submitted by Tanner George
Orioles fans are experiencing two feelings unfamiliar to us over the past few years: expectation and, more importantly, excitement. While the Ravens have dominated the city’s sports scene over the past decade, Baltimore is truly a baseball town at heart. The vibe after an Orioles victory is unmatched, and fans are finally looking forward to packing the Yard after a dreadful rebuild.
The club finally got a taste of positive national attention from the media with the arrival of Adley Rutschman, the 10-game winning streak, and so much more that made last season magical. As a MLB season rolls in with the start of Spring Training, Orioles fans at last have something to get excited about.
With more great memories soon to come, a rebuild-defining question still remains…
Has Orioles Magic returned?
Grayson Rodriguez. Colton Cowser. Jordan Westburg.
All of these guys are top-100 prospects, and all of them are knocking at the door to join the Orioles after excellent runs in the minors. If his injury is fully healed, Rodriguez will surely join the O’s for Opening Day. However, barring ridiculous showings in Spring Training, Cowser and Westburg will likely start the season in AAA Norfolk and wait for the call to join the big leagues. With these two, the Orioles will likely attempt to manipulate their service time and call them up a little bit into the season. If free agent signing Adam Frazier continues to struggle as he did last season in Seattle, when he slashed .238/.301/.311, look to see Westburg elevated as his replacement in early May.
Cowser’s path, however, is slightly muddier. He’ll likely be competing with 2022 callup Kyle Stowers for the fourth outfield slot. Similar to Westburg, Cowser will likely head back to Norfolk until the ’23 season won’t count on his service time. However, he will still need to beat out Stowers for a place in the major league ballclub and could even stay in the minors until the trade deadline, should the Orioles trade Anthony Santander.
Nevertheless, the O’s have a great group of guys on the pipeline who embody the spirit of the team. Yet, these Baby Birds have to wait their turn to help the Orioles make a much-anticipated postseason run.
Assist from Acquisitions
Even though they weren’t the biggest spenders in free agency (far from it, actually), the Orioles still improved their roster through free agent acquisitions. To replace the fun but statistically inconsistent Rougned Odor, the team brought in Frazier from the Mariners, known as a steady player over his major league career. Too, Kyle Gibson was signed as an improvement over the departed Jordan Lyles, and the team completed the rotation by bringing back Mychal Givens and trading for Cole “Swirvin” Irvin. While this wasn’t exactly the pitching overhaul that some fans were hoping for, the team’s arsenal has certainly improved over last season, especially when factoring in the imminent arrival of #7 overall prospect Rodriguez. If anything, these additions indicate a faith in the youngsters that is ultimately shared by the fans.
While no one’s expecting a World Series this season, the O’s certainly have done enough personnel-wise to make it to the postseason.
Birds are Back shirt – click here
Another Go at It
At last, there is one more trick the Orioles have up their sleeve: development by experience. When creating projections for the upcoming season, multiple analysts have failed to account for the development of young players already on Baltimore’s roster. At the helm as skipper, Brandon Hyde has been nothing short of excellent at developing youngsters into formidable threats. Just look at Rutschman’s jump between his first 15 games and the end of the season. Or, Gunnar Henderson’s continued improvement throughout his time in the big leagues. These two stars will have had more time to adjust to facing MLB time on a daily basis, more time for personal training, and more time for coached development in Spring Training. We often forget how huge of a factor time is in the career of a young player. And, while some regression is to be expected, it’s safe to assume that it will be offset by the raw talent and increased experience of this young core.
Look for Adley, Gunnar, and the crew to be firing on all cylinders at the outset of 2023.
Is the Magic Back?
Considering all this, it’s certainly safe to say that magic is back in Birdland. After struggling for so long, it just feels like it’s time for the Orioles to return to an elite air. In fact, this club finally has winning expectations on its shoulders again, with fans anticipating a much-awaited return to postseason contention this year and a World Series run not long after. With the Birds chirping as the weather warms up, it feels good to have something to look forward to.
Here’s to hoping the Orioles “make the magic happen” in 2023.