A week remains in the month of January and I’m already seeing mock lineups posted online. They’re built upon a foundation of past orders and current assumptions.
I’ve done it with less.
Cedric Mullins is leading off for the Orioles, and that’s the only certainty on the team. He did it in 141 games last season – the club went 73-68 – and he’ll be missing at the top only if on the bench or perhaps on some occasions when he’s facing a tough left-hander.
Mullins batted .209/.265/.313 against southpaws last season, compared to .279/.340/.441 against right-handers.
Deciding on an actual opening day lineup is harder when the Red Sox haven’t announced their starter. Their rotation candidates include left-handers Chris Sale and James Paxson, and right-handers Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, Corey Kluber and Brayan Bello.
The opposing starter could change some of the names in the Orioles’ order. Kyle Stowers might sit versus a lefty, and this is assuming that he’s on the club, after he accumulated only four plate appearances against them last summer. But he also could become a more regular presence in the 2023 lineup.
A left-hander also could influence whether Adam Frazier is on the field or the bench.
Trey Mancini batted second in 60 games to lead the club, but he was traded to the Astros at the deadline and signed with the Cubs. Adley Rutschman was next with 58 starts.
Anthony Santander batted third in 101 games and fourth in 31. Ryan Mountcastle was the cleanup hitter in 63 games and batted fifth in 30, which both led the club.
Slumps also are an influencer, of course.
Would you believe that Ramón Urías made the most starts in the sixth spot with 30, though only one more than Austin Hays? Rougned Odor made 26, and he led the Orioles with 43 as the No. 7 hitter before again becoming a free agent.
Odor’s 27 starts in the eighth spot ranked second behind Robinson Chirinos’ 28. Chirinos also is gone.
Jorge Mateo made 25, but he led the club with 89 at the bottom of the order. Chirinos was next with 22, followed by Chris Owings with 16 and Richie Martin with nine.
Mateo is the only one left, and I’d keep him ninth in my mocks.
So, in conclusion, I’m going with Mullins first, followed by Rutschman and Santander. I’m probably keep Mountcastle as the cleanup hitter early and seeing if he’s more consistent, knowing that I can lower him if he struggles.
I’d bat Henderson fifth behind the right-handed Mountcastle, but again, plate production and matchups can flip-flop them. Hays works for me as the No. 6 hitter, with Stowers from the left side batting seventh depending again on the starter. Urías or Frazier could drop to eighth, but the former finished with a career-high 17 doubles, 16 home runs and 51 RBIs in 118 games, posted a 3.6 WAR, and tied for the team lead with 11 game-winning RBIs.
Maybe you’d prefer batting him higher. I’m fine with some underrated thump near the bottom and view it as a concession to having Henderson and Stowers in the lineup.
Don’t ask about Colton Cowser. If crafting a lineup on Jan. 24 is too soon, so is worrying about Cowser’s debut.
Your turn. Give me some lineup suggestions.