Can O's starting outfield produce a collective big year?

They are three of the Orioles' longest-tenured players. They have been teammates for a long time and are three of the biggest contributors on the team.

Again this year for the Orioles, a lot is expected from their starting outfield of left fielder Austin Hays, center fielder Cedric Mullins and right fielder Anthony Santander.

With Santander a free agent at the end of the 2024 season, it's possible this coming year will be their last together in Baltimore. Hays and Mullins are eligible to be free agents after the 2025 season.

The trio enjoyed helping the Orioles return to the playoffs last year, and now they'd love to get back again and lead the team to a longer October run.

These are three talented players, as Mullins and Hays have been All-Stars while Santander's .797 OPS last year ranked third on the team behind Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman and 23rd-best in the American League.

Outside of appearances as the designated hitter, the trio was probably less on the field last year than some may have thought. Hays led the way making 125 starts in left, while Mullins had the most starts in center with 101 and Santander in right at 96.

O's outfielders – all of them over 162 games and not just these three – ranked seventh among AL teams last year with a .253 batting average. They rated fifth in on-base percentage at .323, eighth in slugging at .419 and seventh in OPS at .743.

They are the three-highest paid position players on the team after the winter arbitration period with Santander at $11.7 million, Mullins at $6.325 million and Hays at $6.3 million. Technically, catcher James McCann is that at $12.150 million, but the Mets are paying $9.5 million of that amount.

But in terms of potential offensive production, this trio, should they all perform at or near what they are capable of, could be among the tops in the AL.

Hays is coming off a year where he produced an OPS of .769 for an OPS+ of 114. He set career highs for doubles, runs, hits, extra-base hits, multi-hit games, walks and steals. He was a first-time All-Star who was batting .288 with an OPS of .799 on Sept. 6 before hitting .191 with an OPS of .576 his last 21 games.

Fans are wondering if a healthy Mullins could produce numbers to approach or rival what he showed in the 2021 season when he became the first Oriole to ever produce 30 or more homers and steals in the same year. His OPS then was .878. It is .721 each of the last two years.

Santander produced a career-high 70 extra-base hits in 2023 when he had 41 doubles, a triple, 28 homers, 81 runs and 95 RBIs. He was seventh in the AL in extra-base hits and second in doubles. He also was named the team's Heart and Hustle Award winner. Santander has produced an OPS+ of 120 and 121 the last two seasons. 

And while, yes, the odds of all of these vets playing at about at their max level is low, the numbers they could collectively put together has big potential. 

Mullins has been in this organization since they drafted him in round 13 of 2015 and Hays since being taken in round three of 2016. Santander joined via the Rule 5 draft in December of 2016.

This trio may be the heart and soul of the team and clubhouse. While other young stars get deserved attention and more are on the way and newcomers like Corbin Burnes and Craig Kimbrel will have a spotlight on them, this threesome will look to lead the team to great heights during what could be their last year together in orange and black.

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