Coming off a 3 game sweep in Cincinnati, the Baltimore Orioles are 23-11 overall.
Before the Birds begin a 2 game series in DC vs. the Nationals, some thoughts on what we’ve seen from the O’s so far here in ’24.

Quick Takes: 

1) That 23-11 record equates to a .676 winning percentage. A .676 winning percentage means the Birds are on a 110 win pace. The O’s won 101 games last year. I came into this ’24 season believing the Orioles might have a better team than last year, but not necessarily win as many games.  Are they going to eclipse last year’s win total?

2) As of May 6th, the Orioles are 3rd overall in in Runs Scored, 2nd in Slugging Percentage, and 5th in Earned Run Average.  Baseball Prospectus has the O’s 10th overall in Defensive Runs Prevented. One number that needs improvement, is that the Orioles are just 16th overall in On-Base %.

3) Seeing Kyle Bradish and John Means both rejoin the O’s rotation and look strong in their initial starts was uplifting. Considering the O’s went the first month without them, the start the O’s have had this year is even more impressive.  As fun as it was seeing them back with the Birds, it was equally exciting seeing that Grayson Rodriguez has already begun a throwing program. If Rodriguez works his way back as expected, and the O’s get regular starts here on out from Corbin Burnes, Bradish, Rodriguez, Means; that’s a very strong quartet.

4) Kudos to Cole Irvin for his recent run (0 er over his last 20 innings). Over ’21 and ’22, he started a lot of games for Oakland. His Baseball Savant page isn’t going to wow you (BB%, GB% aside), but the O’s don’t need him to continue to throw up zeros.  All you want from him and Dean Kremer, is to regularly give you a chance to win, and both are certainly doing that. As hard as it can be for ML teams to find effective viable starting pitching, the O’s are in this embarrassment of riches phase where one of these two (Irvin, and Kremer – likely Irvin) figures to be bumped from the rotation as soon as Rodriguez is activated. And that doesn’t even include Tyler Wells, who when healthy, is a better option than many other teams have available.  That’s not to say things can’t change in a hurry.  Maybe Rodriguez has a set-back? Maybe Bradish and Means have trouble staying available?  Wells has begun playing catch, but maybe his progress slows?  Right now though, the rotation and depth look strong.

5) Cedric Mullins had a .721 OPS in each of the last two seasons. He’s sporting a .665 OPS as of today through 107 ab’s.  The slugging % is in-line with expectations, the on-base % is not, largely because his batting average is down. His on-base needs to, and figures to improve.  His calling card right now though is his defense in CF, with his Outs Above Average remaining excellent.

6) Jackson Holliday got a quick cup-of-coffee in the bigs, struggling mightily over 34 ab’s (2 hits, 18 k’s) before being sent back to AAA.  I might have preferred to have kept him in the Majors, as I wanted to see him work his way through this early adversity. That said, I get sending him back to the Minors, especially if they saw things he needs to change mechanically. In his 10 game ML stretch, he was playing 2nd base, with Jordan Westburg getting regular time at 3rd. One ramification of him going back to Norfolk was that Westburg is getting more time at 2nd, maybe partly because Ramon Urias’ best defensive position is at 3rd.

Coby Mayo has a 1.003 OPS at Norfolk. Offensively, he certainly doesn’t appear to be being challenged in the International League.  Questions remain about Mayo’s defense however.  I’ve always seen Mayo’s Orioles future likely being him getting time at 1st, DH, and maybe RF.   That’s not going to happen right now with Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn, and Anthony Santander getting regular ab’s. Not to mention Adley Rutschman also needing sometime at DH.  So, if you wanted to promote Mayo, the current availability is for him to play at 3rd.  Unfortunately, despite having a strong arm, there are questions about Mayo’s ability to hold up defensively at 3rd. How much would Mayo have to outhit Urias to prefer Mayo, given Urias’ better (at-least perceived) glove?

I don’t know what the answer is there.  Urias is batting .196, and has a .521 OPS over 51 ab’s.
That’s clearly horrible.  But again it’s 51 ab’s, and the last three years have shown Urias to be a more productive bat than we’ve seen so far here in ’24.
I’d be curious to hear how the O’s currently evaluate Urias defense at 3rd.
In ’22, he won a Gold Glove, and was +7 at 3rd in Outs Above Average.
In ’23, the script flipped, and he was -10  at 3rd in OAA.
In ’24, his OAA is -1.

I think I’d be giving consideration to promoting Mayo, starting him at 3rd, and if need be – the O’s can make defensive changes in close and late situations.
My co-host on The Warehouse is Matt Kory.  Matt suggested one other reason to possibly hold Mayo back, is that the O’s could consider trading him, and you wouldn’t want to potentially hurt his value if he came up to the Majors and didn’t immediately hit the ground running.

7) As early as ’25, I continue like the idea of Wesburg at 3rd, Gunnar Henderson at SS, Holliday at 2nd, and Mayo at 1st / DH with one of Mountcastle, and O’Hearn.

8) The O’s have some quality arms in their bullpen.  After a tough series against Oakland, the bullpen was strong in the 4 game set vs. NY.  Jacob Webb gets a shoutout as he had multiple quality outings. Over the weekend in Cincinnati, we saw a rested Craig Kimbrel look excellent, and then a Kimbrel pitching on successive days struggle a bit.  Really what the current bullpen lacks is Felix Bautista, and sadly, there aren’t a whole lot of Felix’s to be found. He was dominant last year.  We said before the season, you couldn’t expect Kimbrel at his current age to be that.  That’s not fair.  You also knew Kimbrel had a reputation of being a guy that gets himself in trouble, and often finds a way out. I continue to be glad the O’s have him and his experience. I think that’s a good thing.  I’m also of the opinion that Kimbrel, and Yennier Cano at the back of the pen is not enough.

To clarify, if the rotation is as good as we think it can be over the remainder of this season, the existing O’s pen (potentially plus Wells) can be plenty good enough to win a whole lot of games.
That can be true, and simultaneously, one can look at the pen and imagine it being not good enough to get through multiple rounds of the post-season.
I have to believe it’s going to be a priority for O’s GM Mike Elias to upgrade the pen with at-least one high leverage reliever.
Some names we’ve thrown around at the message board, and on the podcast are:  Tanner Scott, Michael Kopech, Hunter Harvey, Mason Miller,  and Josh Hader.

9) Rutschman has a .324 batting average, and a .837 OPS. He’s destroying LHP right now, with a .482 batting average and 1.268 OPS in 56 ab’s vs. LHP.   Against RHP, he has a .217 batting average, and a .552 OPS. Rutschman is above average in his caught stealing percentage, but I’m not enamored with his arm. The arm strength is good, but there are a lot of errant throws. I figured he must have had an excellent pop time, but he’s currently 29th overall among MLB catchers.

10) Tomorrow Burnes will make his 8th start in an Oriole uniform. He turns 30 in October. If the O’s Ownership remained in the Angelos family, it would be hard to imagine the O’s finding an extension for the RH. Now under the majority control of David Rubenstein, it seems plausible to me that the O’s at-least make an attempt.  A 5 year deal would take Burnes into his mid 30s. Would you do that at the AAV he would figure to command? In-general, I think staying away from long-term extensions with anyone (but in-particular pitchers) on the wrong side of 30 is prudent. But given the O’s limited payroll obligations (even as some numbers will rise as players hit their arbitration years); I think there is an argument for making a strong pitch to Burnes to stay.  If you look at the O’s going forward, this is going to be a team this a perennial contender for years because of the positional core.  Locking up Burnes could be another key to sustained excellence.  Of course if you make him a strong offer, and he turns it down; in theory you’d still have that AAV money available to play with, and to find another strong rotation option via trade or Free Agency.

Chris Stoner
Chris Stoner

Owner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.

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