Baltimore Orioles 2022 Season Previewby Andrew Atkins March 21, 2022 0 comments
Despite finishing the 2021 season as the worst team in Major League Baseball, the Baltimore Orioles are a very intriguing team. Heading into the 2022 season, the Orioles have the top catching prospect in all of baseball in Adley Rutschman and the top pitching prospect in Grayson Rodriguez. They also have a top-rated farm system that features numerous players on the verge of making their big-league debuts. It is more than likely that several of these big-name prospects will play in Baltimore at some point in 2022. The Orioles already have several key Major League players in Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, and John Means. The influx of these prospects will help them to begin to seriously compete in the American League East sooner than most people think.
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The Orioles have been openly criticized for not being particularly active in the offseason the past few years. That being said, they have wisely used this time to become huge players in the international free-agent market. They have also rebuilt their depleted farm system and changed the culture of Orioles baseball. Believe it or not, the Orioles are committed to winning and they will soon return to their winning ways under the current front office. Nevertheless, the O’s have handed out three Major League contracts so far this offseason and they should each hopefully make a positive impact in 2022.
Jordan Lyles, RHP, One Year/$7 million
The main struggle for Baltimore in 2021 was the pitching staff. The Orioles signed Lyles to help shore up this weakness, at least until their plethora of pitching prospects are ready to make their Major League debuts. The deal, which includes a club option, was agreed upon back in December but did not become official until this month due to the lockout. The 31-year-old joins the Orioles after logging a career-high 180 innings, 146 punchouts, and posting a 5.15 ERA for the Texas Rangers in 2021. Across 11 seasons, Lyles has posted a 54-79 record and totaled 878 strikeouts over 1,147 ⅓ innings. Before pitching for the Rangers, the 6-foot-5 righty spent time with the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lyles should slot in behind Means in the Baltimore rotation.
Rougned Odor, 2B, One Year/$700,000
In an attempt to regain his old form, Odor signed a Major League deal with the Orioles. The left-handed hitter spent his first seven seasons in the majors with the Rangers before joining the New York Yankees in 2021. The O’s middle infield situation has no guaranteed starters, so Odor will have an opportunity to earn some decent playing time. Across eight seasons in the majors, Odor has slashed .234/.289/.433, collected 497 RBIs, and slugged 161 home runs in 960 games. His best season came in 2016 when he smashed a career-high 33 home runs and slashed .271/.296/.502. Hopefully, Odor will find his power stroke at Camden Yards because he has already had three seasons with 30 or more home runs. Despite being in the league for so long, Odor is still only 28 years old. He could earn himself a good contract next year with a solid season in Baltimore.
Robinson Chirinos, C, One Year/$900,000
The plan in the very near future is for Rutschman to be the Baltimore backstop and be there awhile. That being said, Chirinos gives the Orioles a dependable, veteran presence in the clubhouse and to their young pitching staff. With Rutschman dealing with a minor injury in Spring Training, Chirinos will likely be the Opening Day starter behind the dish. In 2021, the 37-year-old backstop appeared in 45 games for the Chicago Cubs. Here he slashed .227/.324/.454 with five home runs across just 97 at-bats.
Chirinos did boast some power back when he was a regular starter, hitting at least 17 home runs a season between 2017 and 2019. In his 10-year career, the Venezuelan native has appeared in 647 games, slashed .231/.325/.432, and was a member of the 2019 Astros team that made it to the World Series. Even after Rutschman gets called up to Baltimore, Chirinos will make for a very capable backup catcher.
One positive of the Orioles fielding a young and inexperienced team is that they did not lose too many players to free agency. Many of the Baltimore free agents have yet to sign with another ball club. The most notable subtraction came late last summer when longtime first baseman Chris Davis announced his retirement due to injury. Davis of course famously slugged his way to signing a seven-year, $161 million contract in 2016 and then promptly had his production take a turn for the worse. Here are their other notable losses this offseason.
Pedro Severino, C, Milwaukee Brewers
The most notable subtraction of the Orioles offseason, Severino inked a one-year, $1.9 million deal with the Brewers before the lockout started. During three seasons in Baltimore, the right-handed hitter slashed .249/.315/.397 across 257 games. Severino has a good arm behind the dish, nabbing 28% of would-be base stealers in his career. However, he led the league in passed balls in both 2020 and 2021. Severino was a solid player in Baltimore. Rutschman will likely make his debut this season so the O’s went with the cheaper stopgap option in Chirinos.
Matt Harvey, RHP, Free Agent
The right-hander nicknamed “The Dark Knight” signed a one-year, minor-league deal with the Orioles back in February 2021. Harvey was far from the pitcher he was as a young New York Met, but he ended up making the Baltimore roster and led the team in starts with 28. Unfortunately, he did not fare too well on the mound in those starts. Harvey posted a 6-14 record and a 6.27 ERA across 127 ⅔ innings in 2021. Opposing batters slashed .299/.348/.481 against him as well. To his credit, he ate innings for the Orioles and had a couple of strong outings. Harvey is currently a free agent and his future in the league is uncertain due to his involvement in the Tyler Skaggs opioid tragedy.
The Orioles will be a fun team to watch in 2022. As mentioned, they already have some exciting and young pieces set to be on the 26-man roster this spring. The most exciting player is likely Mullins, who had a breakout year in 2021. The center fielder ditched switch-hitting last spring to focus solely on his left-handed swing. It paid off in a big way. He is still only 27 years old, so another All-Star-caliber season should cement him in the Baltimore outfield when the prospects begin to get called up.
On the other hand, other outfielders on the roster need to prove that they should not be replaced by the likes of Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers when they are ready to be called up. These Orioles include DJ Stewart, Ryan McKenna, and Yusniel Diaz. These three need to put together impressive seasons to earn a future with the ballclub.
Means will be another exciting player to watch this season. He started off the 2021 campaign on a complete tear, going 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA and a 0.796 WHIP through the season’s first 52 games. He also tossed a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on May 5, striking out 12 in the effort. A strained left shoulder sidelined Means for some time. Subsequently, he was not able to truly regain this dominant form when he returned to the mound. He ended up finishing the season with a 3.62 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and 134 strikeouts over 146 ⅔ innings. If Means can get his ERA down to under 3.50 and keep his throwing arm healthy, he will fare very well for the Orioles in the AL East.
With so many prospects on the verge of the majors, several Orioles who play well in the first half of the season may get dealt at the 2022 trade deadline. Switch-hitting outfielder Anthony Santander falls into this category, although a very solid season could keep him in Baltimore’s plans. That being said, this season’s success will fall on how well the Oriole pitching staff fares. The pitchers must prove that they deserve a spot on the team in the future. D.L. Hall, Kyle Bradish, and Mike Baumann are all on the 40-man roster, so their Baltimore debuts are imminent. This means that pitchers such as Keegan Akin, Alexander Wells, and Bruce Zimmermann need to put together some quality starts in 2022.
An extremely optimistic prediction would be for the top prospects to force their way onto the Baltimore roster and for the team to finish around .500. This scenario would be amazing for the Orioles but unfortunately is unlikely to occur. To make matters worse, the other four AL East teams each won at least 90 games last season. It does not help the Orioles that the majority of their schedule consists of these playoff-caliber teams.
While these teams have all gotten stronger, Baltimore’s core players should make big strides this season. However, the Orioles will likely finish with around 100 losses in 2022, but they should not be the worst team in baseball. This would be a big improvement on their 2021 season and a huge step in the right direction. Once the top prospects get settled in the majors, it will be a quick turnaround to see the Orioles compete for a playoff spot.
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