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2023 Orioles vs. projections: Cionel Pérez

Cionel Pérez contributed beyond our expectations in 2022. Can he keep it up?

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

When the Orioles claimed Cionel Pérez off of waivers in November 2021, it didn’t raise much interest among Orioles fans. The only note on Camden Chat of the transaction came when Mark Brown posted a link about it on Thanksgiving day with the comment, “Mike Elias and company snuck in one last 40-man roster move before Thanksgiving, claiming a former Astros prospect who’s got a 6.04 career ERA across parts of four MLB seasons. So... he’ll fit right in.”

Of course, there was no way to know back then how big a piece of the puzzle Pérez would end up being in the Orioles’ first winning season since 2016. It was easy to look at his unsuccessful 2021 season with the Reds and not give him a second thought. But as we came to find out, the former Astros’ brain trust now housed in Baltimore had been big fans of Pérez for some time. They were responsible for bringing him to Houston, where he spent time as a highly-rated prospect. And when they spied him on the waiver wire, they snapped him up.

It turned out to be an excellent decision. The lefty was an integral part of the surprisingly good bullpen and the excitement that exuded from his every pore on the mound was contagious. He was joyful to watch.

In 2022, Pérez led the Orioles; relief corps with a 1.40 ERA and was second in appearances. His 66 fell one short of Dillon Tate’s 67. He was effective against both lefties and righties and became a go-to high-leverage option for manager Brandon Hyde.

If this new and improved Cionel is here to stay, the projections aren’t yet ready to believe it. I’m not ready to believe he’ll be as good as he was last year. But the good news is he can be worse than he was in 2022 and still be a positive contributor.

ZiPS is especially down on Pérez’s season, but all three paint the picture of a player who isn’t nearly as dominant as what we saw last season.

The case for the over

It’s reasonable that Pérez will have a less successful season than last year. Being a relief pitcher is hard, and he was really good. RPs are notoriously volatile from year to year, and Pérez doesn’t have the track record to support what he did last year as the new norm.

In the case of the Marcel projections, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where Pérez mostly has a good year and still ends up on the north end of that ERA. It would still stink though.

The case for the under

Pérez can be quite a bit worse than he was last year and still come in under the projections given, And having watched him pitch, it’s hard to imagine him being as bad, ERA-wise, as the projections state. It’s a pretty big leap from 1.40 to 3.21.

But just as Pérez doesn’t have the track record to be certain about his ability to repeat his incredible 2022 season, he also doesn’t have a long enough record for us to know for certain that he can’t be good again. He was highly coveted as a free agent after his defection from Cuba, he was once a highly-rated prospect in the Astros’ system, and he’s still just 26 years old.


Will Cionel Pérez be over or under his Marcel projection of a 3.21 ERA?

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Monday: Jorge Mateo