Three years ago, the staff at Baseball America took a shot at projecting the Orioles lineup, rotation and closer for the 2022 season.
Let’s just say the publication didn’t bat 1.000. OK, let’s say more. It’s virtually impossible to hit on any team because of the variables that blow up predictions.
The lists ran in October, after the Orioles began dismantling the team over the summer. The teardown started with the trades of Manny Machado, Zack Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day.
Money wasn’t going to be spent on free agents or to retain players set to hit the market or to provide hefty raises for arbitration-eligibles, but the publication put Jonathan Villar at second base and Renato Núñez at third, and that seemed like an avoidable whiff.
More excusable is the inability to know which players will be drafted and ready. Baseball America had Chance Sisco behind the plate, basing the pick on his prospect status at the time and a malfunctioning crystal ball that didn’t register Adley Rutschman.
Chance Sisco - C
Trey Mancini - 1B
Jonathan Villar - 2B
Renato Núñez - 3B
Richie Martin - SS
Cedric Mullins - LF
Yusniel Diaz - CF
Austin Hays - RF
Ryan Mountcastle - DH
Oh sure, it’s easy now to pick it apart. Like Mullins in left rather than center. Diaz in center when he projects as more of a corner outfielder if he can stay healthy.
Martin’s injuries, going back to 2020 summer training camp, make it much harder to slot him as the shortstop. More likely is the Orioles again signing a veteran to a one-year deal while waiting on Martin, Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz, Anthony Servideo, Darell Hernaiz ... pick a prospect.
Third base could be occupied by Rylan Bannon, who was in the organization by October 2018. However, he wasn’t hitting at Triple-A Norfolk before going on the injured list and there are questions about whether he’s an option as an everyday player at the corner or more of a backup at third and second.
Bench players aren’t included in the projections, so we don’t know whether Anthony Santander is a reserve or just forgotten. We also don’t know whether the Orioles will trade him before opening day.
Here’s the rotation:
The first reaction to this, course, is the omission of John Means, but good luck finding a scout who thought in 2018 that he’d be in the rotation, let alone the staff ace.
The teardown should have been a strong indicator of Bundy’s borrowed time in Baltimore. Is Rodriguez in the rotation to start 2022? He just moved up to Double-A Bowie. But no one knew that the 2020 minor league season would be canceled and we’d be educating ourselves on the history of pandemics.
Zac Lowther and Mike Baumann were drafted a year before Baseball America ran its predictions. They’re worthy of inclusion in any discussion, with Lowther already making his major league debut this year. Kyle Bradish (Angels) and Kevin Smith (Mets) didn’t show up in the organization until 2019 and 2020, respectively. Bruce Zimmermann arrived in the Gausman/O’Day trade and is in the rotation when he isn’t on the injured list with biceps tendinitis.
Here’s the closer:
Maybe, maybe not.
We can work on 2023 at a later date, but fans should be excited to consider a lineup with Rutschman behind the plate, Henderson at shortstop or third base, Westburg at shortstop or third base, Ortiz somewhere, maybe Diaz as the designated hitter with Heston Kjerstad in right field if he’s able to play. Jones could be ready for second base if it isn’t Martin. Or it could be Terrin Vavra. Ryan McKenna could be an extra outfielder, Mason McCoy and Tyler Nevin extra infielders.
And the Orioles hold the fifth pick in the upcoming draft.
But enough about 2024.