It’s finally that time of year. The MLB regular season is wrapping up and the postseason is right around the corner. Among the usual suspects of playoff teams, one club stands out, the Baltimore Orioles.
The Baltimore Orioles were in a deep rebuild until last year when the emergence of players like Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, and Jorge Mateo showed that the O’s might be a team to worry about. Despite an 83-79 record, the O’s failed to clinch a playoff spot last year, but this year they have clinched a postseason berth and are looking at a possible bye to the ALDS if they can secure the AL East title. But do they have what it takes to get any further than that?
I’m going to dive into their hitting and pitching to see what they can do this October.
Baltimore Orioles hitting
The O’s batting lineup has been terrific all year long, with Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander all having great years at the plate. Gunnar Henderson has posted an outstanding slash line of .258/.327/.496 along with 27 homers and 80 RBI. Oh, and he’s a rookie. Second-year catcher Adley Rutschman has also been great at the top of the order with 19 homers and 75 RBI with a 123 OPS+.
This young talent combined with the likes of Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, and others has me comfortable that this O’s lineup will definitely be able to put up runs in the postseason.
Another underrated bat for them is that of Aaron Hicks. Hicks was designated for assignment by the New York Yankees earlier this year, but seemed to have found his old form when Baltimore picked him up. Upon arriving in Baltimore, Hicks’ OPS jumped from just .524 all the way to a well above-average .842. Hicks also provides valuable outfield defense from any spot.
This outfield, along with the infield depth including rookie Jordan Westburg, veteran Adam Frazier, and Gold Glover Ramon Urias, has the O’s field set up well.
Baltimore Orioles pitching
This is where things get a little more dicey in my opinion. The O’s starters have been solid this year, but not amazing. Grayson Rodriguez is proving to be a true Major League starter, and Kyle Bradish is finishing up a 3.01 ERA season that could put him near the front of NL Cy Young voting. Starters Kyle Gibson and Dean Kremer have been serviceable, and while Gibson has a good amount of postseason experience, Kremer has none. If the playoff rotation stays as it is now, the O’s will just have one starter with an ERA below 4.00 (Kyle Bradish).
The bullpen for the O’s is interesting, but there is one big problem and that is the uncertainty of lockdown closer Felix Bautista’s availability. Bautista hit the injured list about a month ago with “some degree of UCL damage” and it is still uncertain whether or not he will return for the playoffs. Even if he were to return, there is still the question of whether or not his performance will be the same with a UCL tear. For a pitcher who lives on his high velocity, this injury could be catastrophic. Yennier Cano has also proven to be a star out of the bullpen, and he may have to assume the closer role if Bautista were to be unavailable.
The O’s bullpen has a solid core with names like Mike Baumann, Cionel Perez, Danny Coulombe, Jacob Webb, and DL Hall. The problem with this is barely any of them have any postseason experience. If they come to face a lineup like the Houston Astros or the Texas Rangers, this could be a big problem facing lots of bats with loads of playoff experience.
The Orioles have looked great this season, but they definitely have their work cut out for them in the postseason. Can this young, talented team go all the way? Or do they need more time?