Rangers-Orioles position-by-position breakdown

October 7th, 2023

It's time for the top team in the American League to take the field.

The AL East champion Orioles (101-61) begin their playoff run in the AL Division Series against the Rangers (90-72) today. Game 1 in Baltimore is set for 1 p.m. ET on FS1.

The Rangers are coming off a two-game sweep of the Rays in the Wild Card Series. Now they face the team that topped Tampa Bay for the division crown. The Orioles and Rangers split their season series, 3-3, with the O's taking two of three games in Texas in April and the Rangers taking two of three in Baltimore in May.

Here's how the two teams match up for the ALDS, position by position.

is a great pitch framer, controls the run game well and is a solid run producer. He's a good catcher. is a superstar catcher. The Orioles' young leader is arguably the best catcher in baseball already, and he's ready for his first taste of the postseason. Rutschman finished the regular season with 20 home runs, 80 RBIs, 92 walks and a 128 OPS+, and he does it all on defense -- blocking, framing, throwing, commanding the pitching staff -- giving him an all-around value reflected by his 5.1 Wins Above Replacement. The O's were the No. 1 team in the AL this year, and Rutschman is their No. 1 player.

Edge: Orioles

First base
The Rangers and Orioles take two different approaches toward first base. Texas has locking down the position -- he played 161 games there this season. Lowe also had a hit in both of the Rangers' Wild Card Series wins, although he was only 2-for-10 overall. Baltimore, on the other hand, platoons the left-handed-hitting and the right-handed-hitting at first base.

Normally, you'd lean toward the everyday regular here, but O'Hearn and Mountcastle have been so good against opposite-handed pitchers that the O's setup just might pay off -- especially because the Rangers' top two starters are one righty (Nathan Eovaldi) and one lefty (Jordan Montgomery). O'Hearn batted .297 with 12 home runs and an .802 OPS against righties this season; Mountcastle batted .338 with 12 homers and a 1.053 OPS against lefties.

Edge: Orioles

Second base
had only one hit in nine at-bats in the Wild Card Series, but don't expect that to continue in the ALDS (and that hit was a two-out RBI double in the Game 2 clincher). Semien's too good to not make an impact against the Orioles. And while had 13 homers and 11 stolen bases for Baltimore this season, he wasn't great offensively overall (94 OPS+). He also might sit against any Texas lefties -- Montgomery and potentially Andrew Heaney -- in favor of right-handed-hitting rookie , who's been pretty good in his 68 games, but isn't a Marcus Semien, either.

Edge: Rangers

Third base
The advantage at the hot corner all depends on whether is there for the Orioles. And you could certainly see the 22-year-old AL Rookie of the Year favorite (28 home runs, 10 steals, 82 RBIs, 125 OPS+) at third base in the ALDS. The O's often play Henderson there when they face left-handed pitchers and use at shortstop and Westburg at second over Frazier.

But if Henderson is at shortstop and Westburg or is at third, which is a lineup Baltimore might use against Eovaldi and Dane Dunning, then Rangers third baseman has the edge. Jung is a star rookie himself, and he might've been the Rookie of the Year frontrunner if it wasn't for Henderson. For now, though, we'll give third base to the Orioles, because of the impact Henderson could make there.

Edge: Orioles (if Henderson plays third)

The Rangers have the shortstop edge no matter what. is just that good. Even if the O's deploy Henderson at short, who's probably their best player outside Rutschman, Seager still takes the position battle. And if it's Mateo at shortstop for Baltimore, then it's not close. Seager's already looking like 2020 NLCS/World Series MVP Seager -- he went 4-for-8 with three doubles in two games in the Wild Card Series. He's the best hitter in this series.

Edge: Rangers

Left field
We knew had tons of talent coming into the postseason. Now we know he has what it takes to get it done on the big stage. The 21-year-old rookie was one of the stars of the Wild Card Series -- even though he'd only played 23 big league games before the playoffs began.

Carter did it all in the Rangers' sweep of the Rays: He belted a home run that broke open Game 2, doubled twice, drew three walks, stole a base and made a great diving catch in left field. Orioles left fielder was a first-time All-Star in 2023, but he slumped in the second half (.227 batting average, .668 OPS), and man, Carter is just a really exciting young player.

Edge: Rangers

Center field
had a nice Wild Card Series for Texas (especially as the Rays' center fielders had all sorts of trouble on the other side), notching three hits in the two games. But has been one of the most important players to the Orioles over the past few seasons, with 61 home runs and 83 stolen bases since 2021, plus +26 Outs Above Average in center field. Now he finally gets to play in his first postseason.

Edge: Orioles

Right field
The Orioles could use or in right field, depending on how they want to match up against the Rangers (if Hicks is in right, Santander would likely slot in at DH). Either way, is tough to beat. The Rangers star crushed the team's first home run of the postseason in Game 2 against the Rays, which brings his 2023 total up to an even 40 between the regular season and playoffs. García was the best home run hitter in the AL not named "Shohei Ohtani" this season, and he's not stopping in the playoffs.

Edge: Rangers

Designated hitter
The Rangers went with over the hot-hitting at DH in the Wild Card Series, but he didn't do a whole lot at the plate, going 1-for-9 with four strikeouts out of the No. 3 spot in the order. That opens the door for the Orioles to take advantage of this position battle, especially if the slugging Santander, who had 28 home runs, 95 RBIs and a 121 OPS+ in the regular season and was one of the most clutch hitters in baseball, gets a chunk of at-bats at DH. The O's could also use Mountcastle at DH in games where O'Hearn is at first base. (And there's even this question: Will slugging prospect make the postseason roster?)

Edge: Orioles

Starting rotation
and were great for the Rangers in the Wild Card Series, but in a five-game series, Texas will need more depth, especially with 's availability still cloudy as he deals with right forearm tightness and out. and could make appearances, but can they handle the Orioles' lineup?

Baltimore's starting rotation has been a pleasant surprise this season, and their arms are fresh. Breakout sophomore (2.83 ERA, 168 K's in 30 starts) and flamethrowing rookie (2.58 ERA in the second half) are ready to start the series, and inning-eaters and and the recently returned are available behind them. This is a very close competition, considering what Montgomery and Eovaldi did in the first round, but we're giving the Orioles a slight advantage.

Edge: Orioles

The Orioles would win this hands-down if they had . But 2023's most dominant closer is having Tommy John surgery, and that's a big presence to replace at the back of your bullpen. Baltimore still has highly capable late-inning arms like (2.11 ERA in 72 appearances), (2.81 ERA in 61 appearances), converted starter and flamethrower . But they're not the same without Bautista.

Texas' bullpen looked great against the Rays, with high-leverage relievers and slamming the door in Game 1 and Leclerc and taking care of business once the Rangers had a big lead in Game 2. The Rangers haven't even had to use other key arms like yet.

Edge: Rangers

The Rangers dispatched the 99-win Rays with relative ease. Their lineup is a deep mix of proven sluggers and up-and-coming stars. And their top pitchers, both starters and relievers, looked great in the Wild Card Series. But the Orioles have been waiting for this. Those 101 wins were no accident, and the young stars leading the way -- Rutschman, Henderson & Co. -- are going to show everyone that the moment isn't too big for them. But it's going to take everything they've got to beat Texas.

Orioles in five