Saturday, December 17, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Orioles


I want to make something clear. I always want the Baltimore Orioles to do well. Baseball's better when the Orioles are good. They're always so fun and I enjoy rooting for them. I like when Adam Jones runs around the bases and smiles. 

So 2022, where the O's managed to ride a youth movement to an 83-79 record regardless of an AL East death sentence, was a very enjoyable year for me. The Orioles took their low budget and outdid the Red Sox, who'd spent all that money on Trevor Story. It was incredible. Yes, they still lost out on a playoff spot, but to be honest, they laid the foundation for several more seasons of .500+ work, and that's all that matters.

Jordan Lyles, after a few seasons of decent stuff in Arlington, was meant to be the lynchpin of this young rotation, and be the veteran arm that led things without having to be too terrific himself. Lyles started all 32 games, had a 4.42 ERA, 144 Ks and 12 wins. Not terrible, even if he wasn't terrific. He did manage to get an awesome complete game win out of it, which is pretty cool. 
2023 Prediction: With Kyle Gibson filling the veteran arm role in Baltimore, I don't think Lyles will return to that rotation. If anything, I think he'll go back to Pittsburgh, where things went well enough for him in 2019. 
But, what's most important is that after Lyles, the O's employed several homegrown, young pitchers to carry the load and they DID. Dean Kremer, who'd struggled in the past few seasons, had a great season in 2022, with 8 wins and a 3.23 ERA in 18 games. Kremer's 2.8 WAR is the highest of any O's starter this year. For a guy people had already written off, this is a great start.
2023 Prediction: I'm still not sure if John Means will be healthy by the start of the season, but if he isn't, there's gonna be a competition to see which of these guys most resembles an ace. I think Kremer's gonna have the most success of that, and therefore have the best season of any of them next year.

The Orioles, waiting for Gunnar Henderson to come to prominence, signed Rougned Odor for a year, thinking eventually they wouldn't need him. Odor played 135 games this year. So they needed him, I guess. Odor did his usual thing, being more known for his flashiness and power perks than being good at defense, or even offense. He hit .207 with 53 RBIs and 13 homers. Par for the course for the guy. 
2023 Prediction: His days of starting for good teams are likely over. Either he's backing somebody up or he's starting somewhere like Oakland or Washington.

Kyle Bradish may not have been the most on-target of the young O's pitchers, with a 4-7 record and a 4.90 ERA, but Bradish throws hard and struck out 111, leading the rotation in SO/9 with 8.5. Bradish looks like one of those hard-throwing work-horses that up and coming teams need at least one of.
2023 Prediction: If he doesn't blow out his arm by June, he'll hit 200 Ks and be starting Game 2 of a Wild Card series.

Spenser Watkins was one of the few real starting weapons from 2021 that made much of an impact this year. Watkins started 20 games and had a 4.70 ERA, and was a solid low-rotation asset for the team. At 29, he's one of the older members of this youth movement, and therefore one of the more risky ones going forward.
2023 Prediction: Has the highest probability of getting dealt for room, sad to say.

Austin Voth, the former Nationals farmhand, impressed Orioles fans midseason with some unexpected prowess in starting scenarios, with a 3.04 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 22 games, 17 of them starts. Call him the Chris Ellis of this year, because he took some innings late into the season when no one expected him to.
2023 Prediction: I see him taking more of a relief role next year, but he'll get some starts if someone gets injured.
The Orioles' main bullpen asset that...wasn't Jorge Lopez or Felix Bautista was former Astros bullpen guy Cionel Perez. Perez was statistically the O's best pitcher this year, with a 1.40 ERA, 7 wins and only 9 runs allowed in 58 innings. In a bullpen of similar threats, Perez was a helpfully deadly bullpen presence that made himself known after years of subtle work.
2023 Prediction: I think he's gonna make an All-Star team next year, even if he doesn't get the ninth, which, with Bautista, is likely.

Though not the starriest Baltimore rookie of the year, Terrin Vavra raised eyebrows late in the year as a helpful utility/DH piece. In 40 games he hit .258 with 12 RBIs and 23 hits, which is a decent start.
2023 Prediction: I think Vavra is gonna get some decent reps next year, but not as a starter, at least not initially. 
And then there's Gunnar Henderson. People were waiting to see what he could do in the majors. He finally came up in August, and he hit .259, with 30 hits, 18 RBIs and 4 homers, in addition to making great infield plays. Having Henderson and Rutchman up and surging is a very good thing, and is another thing that makes the 2023 team so shockingly intimidating. 
2023 Prediction: Serious AL ROY contender, look for 150 hits and a .300 average.

Tomorrow- a few extra Padres I didn't get to when they were eliminating all the 100+ win teams.

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