With Spring Training in full swing and the season only a week away, the Orioles roster is starting to take shape.
In this piece, we are going to take a quick peak into what the Orioles’ Opening Day starting lineup might look like.
Let’s get right into it:
Cedric Mullins CF
Coming off the first 30-30 season in Orioles history, Mullins will have a lot of expectations after a breakout year.
After focusing more on being solely a left-handed hitter, Mullins broke out in a big way, cementing his status as one of the best leadoff hitters, as well as the Orioles starting center fielder on Opening Day.
Don’t let the offense fool you, the defense is just as strong. Mullins, who seemed to make highlight reel catches almost daily, has an accurate arm, great range and roams center field with a purpose.
While there might be some let up from the 30-30 season, look for another strong showing from the man who went from roster demotions to an All-Star appearance in two season’s time.
Ryan Mountcastle 1B
The July Rookie of the Month in 2021 broke out in a big way last year. Many people forgetting that it was Mountcastle’s rookie season saw the masher put on a show after a slow start in April and May.
Finishing the season with a club rookie home run record of 33, Mountcastle drove in 89 runs while batting .255 across 144 games.
One of the biggest adjustments Mountcastle will need to make is plate discipline. While he did walk 41 times, he struck out 161, which is something we all want to see come down this year.
Mountcastle played a strong defense at first base and might be underrated due to the star power of first basemen in the league. With the ability to play the outfield and third or short in a pinch, Mountcastle is one of the young stars in the game today who should be an Oriole for quite sometime going forward.
Anthony Santander RF
The former Rule 5 selection finds himself in an awkward situation in 2022. With young outfielders like Ryan McKenna, Kyle Stowers, Robert Neustrom and Yusniel Díaz knocking on the door, Santander might find himself on the way out.
A gifted hitter and savvy defender, Santander played a career-high 110 games last season but once again saw the injury bug find him.
Struggling through an ankle injury most of last year, Santander managed to hit 18 homers and drive in 50 runs. The ugly side saw him hit just .241, strike out 101 times and have a meager .281 OBP.
Santander will need to return to 2020 form to save his Orioles career or become a piece other teams come calling for come the July trade deadline.
Trey Mancini DH
“Boom Boom” came to play last year. After returning from stage three colon cancer, Mancini was supposed to play a fraction of the time.
Instead, Trey played 147 games and showed why the team veteran is considered one of the top fan favorites and an integral piece to the team.
Mancini split time with Mountcastle, playing 77 games as the first baseman and another 68 as the DH. Though his hitting tapered off towards the end of the year, Mancini was the heart and soul of a lineup that played with the “never give up” mentality.
Hitting 21 home runs (one of four Orioles to do so), Mancini came out of the gate on fire and hit 33 doubles, as 39% of his hits went for extra bases.
This season should see Mancini increase his average from the .255 of last year but also see another season of increased production now that his health concerns are in the rear view mirror.
Mancini might be playing for his Orioles’ future or become one of the chips playoff teams come looking for down the stretch. Either way, the Orioles are fortunate to have the leader, not only on the field but in the club house as well.
Austin Hays LF
The other big breakout from 2021 was the emerging Austin Hays.
After showing so much promise yet not being able to shake the injury bug, a stint on the I.L. near the beginning of the season was actually one that saved Hays and let him break out in a big way.
“Action Austin” went on to hit 22 home runs while batting .256 and playing an above average left field for the Orioles.
A result of playing in a career-high 133 games, Hays fulfilled the promise that saw him shoot through the minors system and stay in the future plans of the Orioles.
If 2021 was a breakout, 2022 should see what a seasoned Hays can and will do to help turn our club in the right direction.
Rougned Odor 2B
Arguably the biggest offseason signing for the Orioles, Odor is just the stop-gap player needed for at least half the season.
Odor has hit 30-plus home runs three different times in his career but has also flirted with the Mendoza line since the 2016 season.
Though he struck out at least once a game last year, he did average a home run every 22 at-bats across 102 games for the Yankees.
Signed more for offense, his defense is good enough to fill a big hole currently for the team, but offensive production will determine if he is around for a full year or just until the trade deadline.
Ramón Urías 3B
Another breakout player, Urías became a regular after the Orioles traded away Freddy Galvis after a brief stint with the O’s.
Urías played 85 games between second, third and shortstop last season, giving the Oriole infield a serviceable presence while producing on the offensive side for the club.
Across the season, Urías batted .279 and carried an OBP of .361, smacking seven home runs and driving in 38.
Urías came out of nowhere to earn the chance to be a full-time player this season and just might have found a home at third base while our younger prospects develop.
Jorge Mateo SS
Listed as an outfielder, Mateo was a sneaky pick up during the waiver wire deadline when the Orioles picked up the former top prospect mid-season.
The speedy Mateo found new life with the Orioles, batting .280 across 32 games while producing a third of his hits for extra bases.
Capable of playing just about anywhere, Mateo will find himself with a chance to lock down the shortstop position or at least a rotational player primed to shine at every moment given.
With Mateo’s speed, infield and bunt hits should factor in, as well as plenty of opportunities all over the field defensively.
Robinson Chirinos C
The veteran placeholder was signed exactly to be the veteran presence for Adley Rutschman and a young pitching staff. Rutschman is waiting in the wings to return from a triceps injury and push Chirinos back into a backup role.
A .231 lifetime hitter, Chirinos was signed to be a fill-in for Rutschman’s off days and help teach the rookie phenom the ropes of the majors. For now, Chirinos will keep the seat warm and looks to be the Opening Day starter behind the plate for the Orioles.
Chirinos has hit double-digit home runs in his career five times, so he does carry some power. He is primarily known as a great defender who has a career .994 fielding percentage.
Though we will have to wait a few more weeks before Rutschman takes the backstop full-time, Chirinos will provide the veteran presence to help bridge the gap.
John Means SP
“The Businessman” was dubbed the Opening Day starter after proving himself once again to be the leader of an unpredictable staff.
An up and down 2021 saw Means pitch his first career no-hitter while being the A.L. ERA leader for part of the season. Arm fatigue shelved Means for a few weeks, and it wasn’t until September that we saw Means return to form.
Even though his record was just 6-9, Means started 26 games and pitched to a 3.62 ERA across the season. Striking out 134 across 146.2 innings, Means will look to lower his home runs allowed total from 30 to a more serviceable rate. Thank you, new left field wall.
Look for Means to be the anchor of the staff again, as the Orioles continue to build their rotation that is yet to be set past the top two starters.
Though this is just a prediction, a lot can happen throughout the week and the season. This looks like the most serviceable lineup to start the season and one that will lead our Orioles for the first month or so.
Let the magic begin, Birdland! We are just seven days away!
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