One thing that I can always count on receiving as a Christmas gift is an Orioles calendar for the coming new year. Maybe you also have a relative like this. They know you are an Orioles fan and they think everyone needs a calendar and won’t buy one for themselves, so that’s an easy one that can probably be found at a mall kiosk, for anyone who’s still near to a thriving mall.
The annual Orioles calendar is in its own way a sign of the improved fortunes of the team. With twelve months of the year, there are twelve players who get featured photos for a month. A few years ago, in the depths of despair, it was a lot of, “Really, that guy?” choices being made. They weren’t all bad, but they were mostly bad.
You might have expected last year to be the year where the calendar would start to pick up on some of the team’s improved talent. It did, sort of, but apparently the production timelines of the calendar were not enough for them to get the idea to include Adley Rutschman (May 21 debut) on the 2023 calendar. In lieu of Rutschman, the 2023 Orioles calendar had such accomplished players as Bruce Zimmermann, Zac Lowther, and Keegan Akin.
The production also did not have enough time for the publisher to realize they probably shouldn’t include Tanner Scott on the 2023 calendar, being as Scott was traded in April 2022. In fairness, Scott turned out to have a pretty good 2023 season, just for Miami, finally firing off a BB/9 that wasn’t just under 6 but was under 3.
It does not seem like it should be too much to ask to not have a calendar include players who were gone nine months before a year began. Except, when it comes to these calendars, it is too much to ask. The year before, the 2022 calendar included three players who were already dumped from the organization some time in 2021, one as early as May.
The well-meaning people buying these calendars for Orioles fan relatives are not likely to check before purchasing. Some good news for them, if we are entering a period with relative roster continuity, is that the calendars might have fewer duds going forward. Let’s see how the calendar-making gnomes managed on the 2024 Orioles calendar.
January - Anthony Santander
It’s never a bad thing when your leadoff batter gets a hit. Not that Santander was ever a leadoff batter last year, nor should he ever be, but for the month of January in a calendar, including a guy who’s led the team in home runs for each of the past two seasons is a nice start. With an August 2017 debut, he’s also the current Oriole whose tenure with the big league team stretches back the farthest.
As a player who is a free agent after this season where it does not feel like the Orioles would try to keep him, this should be Santander’s last year to be included on an Orioles calendar, but who knows if the people responsible for a 2025 calendar will ever even be aware of this. If Santander hits at least 30 home runs this season, he’ll be in the top 15 on the O’s career list.
February - Félix Bautista
Everyone is allowed a moment to be sad about the fact that Bautista isn’t going to pitch for the Orioles in 2024. (heavy sigh) Okay. If we are willing to forgive the calendar that was in all probability already printed before Bautista was known to need Tommy John surgery, then this is as good of a pick as you can get. A 2023 All-Star gets a month on the 2024 team calendar. Like, duh.
Random sorta-Bautista-related question that my wife and I were thinking about a couple of weeks ago: Will the Orioles give Craig Kimbrel the whole stadium light show entrance right off the bat on Opening Day or his first home save opportunity?
March - Tyler Wells
Among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings, there was only one who had a lower WHIP than Wells. That’s New York’s Gerrit Cole, who was the unanimous AL Cy Young winner. If Wells had pitched a full season like he did in April through June, it might have been interesting to see how he was judged at the end, because his peripheral stats (particularly a 4.98 FIP) were way worse than his results. As we know, he ran into a wall in July and the team didn’t let him stick around in the rotation to break through that wall.
For the purpose of judging this calendar, though, this is a decent pick. Wells had a good first half last year and whether he ends up as the fifth starter or a back-end bullpen option for 2024 he’s going to be a part of whether the O’s can meet expectations or not.
April - Ramón Urías
Assuming that Urías is on the team at some point this year, it will be his fifth season with the Orioles. It doesn’t feel like he’s been around that long! With the plethora of O’s infield prospects around, it was tough to project a starting role for Urías last year and it’s even tougher this year now that Gunner Henderson is ensconced at third and Jackson Holliday seems to be headed for an early debut.
This is our first guy where I’m not sure he’ll even be on the team when his month rolls around. Urías isn’t really versatile enough to be a utility guy, doesn’t really hit well enough to be a platoon bat, and so on. Still, at 1.8 bWAR and just slightly more than a half-season’s worth of plate appearances last year, he can get some value, so he could just as easily stick around another year.
May - Ryan Mountcastle
When I wrote about the 2022 Orioles calendar, I said of Mountcastle, “An eventually better Orioles team might re-evaluate if they want more OBP out of (a 1B/DH), but we’re not there yet.” We’re getting closer to that point, especially since Mountcastle had some tough stretches in 2023 that led to him finishing the year with just 18 homers. The left field wall is not going to go back to what it was in 2021 when he hit 33 dingers.
Not the most exciting player appearing on the calendar, but a completely justifiable pick. Still batting 1.000 here, which given this calendar’s recent history is impressive.
June - Dean Kremer
It’s been three months since it happened and it still sucks to think about Kremer’s ALDS start that put the final nail in the coffin of the 2023 Orioles. That wasn’t fun. But in the season that got the Orioles to that point, he was a perfectly fine 3/4 starting pitcher. Carrying that forward into this season is going to be important, especially if the team doesn’t end up adding a quality pitcher from outside the organization.
July - Cedric Mullins
In a different, darker timeline, the Orioles never started improving in 2022 and Mullins was probably dealt to a contender at the deadline last year. Thankfully, that’s not the timeline of baseball that we have experienced. The organization’s longest-tenured player (2015 draft) has notched 12.9 WAR since the start of the 2020 season, including his 30/30 homer/stolen base All-Star season in 2021.
Mullins hasn’t equaled that 2021 performance since then, but as far as this calendar goes, this is a whole lot better than having Rio Ruiz get a month two years ago.
August - Adley Rutschman
Was there an easier choice than Adley? Okay, you could say that Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Bradish might have been easier choices, fine. We haven’t seen their names yet, but spoiler: They’re coming. There is nothing bad to say about him. If he’s not an easy choice for this calendar every year through 2027 then something has gone horribly wrong.
September - Austin Hays
The Orioles had four All-Stars last year and Austin Hays was one of them. That’s still awesome. Hays has been worth at least 2 WAR every one of the past three seasons. I never quite believe that he’s going to be healthy/good again the next season, and that’s still where I am. For the purpose of this calendar as far as anyone can predict here in the early days of 2024, though, an excellent pick.
October - Kyle Stowers
It’s taken to the tenth month of the year to arrive at what seems to be a dud. That was an impressive run for whoever put together this calendar. Stowers has basically been forgotten as the Hays/Mullins/Santander trio all continued to play well, the whole team improved so those guys didn’t get traded, and younger outfield prospects like Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad have pushed onto the 40-man roster.
My wife still makes fun of me about my having game recap duty on what has ended up being pretty much the only good game of Stowers’s MLB career and I forgot to put him on the Most Birdland Player poll. Sorry, Kyle.
November - Kyle Bradish
Bradish finished fourth in the Cy Young voting last year, and you can make a strong case that he had a better season than the guy who finished third. The Orioles weren’t winning 101 games without him. The only easier pick for a featured month is Henderson.
December - Gunnar Henderson
...and here he is. I don’t know that putting a player in December is like making him the anchor person on a 4x100 relay team. It might be fun to see great players on a month where the team is actually playing games. But let’s not be too picky. At least we didn’t end up with Austin Voth or someone of that ilk.
Honestly, if they swapped out Stowers for Grayson Rodriguez, this would pretty much be a perfect set of players for the 2024 calendar. I hope that Rodriguez puts together a 2024 that only makes this one oversight even more embarrassing as the year goes along. I also hope to be indignant this time a year from now when Holliday is inevitably not included in a 2025 calendar lineup.
Even considering the Rodriguez omission, there are 12 months of the year and 11 of those months have an Oriole who’s had some kind of quality season at the MLB level before. Things have gotten better around here and the 2024 Orioles calendar is one more sign that shows everyone that it’s happening.