Evaluating the 2023 Baltimore Orioles outfield picture
There’s quite a lot of faces in the Baltimore Orioles outfield group, so here’s a look at all of them and what they might bring to the table.
As we inch closer to Thanksgiving, I figured it would be a good idea to take looks at certain areas of the Baltimore Orioles roster. I took a look at internal options for the starting rotation on Saturday, so today I’m examining the Orioles outfield picture.
The latest addition to the Orioles outfield, Cameron is a waiver claim whose strengths start and end with his speed. His defense is fine thanks to just one major league error, and he has experience playing all three outfield spots. Unfortunately, he just can’t hit. A career .201 average just won’t cut it, so count me surprised if he’s on the Opening Day roster.
Like Cameron, Cave was an offseason waiver claim of the Orioles as an experiment of sorts. There is some power as evidenced by 13 home runs over 91 games in 2018, but a .297 career on base percentage leaves something to be desired. His arm strength has gotten good marks and he could be a solid fourth or fifth outfielder, but the Orioles have plenty of outfielders. He could crack the opening day roster, or he could be DFA’d. I’m leaning the route of DFA’d thanks to the high number of outfielders the Orioles have right now. It is worth noting they have already signed him to a split contract.
Hays was seen as a possible non-tender candidate leading up to Friday’s deadline, but the Orioles opted to tender him a contract and keep him in their plans for 2023. It’s not exactly undeserved, as he hit 16 home runs with a .306 on base percentage and .719 OPS in 145 games. He can play solid defense on both corners of the outfield, and I’d say he’s earned a starting spot once again.
In his second big league season, McKenna saw 104 games of action as the Orioles fourth outfielder, a number that is raised due to his defensive substitution appearances late in games. Regardless, there were slight improvements on the hitting side, raising his average to .237, his slugging percentage to .340, and his OPS to .634. His defense is why he’s on the roster, thanks to just three errors in 165 games in the outfield. Improvements will need to be made with the bat, but he’s still a perfectly serviceable backup outfielder for the Orioles when someone needs a day off.
Baltimore Orioles: assessing the in-house outfield options
After his best season in 2021, Mullins continued to be a dependable player for the Orioles to rely on. He hit 16 home runs and again swiped 30+ bags, taking 34 of them in 156 games. He wasn’t a 30-30 guy or an All-Star, but Mullins was still an effective player in 2022, and I have no reason to think he won’t be once again in 2023. That’s starting center fielder Cedric Mullins to you.
Also seen as a candidate to be moved this offseason, the Orioles tendered Santander a contract for 2023, which was a wise move. His power was a big boost to the lineup, spiking his home run count up to 33 this season with a .455 slugging percentage to go along with it. His defense can be seen as a bit of an issue, but the Orioles might be working him out at first base alongside Ryan Mountcastle, which would be big because it takes a defensive liability out of the outfield while also keeping his bat in the lineup. I think he starts the year in the outfield but could very soon find himself in a 1B/DH platoon.
One of the Orioles prized prospects in the outfield debuted in 2022 and stuck for good following a second half callup. We saw flashes from Stowers, hitting .253 with a .724 OPS to go with four doubles and three home runs in 34 games of action. He was also errorless in the outfield in a 25 game sample size. Stowers seems a certainty to make the team out of camp.
The next utility player in Baltimore, Vavra has the ability to help the team defensively at second base as well as the corner outfield spots, only committing one error in 27 games in the field. He also held his own as a hitter, recording a .340 on base percentage and .677 OPS while hitting one home run, adding 12 RBI’s in 40 games played. He won’t be a starting outfielder, but there’s value to be found in a few places around the diamond here.
The Orioles outfield picture has a lot of names heading into 2023, but I feel like the roles can be clear. I see Hays, Mullins, and Santander as the starters heading into the season, just like last season. Regarding McKenna and Stowers, I feel like they are perfectly suitable backup options, with Vavra and even Ryan Mountcastle having the ability to fill in out there when necessary. Unfortunately for Cave and Cameron, I just don’t see a path for them to stick on the roster for the upcoming year. In my opinion, let’s take the same group and run it back.