A few weeks back, I wrote about three players that surprised us in a good way with their play during the 2023 season. It was easy to note Ryan O'Hearn and Yennier Cano, both were huge surprises and so big for the 2023 Birds.
I added Kyle Bradish and not that we didn't think he could be a good pitcher. But maybe not that good. But he was and he wound up fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.
Here is that earlier blog here.
Here are a few more surprises from the season.
Outfielder Aaron Hicks: On the same day the Orioles put Cedric Mullins on the injured list for the first time - May 30 - they signed Aaron Hicks. A few days before that he had been designated for assignment by the Yankees and later released.
He gave the Orioles some cover in center field with Mullins out and Mullins would make a second stop to the injured list.
Hicks played well for the Orioles, probably better that we could have expected. His stay with the club was marred briefly by two of his own injured list trips.
But with the Orioles he hit .275/.381/.425 in 65 games and 236 plate appearances. He recorded 15 extra-base hits (7-2B, 3B, 7 HR) with the O’s compared to a .188/.263/.261 line and just three XBHs (2-2B, HR) in 28 games with the Yankees.
He hit seven of his eight home runs with the Orioles. He had hit eight homers in 130 games in 2022 and 10 in 86 combined games between 2020-21.
He played solid defense for the Orioles and provided a switch-hitter at bat. A free agent now, he proved to be a nice addition and nice surprise in 2023.
As the O's look to open roster spots soon for players like Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser, and with Ryan McKenna being offered arbitration, the Birds seem unlikely to pursue Hicks for next year's team.
Catcher James McCann: Okay it took a while for him to become a bit of a surprise. For the year, his OPS was just .646 in 69 games, which was below average. But he had much more batting success in the second-half and he was solid defensively all year as Adley Rutschman's backup.
In the first half, in 111 plate appearances, McCann hit .185/.220/.320/.541. In 115 plate appearances in the second half, he hit .260/.316/.433/.749. MLB average OPS this year was .734. So, while he didn't light it up, he was much improved from the first half and for a backup catcher getting sporadic playing time, it was just fine. Even good at times. He got some big hits.
There was no drop off, or not much, of real significance, when McCann was catching and the pitchers on the staff responded well to him. He and Adley made a nice tandem and will be back together next year.
In fact, for what it's worth, his catcher ERA was slightly better than Rutschman, 3.80 to 3.98. When he was catching, opponent batters produced an OPS of .690 to .712 with Rutschman back there.
Tyler Wells: The surprise here for me is how quickly his pitching headed south when the second half started. Wells had a 3.18 ERA at the All-Star break with some wondering if he should make the All-Star team.
Wells made his last first-half start on July 8 at Minnesota. He gave up two runs over six innings. In his last eight first half starts, Wells had an ERA of 2.83 and opponent OPS of .692.
Wells entered play on the day of that last first-half start leading MLB in WHIP (0.90), opponent on-base percentage (.236), and batting average (.188).
He was rolling. And then he was not.
His ERA was 11.00 in his first three starts out of the break and he covered just nine innings. He was, in a bit of surprised optioned to Double-A Bowie.
He would finally make it back to the Orioles pitching well in relief in late September, throwing five hitless and scoreless innings.