Although at times the 99-day MLB lockout seemed like it was going to stretch on forever, things ended in time for the 2022 season to begin only about a week late. Orioles baseball will be back in our lives tomorrow, with some teams even lucky enough to start today. Even if the O’s may be headed for yet another 100+ loss season, it will be great to have this season under way.
There are some areas where you can feel better about this team compared to last year. I think they will be headed into the 2022 season with more players who’ve proven themselves in at least one full MLB season. John Means’s 2021 campaign, punctuated by a no-hitter, was a lot of fun. Cedric Mullins’s 30-30 performance was great. Ryan Mountcastle stamped his authority on MLB with 33 home runs. Trey Mancini’s got a full offseason to prepare for this season. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can all do.
The rest of the team... well. We all know what was wrong about the 2021 Orioles. Their pitching staff was once again the worst in baseball. Few new faces have been added to that mix, and one of the ones who did get added, Jordan Lyles, was only good by 2021 Orioles standards.
Maybe some of them will be helped by the new left field fence dimensions at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Or maybe that will just limit some Orioles hitters while bad pitchers keep pitching badly. The increasingly plaintive e-mails the Orioles have been sending, trying to sell home opener tickets in the days remaining between now and then, suggest that there is not a whole lot of excitement for the team in general in Birdland. It’s hard to blame anyone who feels that way.
It feels like for several years now, I’ve been hoping that the team would get more exciting in the later months thanks to the arrival of prospects. Though they’ve dashed this hope, I’m still hoping for that. Maybe you are too. Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, and D.L. Hall are the biggest names, and of course there are plenty of other high-minors hopefuls with varying degrees of prospect pedigree. I want to see more of them and fewer Rougned Odors. Sorry, Rougned. Thanks for punching Jose Bautista that one time.
With all that in mind, what do you hope for from the Orioles this season? What do you think is going to happen when you add a dose of reality to your hopes? I polled some of the other Camden Chat writers on four quick things, and I’m interested in knowing what you think about these as well, so drop in to the comments and let us know:
- Your biggest hope for the 2022 Orioles
- Your biggest concern about the Orioles rebuild project
- What you think the O’s final record will be
- A wild prediction (big or small) about something you think will happen with the Orioles this year
Here’s what we thought:
Alex: Last year I hoped that mid-tier pitching prospects would overachieve, but that didn’t happen. I’m more confident that Hall, Rutschman and Rodriguez can perform at the MLB level; they just need to get there. Let’s throw in a healthy year for Yusniel Diaz too (I just feel bad at this point).
Paul: That as many prospects as possible arrive in the majors this season and prove they belong. I want to see Adley Rutschman in the Orioles lineup as soon as he’s healthy, Grayson Rodriguez up by the All-Star break, and D.L. Hall, Kyle Stowers, and even Yusniel Diaz contribute in some form this year. Is that too much to ask?
Tyler: The pitching staff stabilizes itself. Everything points to the start of the year being extremely difficult for the pitchers, but you have to think that improves as the year goes, roles are sorted in the bullpen, at least one of the young guys that struggled last year gets better, and the debuts of Grayson Rodriguez, D.L. Hall, and Kyle Bradish take place.
Andrea: My biggest hope is that by the All-Star break the starting rotation is not in the bottom five of MLB. It could happen if John Means has a solid start, Jordan Lyles pitches more like it’s 2019 than 2021, Tyler Wells stays healthy and keeps racking up the K’s, and if just one or even two of the Duquette pitching prospects puts it together (for my money, Mike Baumann has the best chance). If not, wait ’til July and fill out the rotation with Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez, who’ll hopefully have earned their spot by then.
Stacey: That by the end of the season, both Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez will be established as successful big leaguers. I don’t think this is too much to hope for. But I am an Orioles fan, so it probably is. A secondary biggest hope is that the Orioles are playing the kind of baseball in August that doesn’t make me want to turn off the TV in the third inning.
Mark: I need to see an outline of a better Orioles pitching staff before I will start to believe the rebuild might be working. So in addition to hoping that Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall are here by year’s end, I need two back-end guys out of this group: Akin, Baumann, Bradish, Kremer, Lowther, Smith, A. Wells, T. Wells, Zimmermann. That’s not too much to hope, is it?
Harrison: My biggest hope is that the Orioles promote some of their top prospects within the first couple months of the season. Names like Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, Kyle Stowers, DL Hall, and Adley Rustchman come to mind for me. Along with some promotions, I’m hoping at least one or two of those young guys has a breakout year and shows us what all the hype was about.
Tyler: As an Orioles fan I will remain skeptical of all pitching prospects until the end of time. The team has had so few competent home-grown arms in the majors during my life that I just cannot wrap my around someone like Rodriguez being as good as advertised. So, as unwarranted as it may be, I can’t help but be worried that he (and others) will struggle once they reach Baltimore.
Stacey: But seriously, WHO is going to pitch? Other than of course the amazing Grayson (please don’t be bad)
Mark: You guys, I’m genuinely worried that Adley Rutschman’s currently small-seeming injury is going to turn out to be something serious.
Paul: That the revamped left-field dimensions at Camden Yards don’t help the pitching staff (most of these guys are still bad, even if some home runs turn into doubles and triples) but disproportionately hurt the Orioles’ young right-handed hitters like Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays.
Harrison: My biggest concern is the pitching staff. Both the rotation and bullpen last year were subpar, so it’ll be interesting to see how innings are split up and who fills what roles on the pitching staff.
Andrea: The thought of pitcher injuries is scary given the thinness of this staff.
Alex: The lack of starting pitching taxes the bullpen and negatively impacts the development of young arms. Piggybacking can work, but the Birds must be calculated in their approach.
Orioles record predictions
The Orioles undershot every single CC writer who made a guess last year. The closest guess came from me, with a pessimistic-seeming 64-98. Three CC writers predicted 70+ wins for the 2021 Orioles. Oops.
Harrison: 60-102. It’s going to be another tough year.
Andrea: 64-98. Sub-100, baby!
Select expert/computer predictions
FanGraphs: 65-97 (last year: 67-95)
PECOTA: 61-101 (last year: 68-94)
FiveThirtyEight: 62-100 (last year: 63-99)
So, every one of these sees a worse Orioles team than they did heading in to last season. Considering how last season went, that’s not great! Fans like us can only hope that the gradual arrival of prospects reverses this fortune a bit.
Our wild guesses
If you’ll forgive me tooting my own horn again, in this space last year I predicted that Ryan Mountcastle would lead the Orioles in home runs. He did, with 33. Good job, Past Mark.
Mark: The Orioles will break their drought of above-.500 months some time before it reaches five years old at the end of August.
Andrea: Is it wild to predict that Adley Rutschman wins Rookie of the Year? (A lot of places are predicting it’ll be Bobby Witt Jr.) OK, how about this: by the end of the season, Kyle Stowers is the Orioles’ starting right fielder.
Alex: The Orioles finish with a .500 record or better against one division opponent. This seems ridiculous when you consider the talent level in the AL East and the fact that Baltimore went 1-19 against the Rays last season. The closest they came last year was 8-11 against New York. Let’s top it.
Paul: The Orioles decide that as they call up prospects from Triple-A, they might as well call up the manager, too. Buck Britton replaces Brandon Hyde midseason as the O’s skipper.
Stacey: Orioles finish in 4th place in the AL East! Bonus wild prediction, it’s the Red Sox who finish behind them.
Harrison: Ryan Mountcastle will hit 40 or more homers. I think he’ll have a quicker start to the season than he did in 2021, and he’ll take another step forward in his maturation at the plate.
Tyler: The Orioles will announce a significant contract extension with one of their current players during the season. By “significant” I mean buying out multiple free agent years. My gut tells me it’s Rutschman, but I could see a scenario where they lock up Rodriguez or John Means.
I wish I could show you comments made by readers from last year. Unfortunately, a recent change to the commenting platform on SB Nation baseball sites has rendered comments from past years inaccessible. Sorry! Hopefully that changes before long and you can go back and find your old strong and correct takes again.
What are you thinking heading into this season? Make your predictions in the comments below, so that when they come true by season’s end you can point to them and tell everyone how right you were.