It seems we’ve reached the slow part of the offseason. There’s not a lot of Orioles news to talk about right now, outside of a recent utility player signing. Because we’re at this point of the offseason, I figured I’d predict the Baltimore Orioles Opening Day infield. For the sake of this post, let’s say there are no moves made to change the current group before Opening Day.
The Starter: Ryan Mountcastle
I think this is a pretty easy one here. There’s no one on the roster that’s a better first baseman than Mountcastle right now, and his 22 home runs and .729 OPS shows that there is no lack of pop in the order either. Mountcastle is a very safe bet to be the Baltimore Orioles starting first baseman on March 30 against the Boston Red Sox.
The Backup: Lewin Díaz
Right now, I think Díaz makes the roster as a backup thanks to his stellar glove. His +4 outs above average in 2022 is a thing of beauty, although the problem with Díaz is that he really struggles to hit. As a waiver claim, there’s not much risk in removing Díaz from the roster, but I think he’ll at least get a shot to prove he can stick.
The Starter: Ramón Urías
Shifted to third base to accommodate other veterans at the major league level, Urías took home a gold glove thanks to his efforts at the position. However, he came up in the system as a second baseman, and with Gunnar Henderson firmly in the bigs, I expect Urías to shift back here on opening day. He had a strong year at the plate and in the field, so he’s an easy choice to get starts.
The Backup: Adam Frazier
Prior to the Baltimore Orioles signing Frazier to a one year contract, I would’ve penciled in Terrin Vavra here. Now that Frazier is aboard, he gets the nod. He is coming off a rather poor year with the bat, but still offers good defensive value at both second base and in the outfield. He won’t be a traditional backup, but more than likely a platoon partner, since he is still has solid game.
The Starter: Jorge Mateo
Mateo blossomed in his first season in Baltimore. He handled every bit of a starters workload, playing 150 games for a career high by quite a large amount. He should’ve been in consideration for a gold glove thanks to tremendous defense, and there’s no reason to think he won’t get every ball near him once again in 2023. His bat isn’t nearly as good, but he came up with some big hits when needed and did slug 13 homers. When he gets on base, he’s a threat, as evidenced by 35 stolen bases. There’s no reason to think Mateo isn’t staying at shortstop.
Baltimore Orioles: Predicting the Opening Day starting infield
The Backup: Gunnar Henderson
Don’t worry, I don’t think the Baltimore Orioles top prospect will be on the bench on opening day. I just think he should be the first man to slide over to shortstop if anything happens to Mateo. He showed he can stick in the majors with a 34 game showing to end 2022, hitting four home runs and driving in 18 runs, drawing 16 walks while posting a .788 OPS. He is a natural shortstop, so I think he’s the first man to slide over in case of injury.
The Starter: Gunnar Henderson
I already said everything stats wise about Henderson right above this. What I will add here is that I think third base is the best way for him to get an everyday role this season. Mateo has shortstop firmly in hand, and he hasn’t played much second base, so he’s best suited manning the hot corner for the Orioles.
The Backup: Ramón Urías
I penciled him in as the starter at second base, but since Urías won a gold glove at the hot corner in 2022, I think he’ll also get some time over here. Particularly if Henderson were to hit the IL, Urías is the first name that comes to mind when I think of someone who would take over. It’s the safest option Brandon Hyde has.
The Utility Guy: Terrin Vavra
The Orioles are pretty clearly molding Vavra into the swiss army knife, play anywhere kind of guy. He got time at second base, left field, right field, and DH last season, and is also able to pinch run if a little more speed is needed. There’s potential in his bat that warrants him sticking on the major league roster, albeit likely in a bench player role.
Outside looking in
Tyler Nevin, Franchy Cordero
Nevin had promise coming up to the majors, but he has simply been overtaken by Henderson and Vavra while not doing much to prove his own worth. I wouldn’t expect much more than the Baltimore-Norfolk shuttle for Nevin this year. Being DFA’d when a 40 man roster spot is needed also seems like a plausible outcome.
Cordero, on the other hand, isn’t even on the 40 man roster. He was signed as minor league depth, both as another option to compete for the backup job behind Mountcastle at first base, as well as providing outfield depth in the minors. I wouldn’t expect to see him crack the Opening Day roster.