A future O's lineup could have a heavy homegrown flavor

As we watch some homegrown Orioles excel in recent days – with players like Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and Adley Rutschman coming to mind – it might be exciting for Birdland to ponder a future with even more of the same.

A future where more homegrown and original Orioles join the current crop to produce the first legit playoff contending team in Baltimore since the 2016 American League Wild Card club. A future with players like Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, Kyle Stowers, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall all together in the major leagues. With Hays, Mountcastle, Rutschman and the rest.

Hey, that could be fun.

And that nucleus, likely with a few key additions, could produce a unit that could be playing meaningful games deep into the year and maybe even playing postseason games in October.

Where once a segment of the fanbase expressed opinions here that the Orioles are so far away they may never get there, now maybe it is within reach.

It can be fun to predict future lineups. So with the understanding that this is complete speculation and that plenty of other prospects/players could factor in here, here is one lineup we could see at some point down the road.

Cedric Mullins CF
Gunnar Henderson SS
Austin Hays LF
Ryan Mountcastle 1B
Adley Rutschman C
Kyle Stowers RF
Trey Mancini DH
Jordan Westburg 3B
Terrin Vavra 2B

Again, other players could factor in here and someone else’s future lineup might look very different. This is just one possibility, but a lineup with Westburg batting eighth and Vavra ninth would be a nice, full and talented lineup. That lineup would feature eight homegrown Orioles while Vavra was acquired in a deal where a homegrown Oriole, Mychal Givens, was traded for him.

Rotation-wise, the O’s must see things they like right now from Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin. Does Akin later emerge back in the rotation? When do Rodriguez and Hall get to Baltimore, and what are their ceilings? If both are as good as advertised, that would go a long way toward getting the O’s closer to contention status. Next season, when maybe they will have a real chance, John Means could return at mid-year to bolster all of it. He would almost be like a trade-deadline acquisition.

Perhaps O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias uses the rest of this season to guide what his winter work might look like. He can size up just how close the Orioles are to contender status and then let that guide him in what additions he might look to make this winter. Will that be the time to try to make a key pickup on the free agent market? Or will that be the time to package one or more key prospects in a trade to truly bring back a key future piece?

No doubt, the Orioles' play over the last month has been encouraging. They have beaten good teams. And while in the AL East, where the Yankees have separated themselves from everyone right now, the Orioles are 11-10 combined versus the rest of the division in the Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox.

Add to this the fact the club holds the No. 1 pick in the draft next month, so more talent is on the way. The Orioles hold five draft picks among the first 81 selections for the first time under Elias. Their elite talent pipeline will get another infusion next month. And their international program is now humming along also.

And while the AL East is almost always baseball’s toughest division, at a time when the Orioles are getting better, starting in 2023 they will play each team in the division 14 times, not 19. They will play the other 29 teams at least one series each. That could help boost their future win-loss total – less against the best (AL East), more versus the rest.

All the sudden talk of “tanking” and that they are not trying to win has been replaced by excitement about a future that holds real promise for the Birds of Baltimore.

Waiver claim one-hitter: The Orioles' latest win came Friday night on a five-pitcher one-hitter against the White Sox 4-1. The Orioles improved to 33-39 and have won six of eight, nine of 13 and are 19-15 since May 19.

Five pitchers, all claimed on waivers by the Orioles, combined to allow one hit in 28 at-bats, retiring the last 19 White Sox to bat in a row.

Austin Voth, claimed this year on June 7 from Washington, started the game. Next to pitch was Joey Krehbiel, claimed Sept. 21, 2021 from Tampa Bay. Next up was Bryan Baker, claimed Nov. 8, 2021 from Toronto. Then it was on to lefty Cionel Pérez, claimed Nov. 24, 2021 from Cincinnati. And finally Jorge López, who got his 13th save. He was claimed Aug. 9, 2020 from Kansas City.

O's pitchers have allowed one run in three games and the last 24 innings. The team ERA is 1.83 the past eight games. O's starters have allowed three earned runs the last 22 2/3 innings (an ERA of 1.19) and the 'pen has allowed five earned runs the last 38 innings (an ERA of 1.18).

On the farm: As Triple-A Norfolk beat Lehigh Valley 10-7 on Friday, three of the hitters we discussed earlier in Henderson, Westburg and Stowers combined to go 12-for-18 with three doubles, two homers, seven runs and three RBIs. Henderson went 3-for-6, Westburg 5-for-6 and Stowers 4-for-6. Westburg is now batting .413 with an OPS of 1.264. Norfolk had 21 hits, its most in a game since April 2016.

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