Baltimore Orioles Monthly Retrospective: April


 The first month of the 2023 MLB season is now in the books, and the Baltimore Orioles are flying high. Possessing a record of 19-9, the Birds are 2nd in the AL East and 1st in AL Wildcard standings. Additionally, their 18-win April sets a new franchise record.  Currently, the Orioles are on a series win-streak of six; an extremely promising sign for the ascendant O’s.

While the Orioles have certainly benefited from a somewhat elementary schedule, it’s reassuring to see them capitalize on it; good teams take care of business against bad teams. Their next series comes against the floundering Kansas City Royals, and on May 4, they are scheduled to face former Oriole Jordan Lyles.

The Highs

Jorge Mate-whoa

Perhaps the biggest surprise from the Orioles’ opening month has been the emergence of SS Jorge Mateo. At times during the 2022 season Mateo looked utterly lost at the plate, but in 2023 he has absolutely raked. The 27-year-old Mateo is slashing .347/.395/.667, and has hit a team-leading six home runs. This newfound pop in his bat is a welcome change as he managed just 13 home runs in 2022. While the sample size is still low, if even a fraction of these improvements are permanent, then Mateo should be considered among the top shortstops in the AL.

The Rock

RHP Yennier Cano has been a revelation for a bullpen in need of revitalization. Acquired as part of the deal that sent Jorge Lopez to Minnesota, Cano has not allowed a run through 11 IP. Furthermore, he has retired 32 of the 33 batters he’s faced; only allowing one baserunner from a HBP. Utilizing a nasty sinker, a devastating 90 MPH changeup, and occasionally a high 80s slider, Cano has absolutely mowed through Major League batters.

Big Time Rutsch

There’s no two ways about it: Adley Rutschman is a superstar. Despite the immense hype surrounding Rutschman since he was drafted, somehow the 25-year-old has exceeded every expectation. In 2022, Rutschman was by far the Orioles’ most valuable player and he has solidified his superstar status in 2023. Rutschman’s importance to this team cannot be understated: since his callup on May 21, 2022, the Orioles have a record of 85-64; a win% of .570. This year Rutschman is slashing .291/.409/.437, while continuing his dominance behind the plate.

The Lows

Defensive Woes

By nearly every available metric, the Orioles are a bad fielding team in 2023. They are currently 29th in Statcast’s Outs Above Average with -14, 30th in Fangraphs Defensive Runs Above Average with -11.4, and currently boast a subpar fielding percentage of .987. Even the eye test corroborates the fielding struggles as normally reliable defenders like Ryan Mountcastle and Ramon Urias have struggled with plays they’re expected to make. 

Personnel Management

The Orioles’ management of personnel has garnered scrutiny this past month. The handling of outfielder Kyle Stowers in particular is being criticized heavily. Despite making the Opening Day roster, Stowers’ playing time was severely limited, and he was eventually optioned to Norfolk much to the dismay of O’s fans. Although he was recalled to Baltimore on April 30, the lack of opportunities for Stowers is frustrating.

The same can be said for Terrin Vavra and Joey Ortiz. Vavra, who has infield and outfield versatility saw very few opportunities in April, and was optioned to Norfolk on April 27. He, like Stowers, never seemed to receive adequate opportunities in 2023. Although the demotion of Vavra was disappointing, the promotion of SS Joey Ortiz had O’s fans elated. However, after just three games, and eight ABs, Ortiz was optioned back to Norfolk. While some of this questionable personnel management can be chalked up to the embarrassment of young talent the O’s possess, it would be reassuring to see prospects and youngsters get sustained opportunities in the Majors in order to acclimate. If the logjam is the problem, then it must be asked why the Orioles aren’t shopping prospects to teams for established stars.

The I Don’t Knows

Starting pitchers

Questions about the Orioles’ rotation have been levied from the moment it was solidified, and it seems the concerns were not unfounded. Following three disappointing starts, and an ERA of 10.66, LHP Cole Irvin was optioned to AAA Norfolk. This is a nightmare start for the 29-year-old  Irvin who was acquired this offseason in a trade with the Oakland A’s. In his three games for Norfolk,  Irvin has recorded an ERA of 4.50; a number that is somewhat skewed by one bad game in which he allowed five runs in five innings.

Dean Kremer is another starter who struggled mightily in April. The righty has an ERA of 6.67, a WHIP of 1.584, and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 5.88. Kremer has allowed four or more runs in five of his six appearances; a far cry from the pitcher we saw in 2022. 

There have been bright spots in the rotation however. Despite a shaky start, rookie Grayson Rodriguez appears to be figuring it out at the major league level. His latest start against the Tigers was masterful; five IP, zero runs allowed, two hits, and just one BB. He currently has an ERA of 4.07, and seems to have solidified his place in the starting rotation.

Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells have also been solid. Wells, who some saw as a bullpen candidate upon Rodriguez’s arrival, has more than earned his spot as a starter, as his ERA is currently the lowest in the Orioles’ rotation.

Gunnar Henderson…?

Former number one overall prospect Gunnar Henderson is going through some growing pains. Henderson went hitless in his first three games, and currently has a slashline of .189/.348/.311. Despite struggling for contact, Henderson has shown excellent plate discipline, highlighted by a BB% of 18.5%. Henderson has also struggled in the field; he has committed four errors, and consistently misplaces throws to first, making Ryan Mountcastle’s job harder. On the bright side however, Henderson is still extremely young, and with such an advanced approach, I have no doubt that the hits will start coming. 

Best moment of April:

Worst moment of April:

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Tatiana Bird

I love talking, writing, and arguing about the O's. Follow me on twitter @TheNotoriousTGB

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