2021 was certainly not a great year for the Orioles offensively, as they ranked 26th in the MLB in total runs scored. With this behind us, we look toward the approaching 2022 season and project the Orioles’ starting lineup. While the key pieces remain intact, some new faces hope to contribute to the 2022 offensive attack. Oftentimes, future success is best predicted by advanced stats beyond just batting average, homeruns, or RBIs. With this in mind, let’s dig into the advanced stats for each player slated to be in the Orioles opening day lineup.
- Cedric Mullins (CF):
Mullins was one of the few bright spots of the Orioles 2021 season and was potentially the best part of being an Orioles fan last year. Mullins slashed his way to a .291/.360/.518 line all while playing a stellar center field in 2021. Mullins finished 7th in the MLB in WAR amongst qualified outfielders and top-10 in MVP voting. Mullins also won his first Silver Slugger award and started his first All-Star Game. While it is apparent that Mullins is truly a five-tool player, one advanced stat showed how truly elite he is in the outfield.
Advanced Stats: Mullins ranked in the 96th percentile in Baseball Savant’s ‘Outs Above Average’. This metric accounts for all individual plays a fielder has been credited with and ultimately measures the defensive range a player has and their ability to make difficult plays. Your eyes are not deceiving you, Mullins is a top flight defensive player in the league.
- Ryan Mountcastle (1B):
Mountcastle was another bright spot for the Orioles in 2021, slashing a respectable .255/.309/.487 as a rookie. Mountcastle showed impressive pop with his rookie-leading 33 home runs and ranked third among all rookies in slugging percentage. Other rookies like Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena might be more recognized across the league, but Mountcastle has proven himself to be an important building block in the Orioles’ future.
Advanced Stats: Mountcastle ranked 16th in the MLB among all qualified batters in Baseball Savant’s ‘Sweet Spot %’. This metric measures how often a player hits the ball with a launch angle ranging from 8 to 32 degrees – the optimal range for extra-base hits. Mountcastle’s swing and batted ball angles are ideal for prolonged offensive success.
- Anthony Santander (RF):
Santander had a largely disappointing 2021 campaign, batting .241/.286/.433 in a season Orioles fans were hoping would be a breakout after his impressive covid-shortened 2020. Despite this, advanced stats, specifically those related to plate discipline, point in a positive direction when comparing much of Santander’s 2021 numbers to those in previous years.
Advanced Stats: Santander’s percentage of swings at pitches outside of the strike zone decreased from 45.3% in his rookie season to 40.8% in 2020, down to 36.7% in 2021, which was the lowest of his career. Santander has continued to get more selective in his assessment of which pitches to swing at and which to let go. Should this trend continue, expect a decrease in strikeouts and an increase in walks in the 2022 season.
- Trey Mancini (DH):
In Mancini’s incredible return from his triumphant battle with cancer, he once again demonstrated how important he was to this team. While his 2021 season was a bit up and down, Mancini restored hope for Orioles fans in more ways than one. Hitting to the tune of .255/.326/.432, Mancini was a key contributor in the middle of the Orioles lineup. With a full season back from his absence, expect a continued return to form in 2022.
Advanced Stats: Mancini scored above average in Hard Hit %, Expected Slugging %, Barrel %, Expected Weighted-On-Base-Average, and ranked in the top 9% in Max Exit Velocity. Trey was largely a victim of bad luck in 2021, with all of his key expected stats (batting average, OPS, WOBA) being greater than his final numbers. This means Mancini was hitting the ball hard and making solid contact, but was hitting the ball right at defenders. Expect some regression to the mean here as Mancini’s numbers continue to bounce back to his prolific 2019 levels.
- Austin Hays (LF):
In Hays’ first season with the Orioles where he exceeded 150 at bats, he proved to be a big part of the offense with a final line of .256/.308/.461. Hays finished third on the Orioles with a WAR of 3.1 and fourth in extra-base hits.
Advanced Stats: Hays improved across the board in his advanced stats. Hays saw his Barrel % increase from 4% to 9.1% , his Sweet Spot % increase from 27.3% to 32.2%, and his Hard Hit % increase from 31.3% to 39.2% from 2020 to 2021 respectively. Hays flashed all his tools in 2021 and looks to continue to return value following his 3rd round selection in the 2016 MLB draft.
- Ramon Urias (SS):
Despite only playing 85 games in 2021, Urias was still 5th on the Orioles with his 1.9 WAR. Urias finished his season with a .279/.361/.412 line and has become a reliable middle infielder for the Orioles. Despite undergoing a core-muscle procedure, the Orioles expect Urias to be a full participant at the start of Spring Training.
Advanced Stats: Urias saw a 4.4% increase in his Barrel % and a 2.1% increase in his walk rate from 2020 to 2021. Interestingly, Urias also improved his fielding metrics across the board. Baseball Savant’s ‘Success Rate Added’ metric measures the rate at which defenders make plays without committing errors. Urias performed rather poorly in this metric in 2020 at a -15% Success Rate Added, but saw this jump to a -3% in 2021 – just below a league average defender. While this rate doesn’t look particularly impressive, it is important to remember that Urias is constantly moving around the infield. Being an average defender at multiple positions while being a consistent offensive weapon will prove to be valuable to the Orioles’ success.
- Rougned Odor (2B):
After a relatively disappointing season for the Yankees in 2021 (.202/.286/.379) Odor joins the Orioles with the hopes of returning to his 2016-2019 home run-hitting form. Odor figures to provide some veteran leadership to the still-inexperienced Orioles lineup.
Advanced Stats: Odor scores remarkably high in almost every advanced defensive metric. Odor ranks in the 95th percentile in Baseball Savant’s ‘Outs Above Average’ and scored a 4% ‘Success Rate Added’ at second base for the Yankees in 2021. Odor played both 2B and 3B last year and should provide some defensive flexibility for the Orioles going forward.
- Kelvin Gutierrez (3B):
In limited time with the Orioles, Gutierrez produced a rather uninspiring .248/.327/.336 line. Without ever having consistent MLB at-bats it’s hard to make an assessment on Gutierrez, but he does provide the Orioles with defensive reliability and some speed on the basepaths.
Advanced Stats: Gutierrez ranks in the top 20 percent in sprint speed and has ranked consistently positive in Baseball Savant’s ‘Success Rate Added’. Gutierrez is likely a placeholder for the Orioles while their infield prospects like Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, and Jahmai Jones continue to develop.
- Jacob Nottingham (C):
With Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco, Austin Wynns and Nick Ciuffo all off the team, the Orioles catching position is just about as up in the air as it could possibly be. It’s almost as if the Orioles have the best catching prospect in the league – ah yes, almost forgot about Adley Rutschman. Rutschman is expected to make his big league debut at some point this season after starting the year in Triple-A, but in the meantime, the Orioles’ 2022 catcher will either be a free agent signee or Nottingham. The Orioles will certainly bring in another catcher or two, but for now let’s take a look at Nottingham. Nottingham has a lackluster .184/.277/.421 career slashline but has shown power potential with over half of his career hits going for extra bases, albeit a small sample size.
Advanced Stats: According to FanGraphs metrics, Nottingham is right around average when it comes to pitch-framing, which is unfortunately a substantial improvement in comparison to the pitch-framing seen from Orioles catchers in 2021.
Advanced stats give us the nuance that the traditional stats don’t always provide, and each player in the Orioles’ projected 2022 starting lineup has specialities of their own indicated by these metrics. As the young core continues to develop and as the Orioles’ top-ranked farm system begins to make its impact at the Major League level, remember that there are better days ahead.
As a Baltimore native, Zach is an avid Orioles and Ravens fan. After interning for the Baltimore Orioles, he currently works as a Senior Quantitative Risk Analyst for OneMain Financial and is a part-time graduate student studying Data Science at the University of Michigan.