5 Orioles poised for breakout seasons in 2023

The 2022 season for the Baltimore Orioles was full of surprises and breakout campaigns.

The Birds finished with an 83-79 record, Ramón Urias secured his first Gold Glove at third base, Jorge Mateo showed himself as a premiere shortstop and Anthony Santander led all switch hitters in home runs (33).

Even with these surprises, there were still a few players who performed under their potential last season. For this list, we will highlight a few players we believe will have a breakout/comeback season compared to their 2022 campaigns.

Without wasting anymore time, let’s get right into the five Oriole players who will bounce back in 2023.

Ryan Mountcastle

More or less the inspiration for this article, Ryan Mountcastle is the top guy we expect to bounce back in a big way this season.

After breaking the Orioles’ rookie home run record in 2021, Mountcastle followed up in 2022 with a lackluster season. The O’s first baseman hit just 22 home runs and finished the season with an OPS+ of 105.

Now, obviously, moving the wall back in Camden Yards will negatively affect any right-handed hitters’ home run numbers. However, Mountcastle only recorded three more total hits than he did in 2021, with 21 more at-bats.

A big part of Mountcastle’s issue last season was purely bad luck. In 2022, Mountcastle was in the 88th percentile in average exit velocity, 82nd in hard hit percentage and 96th in expected slugging percentage, yet he ended the year with a .250.

This comes down to the fact that Mountcastle was hitting the cover off the ball but was hitting it straight to defenders more often than not. Anytime you see a player with these kind of numbers, they tend to turn upwards as time goes on.

Dean Kremer

Dean Kremer is one of a few arms on this list. However, he may be the most poised for a breakout 2023 season.

Now being the only piece of the Manny Machado trade that remains relevant to the Orioles, Kremer finally showed his potential in 2022. Last season, Kremer ended the year with a 3.23 ERA, his best by a margarin of 1.59.

His ERA+ was a 124, which is 24% higher than league average. What helped Kremer a lot last season was his ability to initiate weaker contact than in prior years, mainly due to the increase in his changeup usage.

A big sign that points towards further progression is Kremer’s steady decline in his WHIP number, which last season was at 1.25, down .4 points from his 2021 total. Another noticeable improvement was his walk rate, going from 10.2% in 2021 to just 6.6% in 2022.

This shows a lot of maturity in Kremer, and that is something that will continue to get better as he ages. After passing 100 innings for the first time in 2022, we could be seeing Kremer as the top starter in the O’s rotation, aided by his ability to keep hitters average exit velocity under 90 mph.

Kyle Bradish

Coming off a rookie season with a few injuries, Kyle Bradish is an easy choice for this list. If we look at his first half of 2022 compared to the second half, we already saw a significant improvement that is expected to continue to rise.

From July 29 to the end of the season, Bradish got back on track, giving up more than three earned runs only once. He also had four outings with no runs allowed, including an 8.2-inning shutout outing against the World Champion Houston Astros.

The improvement we expect to see in 2023 really started showing after July 29. His home run numbers dropped dramatically, while his strikeouts and average innings per outing rose.

That was mainly due to a subtle change in his positioning on the mound, as he moved from the right side of the rubber to the left. He also added a sinker to go with that wipeout slider, which made him even more deceptive.

Bradish will be an arm that benefits greatly from a whole year of Adley Rutschman behind the plate. That allows him to rely more heavily on that wicked slider as a putout pitch and to focus on cutting down on his walks.

The main factor for Bradish will be his health, where if he is healthy for all of 2023, you can expect a 150+ strikeout season in a year where he will not be on an innings limit.

Nick Vespi

Nick Vespi was a highly-touted arm when he got called up from Triple-A Norfolk last season. In the midst of a dominant bullpen, Vespi pitched well yet almost flew under the radar.

The big lefty struck out 28 batters in just 26.1 innings last year, walking just eight. What killed Vespi last year was the home run ball, in which he allowed five.

A big way in which expect Vespi to improve this year is with pitch selection. A large part of that will come from being used in more normal and higher leverage situations.

Vespi has a wicked arsenal of breaking pitches that will be his go-to this year. Using those pitches more confidently will go a long way, mainly in keeping him ahead in counts, which he struggled with last season.

Coming off hernia surgery in January, Vespi might not be ready by the start of spring, but he could be back as early as April.

Gunnar Henderson

Considering Gunnar Henderson only saw limited time last season, he was a no-brainer for this list. In his short time in the majors, Henderson showed his raw power, and there’s really no doubt we are getting ready to see a 20+ home run guy who can really spray the ball everywhere on the field.

His .788 OPS in 116 at-bats last year truly is impressive, and that will rise exponentially when he gets to play a full season in Camden Yards. Henderson will benefit a lot from being a left-handed hitter in that ballpark, but that deep wall in left field will be a good line for doubles with his opposite field power.

That being said, we think Henderson will break out defensively more than anything. Last year, he was plugged in at second base, a position he hardly ever played.

In the minors, Henderson was electric in the field when he split his time evenly between shortstop and third base. With Jorge Mateo having shortstop locked up, Henderson will be the everyday third baseman but will still see time at short on certain occasions.

Just like in the minors, Henderson’s top-notch reflexes and cannon of an arm will translate beautifully to playing third regularly in the majors. He should be a player we see in some 140 games, which will give him the time to really settle into his position defensively.

Henderson is a clear choice and early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year before the season even starts, and him playing up to that potential will be key in itself.

Which player do you think will have a breakout 2023 season for the Orioles? Let us know in the comments below! And make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content!

Like Justin’s content? Follow him on Twitter – @orioles4life96

2 thoughts on “5 Orioles poised for breakout seasons in 2023

  1. I’m with you on looking for Mountcastle to bounce back in what could be argued as a the slightest of sophomore slumps. I’m looking for him to get in the converstation of being an allstar. A tough task considering the position he plays I admit.

    I do have to take issue with one thing that you said Mr. Sutphin. How in the world can you say that Mateo has Shortstop locked up this season? He’s a .220 hitter with a bit of pop and can steal you a base. Well, actually, a lot of bases. But still …he’s the weakest hitter on the team, and frankly, though he routinely makes spectacular plays with the glove, I remember a fistful of routine plays the guy booted as well.

    So does this all make him a “lock” at short when you have guys like Henderson, Westburg and Ortiz knocking on the door? Heck … you can even throw Urias into that group as being a better player than Mateo.

    We need a better player at SS than Mateo, and I’d hate to think they’ll just hand him the job.

    One question….can we (readers) NOT see other readers comments on this site?


    1. Hello, sir! I’m Jared, one of the co-creators of The Baltimore Battery. I’m not Justin, but I will answer on his behalf.

      As for the question on if other readers can see comments, the answer is yes! You all have the ability to comment and interact with one another as you please. We actually encourage it!

      As for if Mateo is a lock at shortstop, as of this current moment, Mateo is the Opening Day shortstop. His fielding is almost more valuable than his offensive capabilities. He did win the Fielding Bible Award, after all! Plus, 2023 is a new season, so Mateo could come out of spring training with a hot bat. We can, however, assume that either he or Gunnar Henderson will man the shortstop position. Ramón will play mostly second and occasionally third, depending on if Gunnar or Mateo has a day off. We also have to factor in the newly acquired left-handed Adam Frazier, who will see most of the reps at second base, getting in some occasional outfield time as well.


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