Over the next few weeks, Camden Chat writers will be looking at the projected performance for most of the expected regulars on the Orioles roster. We’ll be sizing up what would have to go right for players to beat the projections, or go wrong for players to fail to live up to them, and polling readers for each player.
The hype surrounding Adley Rutschman before his debut last year was so massive that sometimes it made me nervous. He couldn’t actually end up as good as all that, could he? Once his spring training injury healed and he was ready to play for the Orioles, he spent the rest of the year answering the question definitively. Not only could he actually be that good, he might even be better.
Any sketched scenario for the 2023 Orioles that leads to the team being at least as good as they were last year is going to prominently feature Rutschman living up to the hype again. It’s a necessary condition. The O’s went 60-47 in Rutschman’s starts last year, a 91-win pace over a full season. When he did not play, they were 23-32, which is a pace for 68 wins. Anyone paying attention last year is well aware that this was not a coincidence.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Rutschman ending up as the team’s best hitter last season. Even if you weren’t worried about Rutschman’s hype going the way of Matt Wieters, you probably didn’t expect that. Rutschman batted .254/.362/.445. He led the team in on-base percentage. Only Anthony Santander exceeded his slugging percentage. No one else exceeded an .800 OPS.
Here are three projections about Rutschman from two of the big baseball stat websites, Baseball Reference and FanGraphs:
- ZiPS: .262/.363/.460
- Steamer: .252/.352/.422 (both from FanGraphs)
- Marcel: .255/.349/.432 (from Baseball Reference)
There’s some variety just within this little group, as there’s a gap of 49 points of OPS between the two FG projections. I like using ZiPS, and will use it as the main reference point in this series, because its creator, Dan Szymborski, is Maryland-raised and has strong opinions about pit beef sandwiches. I also think he’s the most open about the process for his system. ZiPS is very optimistic about Adley, projecting a 5.8 WAR season.
The case for the over
One might argue that the full season performance for Rutschman last year does not reflect his ongoing talent. That’s assuming, that is, that his first month in the big leagues, in which he did not hit very well, was an adjustment period that he’s now past. I don’t think that’s an outrageous assumption.
Rutschman debuted on May 19; from the day he hit his first MLB home run on June 15 on through the rest of the season, Rutschman batted .272/.384/.488 over 93 games. That’s a bit more than a half-season’s sample size, but it’s an encouraging one. If that 3.5 month stretch for Rutschman is the real Rutschman, he can beat the projections.
The case for the under
Rutschman could hit exactly as well as he did over the whole season last year, which we would all consider amazing, and that would still be below this optimistic ZiPS projection. And that’s assuming that everything goes right!
There could be a minor injury that saps his performance even as he plays through it for a couple of weeks. He could be dragged down further by his batting splits against lefties, against whom he only mustered a .552 OPS last year. It wouldn’t take much to knock him off course against an optimistic projection than this.
What do you think? Vote in the poll and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Will Adley Rutschman go over or under his ZiPS projected .823 OPS in 2023?
This poll is closed
Tomorrow: Cole Irvin