltimore regresses, it may be due to some growing pains for its rising stars. It would be understandable as well, because it’s not always easy for prospects to come up and quickly have success, even if Rutschman made it look that way at times in 2022.
In order for the O’s to be an American League Wild Card contender -- a reasonable objective coming off last year -- they’ll likely need the bulk of their youngsters to take steps forward.
Great unknown: DL Hall
Hall isn’t going to be on Baltimore’s Opening Day roster. The Orioles wanted to stretch the 24-year-old left-hander out as a starter this spring, but right lower lumbar discomfort delayed his build-up and resulted in him not getting into Grapefruit League action until March 20. So the club decided to option Hall to the Minors to open the season.
Even though Hall will begin the year in Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation, the O’s are hopeful their No. 7 prospect (and MLB Pipeline’s No. 97 overall prospect) will be starting for them later in 2023.
Hall has made only one MLB start, but he thrived while pitching out of the bullpen for Baltimore late last season. If he proves his future should remain as a starter by excelling in the role, it will be a boost for the Orioles’ rotation in both the short and long term.
Team MVP will be ... Rutschman
In 2022, Rutschman was named Most Valuable Oriole by the local media despite not making his MLB debut until May 21. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft lived up to the hype in his rookie campaign, hitting 35 doubles and 13 homers with an .806 OPS, and impressing with both his defense and pitch-calling ability.
In 2023, the 25-year-old Rutschman should be even better. He’s had a healthier spring (after sustaining a right triceps strain in camp last year), setting him up well to build on his debut season and become even more of a leader for Baltimore.
Team Cy Young will be ... Félix Bautista
The Orioles’ closer has such impressive stuff that he may end up being the star of the pitching staff. Bautista, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, had a 2.19 ERA over 65 appearances as a rookie in 2022, going 15-for-17 in save opportunities and recording 13 holds.
With a four-seam fastball that routinely gets up to 100-plus mph and a nasty wipeout splitter, Bautista has the potential to be an elite late-inning arm. He could further prove that in 2023.
Bold prediction: The Orioles will win their first postseason series since 2014
Baltimore’s young nucleus will power it to an 88-74 season, enough to get it into the AL Wild Card Series. Then, the O’s will win a best-of-three set to advance to the AL Division Series, which will be where their year ends.
The Orioles’ roster is more talented than it was last season, especially if the rising stars continue to rise, so a taste of postseason success is a reasonable expectation.