The coming Orioles season seemed a lot more exciting when the last one ended than it does right now. Fresh off the surprising 83-win season and buoyed by Mike Elias comments that seemed to suggest a more aggressive offseason was coming, we were riding high in Birdland for a little while there.
In reality, Elias’s actions did not match what I assumed he meant. How much you’re mad at him probably determines whether you think he should be described as a liar, an equivocator, or perhaps just a guy who’s oblivious to how much the fanbase will get excited by any mildly positive thing he says. Now the Orioles season won’t even begin with top pitching prospects DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez in the rotation.
It could have gone better. Instead of making a significant splash for a starting pitcher on a multi-year contract, the Orioles got Kyle Gibson. Rather than challenge one of the high-minors infield prospects from the well-regarded farm system like Joey Ortiz or Jordan Westburg, they signed can’t-hit veteran Adam Frazier, also seeming to displace 2022 Gold Glover Ramón Urías. And unrelated to the roster, the owner said a bunch of dumb stuff and is also reportedly looking to sell stadium naming rights.
All that there is to do now is hope for the best from the players who have made it to the 2023 Opening Day Orioles roster. If the recent past is an indication, this will not be the end-of-season roster, and the organization’s depth will be tested as injuries and poor play strike unexpectedly, or if the poor play happens to Frazier, completely expectedly. Hopefully the prospects we aren’t getting to see around at the end of March will be ready and able to step in when needed.
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 2023 Orioles
- Your biggest concern that would stop the Orioles from making the playoffs
- Your guess about the O’s final regular season record
- One wild prediction (big or small) that you think will happen with the Orioles this season
Here’s what we thought:
John: Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez finish 1-2 in Rookie of the Year voting. A near-flawless debut season for Adley Rutschman last year saw the Orioles get closer to the playoffs than we ever imagined they could. If this year’s mega prospects Henderson and Rodriguez can put together similarly successful seasons this year, the O’s should challenge for a playoff spot again—this time getting the job done.
Alex: The easy answer is a playoff appearance. If that’s too obvious, let’s go with DL Hall making it as a starter. I don’t care if he needs to begin the year at Norfolk. I want that guy taking the ball every fifth day with his control issues behind him.
Mark: I want to start to see the core of a team that will be competitive from now through at least 2026 take shape. For me, that means getting at least one good outfielder from the Cowser/Kjerstad/Stowers group, another good infielder on top of Gunnar Henderson, and at least two quality starting pitchers emerging among those who have less than two years of MLB service time right now.
Tyler: The starting rotation builds on their improvements from last season and looks like a genuine strength by the end of the year. To me that means Rodriguez, Kremer, and Bradish all look like long-term fixtures that Mike Elias will surely add to...eventually.
Paul: It feels weird to be saying this, but...I can realistically hope that the Orioles make the playoffs and go on a deep run, if not win the whole thing. This is a refreshing change from previous seasons, when the best we could hope for is that the O’s would at least be somewhat entertaining before inevitably getting eliminated in mid-August.
Andrea: Duh, my biggest hope for the 2023 Orioles is that they make the playoffs! That might include trading for one more starting pitcher, someone like Minnesota’s Pablo López.
Stacey: Playoffs, baby!
Stacey: They just don’t have the pitching. Kyle Gibson, really? Give me a break with that. They needed to get more pitching and it’ll come back to hurt them that they didn’t.
John: Pitcher health. Last year there were significant injuries to John Means and Grayson Rodriguez. Already this year, there have been knocks to Dillon Tate, Felix Bautista and DL Hall. Pitching overall is still not a strength for the O’s, but it should be good enough to get Baltimore close to their goals. However, if their are significant injuries in the rotation or bullpen, the pitching staff could easily be the anchor that weighs down the Orioles’ playoff hopes.
Andrea: As usual, the rotation, i.e. that some version of this happens: Kyle Gibson turns out to be a worse version of Jordan Lyles, Kyle Bradish continues to be a boom-and-bust type, G-Rod keeps up his spring training trend of mixing lots of K’s with one-inning implosions, and/or John Means returns in July with a lot of rust. But — that’s a lot of “ifs” and there’s more pitcher depth this year than usual, especially if DL Hall progresses well at Triple-A.
Paul: That the Orioles’ lack of spending this past offseason, particularly in the starting rotation market, will come back to haunt them. They might not have the pitching depth to keep up with the AL’s biggest contenders.
Mark: I’m worried that we’re going to spend a disappointingly long time this season putting up with craptacular offense in the middle infield spots while prospects who feel like they’d be an improvement are languishing in the minors. Adam Frazier, I’m looking mostly (but not only) at you. And at Mike Elias for signing you.
Tyler: Gunnar Henderson playing like the rookie that he is. It’s not even a knock against Henderson! I think he will still be a net positive for the team, and long-term he will be great. But it’s also understandable that a 21-year-old struggles a little bit in his first full season. And while this Orioles’ lineup is improved from the recent past, they still need everyone firing on all cylinders to make a strong playoff push, and there will be loads of pressure on Henderson to be a mid-lineup force.
Alex: Bullpen injuries and regressions. Multiple relievers are already battling injuries, and a few are prime for regressions. Baltimore could run out of lefties in a hurry if Cionel Pérez and Keegan Akin stumble.
Orioles record predictions
No one predicted a winning Orioles record last year. The writer who came the closest was Stacey with her 72-90 guess.
Alex: 90-72. 90 wins feels like another milestone. Is it enough to clinch a wild card spot?
Paul: 82-80. Above .500, but not quite enough to make the postseason.
Tyler: 83-79, again.
Mark: 81-81. Sorry.
Select expert/computer predictions
FanGraphs: 78-84 (last year: 65-97)
PECOTA: 75-87 (last year: 61-101)
A random sportsbook that operates in Maryland: Over/under 76.5 wins (over favored)
Our wild guesses
Bonus points to Stacey as well as to me. We each made correct wild guesses last year. Stacey predicted the Orioles would finish in fourth ahead of the Red Sox, and I predicted the Orioles would have a winning month prior to August. I’m on a two-year streak of good guesses after predicting Ryan Mountcastle would lead the 2021 Orioles in home runs, so double bonus to me. How did your wild guess from last year turn out?
Tyler: The Orioles send more than one player to the All-Star Game for the first time since 2016. Instead, they send three! My guesses: Rutschman, Bautista, Santander.
Alex: Joey Ortiz beats Jordan Westburg to the majors. He’s already on the 40-man roster and his glove is a difference maker.
Stacey: Kyle Bradish will be the best starter at the end of the season.
John: Gunnar Henderson becomes the second 30/30 player in Orioles franchise history.
Andrea: The Orioles will have three All-Stars this season for the first time since 2016 (and they will be at catcher, OF, and closer).
Mark: By season’s end, at least one of the following will no longer be in the Orioles organization: Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander.
Paul: Cedric Mullins bests his 30-30 season from two years ago by going 30-40 this time: 30 homers, 40+ steals.
So that’s what all of us think. How about you? Put your bold guesses below in the comments so that when they come true, you can point everyone back here to when you called it all the way before the season even began.