Taking a look at the possible outfield depth chart for this season

After a look at the current infield depth chart Tuesday, we move on to the Orioles outfield today, where they have five players on their 40-man roster and a few other candidates for opening day roster spots.

The starters as of this writing seem to be the same three that made most of the starts last year. Austin Hays, who made 82 starts in left field, Cedric Mullins back in center after 140 starts there in 2022 and Anthony Santander in right field where he started 79 times. Hays actually made 51 right field starts while Santander made 34 as the DH.

Hays made his third straight opening day roster, hit for the sixth cycle in club history in June and set career highs for games, extra-base hits and at-bats. His 35 doubles tied Adley Rutschman for the team lead. But his falloff at bat in the second half had some fans concerned. His OPS was .843 in April and .798 in May and he led the club in offensive WAR at that point. But his second-half OPS was .626.

Mullins had the difficult chore of trying to follow up his 30-30 season. While his stolen base total increased to 34 (second in the AL to Jorge Mateo), his homer total dropped to 16. His OPS dropped from .878 (OPS+ of 137) to .721 (OPS+ of .104). No doubt the Orioles are hopeful they get more offensive production out of both of these players in 2023.

Santander had a big year and ranked tied for fifth in the AL in homers. He batted .240/.318/.455/.773 with 33 homers and 89 RBIs. He produced career highs in games, at-bats, hits, home runs, extra-base hits, total bases, runs scored, RBIs, walks, hit-by-pitches, and OBP and tied a career high in doubles. He led the club in homers, extra-base hits, total bases, RBI, hit-by-pitches, and slugging. And Santander’s 33 homers as a switch-hitter were the most in MLB last year and the most by an O's switch-hitter since Eddie Murray hit 33 in 1983.

Ryan McKenna batted .237 with an OPS of .634. He got into 104 games and was a valuable outfield reserve that could bring speed and defense to key late-game situations. His 61 games as a sub ranked third in MLB and were the second-most by an Oriole since 2000 behind David Lough's 65 in 2014. He pinch ran 18 games,

tied for third in MLB and the second-most by an O's player since 2008 behind Lough's 19 in 2014. McKenna ranked in the top six percent of MLB with a 29.4 ft/sec sprint speed, per Statcast.

While McKenna still needs to bring his strikeout rate down and is likely never to hit with much pop, the speed and defense can be big in those late-game spots. He seems like a good choice for a fourth or fifth outfielder. We’ll see if he can fend off some of the non-roster competition this spring in the outfield.

Outfielder Kyle Stowers made his MLB debut in June and returned to the club with a more prominent role Aug. 19. In 98 plate appearances he hit .253/.306/.418/.724 for an OPS+ of 104 with a 5.1 walk rate and 29.6 strikeout rate. He scored well in exit velocity of 91.1 mph (MLB average was 88.4) and hard-hit percentage 50.0 (while 38.5 was league average).

Until mid-August last summer he spent most of his ’22 season at Triple-A Norfolk. In 95 games, Stowers batted .264/.357/.527/.884 with 29 doubles, 19 homers and 78 RBIs. Among O’s minor league regulars, he ranked third in OPS and RBIs, tied for third in home runs and fourth in doubles. He produced an 11.1 walk rate on the farm and reduced a high strikeout rate to a much more respectable 25.6.

Perhaps Stowers gets regular at-bats between right field and the DH role. I think his defense rates above Santander in right and he has a strong arm, ranking in the top 24 percent of MLB last year for arm strength, per Statcast. He’s got line to line power and how much time he gets in 2023 will be an interesting story to track. Stowers and McKenna both have options remaining and are trying to hold off a group pushing them for roster spots.

That group includes offseason acquisitions Nomar Mazara, Franchy Cordero, Daz Cameron, once drafted by Mike Elias in Houston and O’s 2021 top pick Colton Cowser, who produced an OPS of .875 at three minor league levels in 2022. He likely will begin back at Triple-A but his day is coming.

Mazara is the most experienced of the non-roster outfielders with a career .729 OPS over 684 big league games. His first three seasons in the AL from 2016-2018, he hit 20 homers each. He’s a lefty batter with a career 90 OPS+. He has made 514 career starts in right field and 77 in left.

Mazara, 27, finished fifth in voting for AL Rookie of the Year in 2016 and had 30 doubles and drove in 101 runs in 2017. Texas awarded him a $5 million dollar signing bonus as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. That was the biggest bonus for any international player in the July 2011 signing class.

Cameron while being the No. 37 pick of Houston in 2015, got one of the highest signing bonuses of that domestic draft and now he rejoins Elias in Baltimore. Houston selected outfielder Kyle Tucker No. 5 overall in that same draft and both Tucker and Cameron got equal $4 million dollar signing bonuses, which tied for the fifth-richest bonuses given any picks that draft.

Clearly Houston was pretty high on the right-handed batter that is now 25. But in three years in MLB with Detroit, covering 244 plate appearances, Cameron has hit just .201/.266/.330/.597 with five homers and 24 RBIs. He’s had a 7.0 walk rate and 31.6 strikeout rate. He is considered a plus defender and has been a highly-ranked prospect, No. 5 by Houston in 2016. 

Cordero has a career .676 OPS in 227 big league games. He has made 59 career starts in right field, 39 in center and 21 in right along with making some starts at first base. Cordero, 28, is a career .221/.290/.386 hitter in six major league seasons, the last two with the Red Sox. He batted .219/.300/.397 in 84 games this summer with 17 doubles, eight home runs, 29 RBIs, 28 walks and 92 strikeouts.

Cordero went 8-for-23 (.348) with three doubles and two home runs in eight games against the Orioles in 2022. He signed a split-contract with the Orioles per FanSided and will be paid $1.35 million in the majors and $450,000 in the minors.

Minor league outfielder Robert Neustrom could get a look in spring although he may be a long shot. After producing an OPS of .790 between two clubs in 2021, that number dropped to .705 at Triple-A last summer. 



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