We are now two weeks from this season’s All-Star Game in Seattle and hope abounds when it comes to Birdland’s reputation. Adley Rutschman is one round of voting away from being named the starting catcher for the American League (if you haven’t already, Vote Adley). Félix Bautista’s utterly dominant first half of the 2023 season should make him the first reliever added to Dusty Baker’s bullpen.
Yennier Cano leads the Orioles in WAR and most prognosticators think the league’s most surprisingly dominant reliever will make a trip to Seattle. There’s also a fair amount of hope that AL batting leader Austin Hays will find his way onto the All-Star roster.
For the past five seasons the Orioles have been a one All-Star team. Some of those All-Stars—Manny Machado in 2018, Cedric Mullins in 2021—were more than deserving. They made the All-Star Game thanks to incredible seasons and both were starters. The other three seasons, the Orioles were among the teams that received a pity All-Star in line with the MLB’s rule that all teams must be represented at the Midsummer Classic.
The fact of the matter remains that having only one All-Star is a status symbol—or rather a lack of status symbol. While having multiple All-Stars is not a guarantee that a team will be competitive—just look at the Angels for proof—having a single representative is usually a great sign that your team is outside the realm of relevance.
You don’t have to look back far in Orioles’ history to a time when the O’s regularly sent multiple representatives to the All-Star Game. During the prime of the Buck Showalter era, Baltimore had multiple All-Stars in five consecutive seasons. Adam Jones was a four-time All-Star between 2012-2016. Machado and Matt Wieters each made three appearances during that stretch, while Zack Britton made back to back appearances in ‘15 and ‘16. Eight other Orioles made one appearance over that five season period—including Oriole Hall of Famer J.J. Hardy.
In two weeks, seeing multiple heads in Seattle donned with the orange and black will be more than just a welcome sight to all of Birdland. For those perhaps doubting the legitimacy of the Orioles’ start, having as many as four All-Stars will send a message that this 100-win pace the Orioles area maintaining is far from a fluke. The fact that all of these could-be All-Stars are under the age of 30 says that this won’t be the last time the O’s are at the center of the MLB consciousness.
For the players potentially participating, an appearance in Seattle has different layers of significance as well. For Rutschman, there are levels of poetic satisfaction to him making his first All-Star appearance in Seattle. A kid from the Pacific Northwest making his All-Star debut in the Emerald City feels sweet. That Adley should be starting in the same stadium where Cal made his last All-Star start/appearance is even sweeter.
The sweetest aspect of it all though is to know that the face of Baltimore’s franchise turnaround can go from MLB debutant to All-Star starter in a little over 13 months. It was easy to expect that Adley might one day be the best catcher in baseball. The fact that he’s already in that conversation during his first full season is further testament to Adley’s ability to continually help push this team into a new era faster than any could have imagined.
For Bautista, his first trip to the All-Star Game would be the culmination of his mountainous rise that began last season. It already seemed incredibly improbable when the man now known as the Mountain went from unheralded prospect to domineering closer of the course of the 2022 season. The fact that, in year two, the new King Félix is on track to shatter the K/9 record and is unquestionably the best reliever in baseball right now is bordering on the impossible.
Whereas Jorge López represented the O’s at the All-Star game last year and then faded back into relative obscurity, Bautista seems poised to hold his place at the peak of MLB relievers for some time to come. This undoubtedly wouldn’t be the Mountain’s only trip to the All-Star festivities. However, the fact that it’d be his first still feels like a great exemplification of how his performance has fundamentally changed this Orioles team.
Speaking of López, it’s easy to forget that Cano was just a throw-in player in the trade that sent Baltimore’s lone All-Star from last season to Minnesota. There is perhaps no player who has more greatly outperformed his expectations this season than the Orioles set-up man. Cano’s possible inclusion on the All-Star roster speaks more to the success of the Orioles’ approach at identifying and coaching pitching talent than it does just his individual confidence.
The fickle nature of relief pitchers makes it hard to have the same confidence in Cano that you have in Bautista eventually being a multi-time All-Star. After all, just last year Cionel Pérez and Dillon Tate were enjoying career years, while this season Tate isn’t on the major league roster and Pérez constantly seems like he’s one bad outing from getting the boot. So while there’s every possibility Cano may turn back into a pumpkin next year, we also shouldn’t be surprised if the Orioles’ pitching coaches can get him—or another reliever—to make another All-Star worthy run in 2024.
And then there’s Austin Hays. While Hays seems least like a sure thing to make the roster, it does not mean he’s the least deserving. The Orioles’ outfielder is second after Cano in WAR this season and leads all Orioles regulars in OPS. Hays is set to shatter his career bests in hits, runs scored, OBP, SLG and doubles. History is also on his side in that, of the 23 eventual batting champions this century, 19 were named All-Stars the same season they won the batting title.
Whether Hays makes the trip to Seattle or not, his breakout 2023 season is a testament to the patience the Orioles’ front office has shown with many of their key players. After battling injuries for the umpteenth time in 2022, Hays’s long term roster spot seemed shakier than ever heading into the 2023 season. Yet, with names like Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and more breathing down his neck, Hays has rewarded the organization’s patience and faith with the best performance of his career. Whether or not his peers choose to name him to the roster or he gets squeezed out by a pity All-Star, Hays undoubtedly deserves to represent Birdland in Seattle.
Even if the Orioles don’t get their full complement of deserving players to Seattle, no one can take away the huge milestone this year’s All-Star Game will represent for the rebirth of this franchise. When the Orioles were winning championships between 1966 and 1983, in only two of those 18 seasons did they have just one All-Star. The 2023 All-Star game will be the first opportunity to show that this O’s roster has returned to that standard.
How many Orioles will be on the AL All-Star Roster?
This poll is closed
More than 4