Baltimore Orioles: Hopes and Expectations For The Near Future
As the Baltimore Orioles look to begin year two of a complete rebuild, Contributor Ben Schneider offers his predictions as to what could happen over the next few years.
While the Baltimore Orioles are slogging through a rebuild and the 2020’s are upon us, I thought this would be a good time to lay out what fans can hope for and expect over the next five years.
The Orioles are facing another last-place finish in 2020, and that is not a bad thing. The many losses this season will certainly be painful, but after trading away Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Villar, the Orioles are more likely to have the worst record overall and another number one overall pick. Unlike this year, whereas many as five different players could be taken first, Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker, famous for a dominant no-hitter in the NCAA Tournament, is the clear favorite for the first pick in 2021.
While other cellar dwellers have improved this offseason, the Orioles have only signed two players to major league contracts (technically one is a split-contract). Key pitching prospects such as Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer will debut this season, and a deadline trade of Mychal Givens will allow for more prospects to debut as the Orioles find their way to a last place finish. Final record prediction: 58-104, and that might be generous.
2021 will be a key season in the Orioles rebuild and there will be a lot more attention on the team for one reason: Adley Rutschman‘s major league debut. I expect him to reach AA and AAA this season, so he should be the Opening Day catcher the following year as long as the front office does not hold him back.
In 2021, with more of the top prospects reaching the high minors, I want to see a clear improvement in Baltimore as the team gets closer to contention. I think general manager Mike Elias will spend somewhere in the $20 million range entering the season to pick up some productive veteran starting pitchers and maybe a solid hitter up the middle. With Ryan Mountcastle and hopefully Yusniel Diaz contributing, the Orioles will not have an embarrassing lineup. Even with a better team, a hyper-competitive AL East keeps the Orioles in fifth but with a record of 69-93.
If the rebuild process goes according to plan, the Orioles should reach .500 in 2022. By then, most of the prospects we know now will have debuted, and DL Hall will earn his spot in the rotation. Rutschman and Mountcastle will be rising stars in the game, and Trey Mancini will be the seasoned veteran that the team looks up to.
The 2022 free agent class is stacked with elite shortstops, so if- and we know this is a pretty big if- the Orioles manage to sign one of them, then they will really show the league that they are serious about competing. I think the power-hitting Trevor Story would be happy at Camden Yards, and he would immediately become the O’s’ dangerous leadoff hitter. With some new-found star power and a young core in place, the Orioles move up to third in the AL East with a record of 82-80.
Ah 2023, the year when everything comes together. Grayson Rodriguez and my prediction for the #2 pick in the 2020 draft, RHP Emerson Hancock, round out a newly impressive rotation, and no one is shocked to see a handful of position players make the All-Star team. Adley Rutschman picks up his power a bit more and gains a fair amount of MVP votes. The top of the lineup with Story, Rutschman, Mountcastle, and Mancini in his walk year is rather daunting for opposing pitchers, even in a season with weaker baseball than usual.
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By this point, the bullpen still isn’t great but is at least league average and filled with many of the pitching prospects I haven’t name yet, such as Blaine Knight and Zach Pop. Isaac Mattson, acquired in the Bundy trade, is the setup man for closer Hunter Harvey. With a balanced roster in all facets, the 92-70 Orioles finally get back to the playoffs in the second wild card spot before losing in the ALDS to the dominant White Sox.
Coming off a playoff appearance, the 2024 Orioles have bigger plans. The roster is largely the same, but the departure of Trey Mancini means that the Orioles bring in a free agent or two in the outfield or to DH. Early in the competitive window, the core is still young but improving, so the team overall is naturally better.
While the division is perpetually strong, the Orioles take advantage of some rival decline. The Blue Jays had a nice little window with Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette leading the way, but a lack of depth forced some trades and bloated salaries to deal with. The Rays magical maneuvers work well for a long time under a tight budget, but even they can’t manage to win every season. The Red Sox are back in contention after some downtime but lack the icons of past teams. And the Yankees who looked so fresh in ’19 and ’20 are suddenly old and ailing with overpaid veterans.
After five years, the Orioles reclaim the AL East division title with a 98-64 record and make a run to the ALCS before Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Jo Adell, and some ace pitcher lead the Angels to the World Series. Five years into the 2020’s the Orioles still haven’t reached the Fall Classic. Fortunately, there is still five more to go this decade. Plenty of time to capture a title within the next decade.