Orioles series preview: A new-look franchise

Los Angeles Angels v. Baltimore Orioles
Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The future has never looked brighter for the Orioles

In 2021, the Orioles were worse than the Royals. Much worse, in fact, they lost 110 games, more than the Royals have ever lost in one season. The next year they finished with a winning record, and the year after that they won 101 games, their best season in over 40 years. Now they have a new owner, after the sale to David Rubenstein was approved last week, and the team has a new 30-year lease with plans to develop around Camden Yards.

The Orioles come into this year as a serious contender to win their first title since 1983 with a nucleus of young stars that look capable of giving them the kind of dynasty they enjoyed in the 1970s. But prospect rankings and potential don’t win championships, and the Orioles will have to go out and prove it on the field.

All statistics are 2023 numbers.

Kansas City Royals (56-106) at Baltimore Orioles (101-61) Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD

Royals: 4.17 runs scored/game (23rd in MLB), 5.30 runs allowed/game (28th)

Orioles: 4.98 runs scored/game (7th), 4.19 runs allowed/game (7th)

Baltimore scored the seventh-most runs last year, but were middle of the pack in most offensive categories. They had eight different hitters reach double-digit home runs, but finished 17th overall in long balls.

The Orioles have just three position players age 30 or older, two of which are expected to be role players. Catcher Adley Rutschman finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2022 and third baseman Gunnar Henderson won it last year, tying the team lead in home runs with 28. Second baseman Jordan Westburg also had a solid rookie season last year, and former fifth-overall pick Colton Cowser hopes to make an impact this year.

All statistics are 2023 numbers.

The Orioles had the seventh-lowest ERA last year with the seventh-lowest walk rate. Dean Kremer finished strong last year with a 2.95 ERA over his final 12 starts. He features a deep arsenal with a four-seamer, cutter, sinker, changeup, and a very hittable curveball that opponents hit .347 off last year.

Lefty Cole Irvin struggled as a starter with a 4.81 ERA in 12 starts, but he did hold the Royals to just one run over 5 1/3 innings with no walks on June 10 last year. He is a strike-thrower who thrives when he gets ground balls, but has a change up that can be hammered.

Corbin Burnes won the National League Cy Young Award in 2021 with the Brewers and has been the third-most valuable pitcher in baseball over the last three seasons. He led the league in strikeouts in 2022, and was 18th among all starters in strikeout-rate last year, whiffing a quarter of all batters he faced. He throws a cutter, slider, sinker, and a near-unhittable curveball that generated a 49 percent whiff rate last year. Burnes struck out 11 and allowed just one hit in six innings in his debut for the Orioles.

All statistics are 2023 numbers.

The Orioles are without All-Star closer Felix Bautista, who will miss this season after Tommy John surgery. Baltimore signed veteran Craig Kimbrel, who has 417 career saves, to replace him. Yennier Cano had the fifth-lowest walk rate among all relievers to go along with a 58 percent groundball rate. Lefty Danny Coulombe allowed lefty hitters to hit for a much higher average against him than righties, but with no power. Dillon Tate posted a 3.05 ERA in 67 outings in 2022 before missing all of last year with forearm and shoulder injuries. Jonathan Heasley was called up by the Orioles this week after being traded by the Royals last off-season.

All statistics are 2023 numbers.

The Royals have already faced one 2023 playoff team, but face an even bigger challenge in their first road series. The Orioles could very well be the best team in the American League, but they still have much to prove.

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Title: Orioles series preview: A new-look franchise
Author: Max Rieper

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