2022 Season Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Image: Fernando Burgalin Sequeria

Baltimore Orioles

by Jack Kruger

2021 Record: 52-110 (.321 win%, 5th in AL East)

2021 Payroll: $42,421,870 (30th)

Projected 2022 Lineup:

1. CF Cedric Mullins, .257 AVG/.327 OBP/.450 SLG, 3.0 fWAR

2. 1B Ryan Mountcastle, .257 AVG/.313 OBP/.473 SLG, 1.6 fWAR

3. DH Trey Mancini, .257 AVG/.330 OBP/.441 SLG, 1.3 fWAR

4. RF Anthony Santander, .251 AVG/.301 OBP/.462 SLG, 1.2 fWAR 

5. LF Austin Hays, .256 AVG/.307 OBP/.459 SLG, 2.0 fWAR

6. 2B Rougned Odor, .213 AVG/.286 OBP/.414 SLG, 0.5 fWAR 

7. 3B Ramón Urías, .244 AVG/.319 OBP/.398 SLG, 1.4 fWAR

8. SS Jorge Mateo, .235 AVG/.280 OBP/.381 SLG, 0.5 fWAR

9. C Robinson Chirinos, .212 AVG/.302 OBP/.379 SLG, 0.3 fWAR

Projected 2022 Rotation:

1. John Means, 172.0 IP/4.36 ERA/1.22 WHIP, 2.7 fWAR

2. Jordan Lyles, 158.0IP/5.42 ERA/1.45 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR

3. Bruce Zimmerman, 126.0 IP/4.75 ERA/1.41 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR

4. Tyler Wells, 114.0 IP/4.72 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 1.0 fWAR

5. Keegan Akin, 111.0 IP/4.84 ERA/1.42 WHIP, 1.0 fWAR

Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:

1. Tanner Scott, 64.0 IP/3.55 ERA/1.33 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR

2. Cole Sulser, 66.0 IP/4.21 ERA/1.32 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

3. Paul Fry, 56.0 IP/3.92 ERA/1.41 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

Offseason Recap:

This offseason, the Orioles did not give out a single free agent deal that lasts longer than one year. Isn’t there a problem that Major League Baseball and its fans have with teams tanking… 

Well, this is a clear and obvious example of exactly what the fans want MLB to control. The Orioles lost pitchers Matt Harvey and Fernando Abad to free agency, both of whom weren’t signed to a major league team. Baltimore also added three former Rangers in Rougned Odor, Jordan Lyles, and Robinson Chirinos. The Rangers were throwing around money this Winter and even they decided not to keep those players. That says something about how Baltimore uses free agency to supplement.

And that’s it. The Orioles’ leadership structure is completely at ease broadcasting to the world that they still don’t want to win. They are content to wait for the newest prospect crop to make its way to the Majors. Baltimore probably hopes they only will have minimum salaries on the books in two years so they can have a $20 million payroll. At the very least, the club made it clear that they are still in the middle of a tank job, much to the dismay of O’s fans everywhere. 

2022 Season Preview:

The Orioles, on paper, still look like the worst team in the MLB, or at least close. Looking on the bright side, the front of the lineup looks surprisingly strong with a mix of Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander, and Austin Hays, and will look even better when the number one prospect in the nation, Adley Rutschman, joins the team. 

On the other hand, what in the world is going on with the starting rotation? While Means and Lyles are likely to be mainstays on the mound, the last three spots are reportedly going to be made up of some sort of pitching tandem with a mix of different spot starters and long relievers. And no, this isn’t some revolutionary strategy. That’s just how bad the Orioles are. They only have two MLB level starters, which is three or four less than most other major league teams. But hey, John Means isn’t too bad!

On top of their own players not really living up to their title as MLBers, the Orioles have to worry about the other four teams in their division that judge their own season based on how they take advantage of the O’s. The outfield fences at Camden Yards were moved outwards, but that may not preclude Oriole Killer Gleyber Torres from mashing second-deck, left field homers.

Another season is approaching in which the Baltimore Orioles have set themselves up to really have no chance. The AL is uber-competitive, meaning Baltimore is one of the few teams with a massive talent disadvantage relative to some other teams that might tread water around .500. General Manager Mike Elias was brought along to replicate what the Astros did in the early 2010s to lay the groundwork for their dynasty. This Orioles process is moving much slower, and it’s been much more painful.

This season will be another lost one, and it remains to be seen if ownership will have any more patience for the current regime as they actually got worse from 2019 to 2021.

Record Prediction: 63-99

The Orioles might have the worst starting rotation in Major League Baseball, and considering how bad the Pirates rotation is, that’s saying something. Their lineup is somewhere between below average and average, supported by a good one two punch in Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle. Though, their mix of players in the lineup is expected to result in a good deal of bad defense. The relief staff is fairly deep, but lacks quality arms. 

Overall, they probably aren’t the worst team in the majors by a talent perspective, but the pitching staff is absolutely horrendous. Additionally, the O’s are going to lose a lot of inter-division games, being in as tough a division as the AL East. Orioles fans, get ready for another season full of disappointment and poor play. However, there is a clear ray of hope protruding through what is expected to be one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. 

Player to Watch #1: C Adley Rutschman 

If you haven’t heard who Adley Rutschman is by now, you must be living under a rock. The consensus top prospect in all of baseball, Rutschman is both an offensive and defensive threat, and if the Orioles decide to call him up to the majors he will immediately make an impact on the team. Rutschman has everything one would want in a player: spectacular defense, a cannon of an arm, power to hit forty homers a year, and consistent contact. There’s a good reason that Rutschman is as highly touted as he is, and he should get the chance to showcase that very reason in 2022. 

Player to Watch #2: CF Cedric Mullins

Of all the players who broke out in 2021, Cedric Mullins was likely the most notable of them. Mullins went from an average center fielder in 2020 to an elite offensive force, going from hitting three home runs in 153 plate appearances in 2020 to thirty homers in 675 plate appearances last season. Now viewed as the best player on a weak team, Mullins has to prove that 2021 wasn’t a fluke. If Mullins does just that, fans could see a true Orioles MVP candidate for the first time since Chris Davis in 2013. 

Player to Watch #3: SP John Means

John Means shined at the beginning of last season, posting a 2.28 ERA and throwing a no-hitter in the first half. However, after injuries that cost him a good deal of time, Means seemed to return a different pitcher. His ERA ballooned to 3.62 after posting a 4.88 ERA and going 2-7 in the second half. It doesn’t need to be said, but the Orioles are hopeful that they see the version of Means that dominated the first half of last season, rather than the version of him that struggled after injuries in the latter half.

For more Orioles content, check out William Gregory’s experiment sending them NPB here, and his other article discussing the recent renovations to Camden Yards here.

Categories: 2022 Season Preview

7 replies

  1. As a long time O’s fan I look forward to days when they will finally compete again. I know they take a lot of grief for “tanking”. While I certainly agree that the Elias regime could have been more aggressive the way MLB is structured there is little incentive to spend money on MLB talent now given the hole they started in and facing the teams in their division. MLB and MLBPA could have and should have been way more aggressive and insistent to fix the industry. A salary floor of $100 million would have helped force all teams to spend but both the league and players declined to force that position. Baseball is the greatest game on earth but yet the industry is clearly lagging behind as it is not managed well.

  2. agree with almost everything here. thought experiment (however). If you were to predict a team were to have 11 more wins than the prior season you would say that’s a very good improvement. What makes you think the Orioles will improve by 11 wins from 2021? I know about Rutschman being called up, but the rotation is arguably worse than last year AND they will almost certainly deal Means and/or Mancini at the deadline.

    • It’s not really that they are better, but that they shouldn’t lose that many games on paper. A large majority of pitchers that started a game last season for the Orioles had an ERA over 6.00, which I can’t see happening again, no matter how bad it is. Aside from that, the hitting is in a brighter spot than it was at the beginning of last year and the relief staff is fine. They should win more than 52 games, but because they are the O’s, I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if they didn’t.

      • The bullpen is in shambles. We just took our best BP piece and moved him into a part-time starting position with full time starting responsibilities. I can see when the dog days of summer coming a lot of 9-4, 11-6, 10-3 games. Games where the Orioles hung around and then a real crooked number in the 6th inning puts it out of reach.
        Love the Orioles, but I see no reason a repeat of exactly the same as last year.

  3. I am so excited for Orioles baseball that this article was a complete bummer. I’m not saying the author is not right; he probably is. I have been a fan since 1972, so I have seen some great baseball and suffered through long stretches of horrible baseball. When Buck Showalter came on board, I felt hopeful, and things definitely improved. I will try to watch some Mets games just for the nostalgia of seeing Buck again. Brandon Hyde, to me, is a throwaway coach for what has become a throwaway team. I was sad when Buck was let go, and angry when Adam Jones was let go towards the end of his career. He was our captain, he loved Baltimore, and had even purchased Cal’s old home. Disrespectful. That sad, I will cross my fingers and wish for the best.

  4. Some of your individual stats seem likely to be way off, for example I think Mullins and Means will do significantly better than you forecast, once he gets over his injury Rutchman will be their starting catcher, and Odor is unlikely to be their primary second baseman, and absolutely will not be unless he hits a lot better than you show. Still, your overall assessment is probably correct, that while the Orioles will be better than last year, they will still not be competitive. I think that next year they will be a big surprise and could even make the playoffs. The big questions which must receive positive answers for that to happen are (1) can they find a mediocre to good starting rotation from their myriad of candidates, and (2) how quickly will their infield and outfield prospects advance and have impact. I think the performance of the front office and manager has been successful, in line with their strategy. They were never expected to be good until 2023-24.

    • I used Steamer projections (you can find them on Fangraphs) for the projected statistics. But yeah, I agree that Mullins will likely be better than predicted. Means, considering his play after injury, I am not as sure about. And yes, Rutschman should start when he returns, I was just using the likely opening day lineup.

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