Five Orioles predictions for 2023

Pitchers and catchers report next month. Somewhere in the middle of it. A long way from Opening Day on March 30 in Boston, but the distance is shrinking.

The holiday themes are over unless I’m suddenly motivated by Valentine’s Day. Nothing so far about Cupid’s arrow, but I decided this morning to take a stab at some 2023 predictions.

Here are five, because any more or less would be breaking the sportswriters’ law – which I’ve often done as a nod to my rebellious side:

Will Grayson Rodriguez be in the Opening Day rotation?
The Orioles have practically guaranteed it. He reports to camp with a spot waiting for him. He would have been starting last summer except for the Grade 2 lat strain.

Rodriguez was healthy and ready to pitch in September, but the Orioles didn’t select his contract. He’s on the 40-man roster, and he’s expected to be on their staff on March 30.


Will Rodriguez be the Opening Day starter?
The Orioles don’t currently have an obvious choice.

John Means is throwing on flat ground while recovering from Tommy John surgery, picking up the intensity but a long way from being ready to pitch in a game. Kyle Gibson signed a one-year, $10 million contract, but he was supposed to slot further back in the rotation. Everyone else is still unproven over a full season.

So, why not Rodriguez? Because it’s really hard to imagine the Orioles putting that kind of pressure on him, debuting in the majors as the No. 1 starter. It would be so far off brand.


Is Gunnar Henderson the third baseman on Opening Day?
Ramón Urías won a Gold Glove last year, but he could be a victim of his versatility. The Orioles could move him to second base and also use him to back up at third and shortstop.

Henderson is a plus shortstop in the field who also looks like a plus third baseman. The arm plays on that side. He has the hands and footwork.

Jorge Mateo won a Fielding Bible Award at shortstop and manager Brandon Hyde constantly raved about him. Unless he’s traded, he appears to be set again as the starter.


Does DL Hall begin the season in the rotation?
This is a nice “problem” for the Orioles. Where to plug in the electric arm.

Hall will be stretched out to start, with the Orioles probably waiting until later in camp to announce a decision. Depends how the rotation shakes out, how he’s pitching, whether there’s space in the bullpen.  

They also could prefer to have him start at Triple-A instead of working in relief in the majors. A development issue. But he was really good coming out of the ‘pen down the stretch and he’s a weapon that can help win games.

And isn’t 2023 about winning games?

Adding another veteran starter increases an already crowded field of rotation candidates, so …


Will the Orioles have more than one All-Star representative?
This is a gutsy call to make in January. But there’s no penalty for being wrong, so perhaps the bravery is a bit exaggerated.

Anyway, a full season of Adley Rutschman behind the plate, his skill set and growing reputation and popularity, and maybe a thinner collection of worthy candidates compared to other positions could give him an edge. Heck, he might be voted in as the starter.

I’m penciling in Rutschman. That’s one.

A full season of Félix Bautista as closer, with the bold assumption that he puts together a dominant first half, could get him chosen.

That would be two.

Gunnar Henderson is a really early favorite to be voted American League Rookie of the Year. One of the outfielders could put up numbers that make him impossible to ignore.

The Orioles won’t sneak up on people after contending in 2022. The better you are, the better the odds of taking multiple players to Seattle.

Every team must have a representative, however, which hurts some deserving candidates.


A few more from the 2023 season wish list
Looking at a few more available free agent pitcher...

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