The best teams in baseball have depth at nearly every position. The Orioles appear to have turned a corner in the rebuild, and a certain level of expectations come with the territory. Baltimore should no longer enter the season hoping to surprise people if everyone blooms at the right time. The club should be prepared to overcome setbacks and plug holes throughout the course of a long season.
The Orioles have several players at similar points moving forward. Each player should have an opportunity to prove his worth next season, but I’m curious who you all are rolling with moving forward. Let’s play some Orioles Pick’em!
Mike Baumann or Bruce Zimmermann
One of these pitchers began the season in the starting rotation and the other finished with the unit. Both players are 27 years old and currently occupy spots on the 40-man roster. Which pitcher will play a bigger role with the Orioles next season?
Zimmermann made 13 starts for the Orioles at the beginning of the season but fell out of the rotation in the middle of June. The lefty did not allow more than three runs in his first seven starts, but he developed a serious problem with the long ball after that. Zimmermann allowed multiple home runs in six of his final nine starts for the Orioles.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko wrote about Zimmermann joining Baltimore’s taxi squad last week. The lefty limited opponents to just six home runs in 76.1 innings and posted a solid 3.77 ERA in 14 games. The question remains whether his stuff will play at the big league level.
Baumann worked in relief for Baltimore early on before stretching out into a starting role. Once considered Baltimore’s third best pitching prospect behind only Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, Baumann is running out of time to prove he can start in the majors. His 6-foot-4 frame and plus fastball has always led to some bullpen chatter, but Baumann likely hopes to make starts beyond today’s matchup against the Jays.
The addition of Rodriguez, Hall or any free agents could easily eliminate the possibility for either to start next season in the rotation, but does either have a leg up here?
Kyle Stowers or Terrin Vavra
Stowers joined Baltimore for a three-game series in Toronto but returned for good at the end of August. The 24-year-old slashed .253/.309/.414 in 87 at bats with all most all coming against right-handed pitching.
Stowers split time between left and right field and should compete for an outfield spot next season. His ability to play center field—which he played 44 times at Norfolk this year—indicates a chance to catch on as a fourth outfielder if he cannot clinch a starting role.
Baltimore called up Vavra at the end of July but did not provide him daily playing time. Vavra slashed .259/.357/.309 and his ability to get on base is an attractive quality. Vavra split time between left field and second base, but concerns about his defense likely cost him a few at bats. Vavra must demonstrate improved defense to earn a spot at second base or even a utility role in 2023.
Tyler Wells or DL Hall
Tyler Wells shined in relief after the Orioles selected him in the Rule 5 draft. The Birds elected to stretch out the righty this season, and Wells continued to turn heads. Wells finished the season with a 7-7 record and a 4.25 ERA but a pair of injuries appeared to impact his play.
Baltimore elected to ease back Wells at the big league level after he suffered an oblique injury. The 28-year-old struggled in his abridged starts and eventually returned to the injured list with arm fatigue.
Hall, the Orioles’ top left-handed pitching prospect, made one start before converting to a relief role down the stretch. Hall has struggled with his command but also flashed an impressive fastball and changeup in relief. His save against the Yankees showed what type of weapon he could be out of the bullpen, but the Orioles likely still hope to use Hall in the rotation.
Will both pitchers start next season in the rotation? Which pitcher will have a more successful 2023?
Adley Rutschman or Gunnar Henderson
Neither of these players will need to compete for playing time next season. Both were ranked the number one prospect in baseball at some point this year and the duo appear destined for extremely bright futures.
I won’t make you pick a favorite, but feel free to share if you have a strong feeling about which player possesses greater star potential moving forward.