The biggest news to come out of the Orioles camp this year was probably an injury – for a player who has never appeared in a big league game.
Catcher Adley Rutschman was sidelined with a triceps problem. It didn’t sound like a major setback for the former No. 1 overall draft pick, but after a season with 110 losses in 2021, Baltimore is hungry for signs of hope for the future. Rutschman’s arrival in the majors – whenever it happens – is a moment for the franchise and its fans to look forward to.
“I think it’s an extremely small mistake for a man who will have a long career,” said manager Brandon Hyde after Rutschman was injured. “I look forward to being there when he is healthy. I think yes, he makes us better.”
In Rutschman and right-handed Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles have two of the game’s best prospects. This is likely to be another tough season in Baltimore, but that’s a foundation they can hope to build on.
There will be other players to watch this season, but in terms of the long-term future of the team, Rutschman and Rodriguez will be under a microscope. Rutschman is number 2 in prospects according to MLB Pipeline, and Rodriguez is number 6. Detroit is the only other two-player franchise in the top 10.
It wasn’t a particularly exciting off-season for the Orioles, but they added righthander Jordan Lyles to try and boost a pitching staff that finished last in the majors in ERA last year.
Lyles went 10-13 last season with a 5.15 ERA for the Texas Rangers.
Baltimore also acquired second baseman Rougned Odor, who hit .202 with 15 homeruns and 39 RBI’s in 102 games with the New York Yankees.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Rutschman last year reached Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .312 in 43 games. Rodriguez was 6-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Bowie.
Besides those two, the second best prospects in Baltimore’s system according to MLB Pipeline are infielder Gunnar Henderson (64th) and outfielder Colton Cowser (66th). Of those two, only Henderson has reached Double-A.
Rodriguez was sent to the minor league camp, but general manager Mike Elias indicated he could work his way up quickly.
“He’s going to make some starts in the minor leagues,” Elias said. “With pitchers, we have a pretty good idea of how their stuff will translate. If he ticks a few boxes, I don’t think there’s much to prove there.”
The Orioles will have the chance to add another big name to their system when they pick first in the draft again this summer. A new draft lottery system will go into effect in 2023, but that doesn’t take away this year’s top picks from Baltimore, which tied with Arizona for worst record in the majors in 2021.
Outfielder Cedric Mullins was a bright spot for the Orioles last year, hitting .291 with 30 homeruns and 30 steals and finishing ninth in the American League MVP voting. Now, 27-year-old Mullins will try to show that it was no fluke. It was the first time he had played more than 48 games in a season for the Orioles.
His performance last year was all the more impressive since Mullins underwent bowel surgery in November 2020 after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“I think as the year progressed last year, everyone was amazed at what he was doing,” Hyde said. “He just kept it up all season. I’m excited. I hope he can build on that.”
John Means last season threw a no-hitter and registered a 3.62 ERA in 26 starts for the Orioles. They will look to him to direct the rotation again.
The Orioles announced a major change to their home baseball park in January — they moved the left field wall back to give pitchers a reprieve. That will be a storyline to watch early in the season as right-handed power hitters find it now takes a longer ride to reach the seats.
Baltimore hit 122 home runs at home and 73 on the road last year. Orioles pitchers left 155 home runs at home and 103 on the road.
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