2 questions the Orioles already answered in 2024, 1 that still lingers

For those that questioned if the Orioles could replicate their 2023 success and how, there is mostly good news.
New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

While everyone thought that the Baltimore Orioles would be better in 2023, you will struggle to find many that picked them before the season to win the AL East. The Yankees were still the Yankees, the Blue Jays had a really interesting roster with some budding young stars, and the Rays had a lengthy track record of figuring out a way to field a really good team, despite spending basically nothing on their roster.

However, win the AL East the Orioles did, making the expectations coming into this season drastically different. Anything less than another playoff appearance would be considered a failure and an indictment of Baltimore's front office, especially since they have an owner that seems committed to winning.

Still, every team has question marks coming into a season. No roster is perfect, and anyone arguing otherwise is selling something. The 2001 Mariners won 116 games despite playing Al Martin and his .712 OPS in 100 games and starting John Halama 17 times, even though his numbers would have gotten him cut from a lot of teams.

The same is true with the 2024 Orioles. In fact, the Orioles' youth raised even more questions about the roster and what it should look like this season. Here are how some of these queries have been answered, now that we are in the month of May, as well as one burning question that still remains.

Yes, the Orioles will actually trust their young prospects

Orioles fans were finally treated to some big-time call-ups beginning in 2022, and were rewarded for their patience with a transcendent season from Gunnar Henderson, an All-Star season from Adley Rutschman, and Grayson Rodriguez showing flashes of what he could be on the mound in the second half of 2023. However, there was a growing sentiment that the Orioles' front office was still being overly cautious (and maybe manipulating service time) with some of their top prospects in their loaded farm system.

Those fears appear to have been unfounded and, in fact, there is an argument that they have been too aggressive in 2024 with promotions. Colton Cowser came up quickly this season, and after a brief adjustment period, he has become a stalwart contributor in Baltimore's lineup. Jordan Westburg has been absolutely raking this season with an .866 OPS. Yes, the Jackson Holliday call-up didn't turn out the way the team wanted this time, but it did show that Baltimore is willing to be aggressive if need be, which is a pretty stark turn from the abundance of caution the team had been known for.

Yes, the Orioles' young lineup can repeat their success from 2023

With any young player or team, there is always a question about whether they can repeat a strong debut season. Teams have a lot more information on them after a full season of data, and an entire offseason to figure out ways how to beat them. For a lot of young players, that next season or two can be a struggle as they adjust to different game plans against them, as well as the heightened expectations placed upon them.

The short answer is that no such worries seem to apply to the 2024 Orioles. Gunnar Henderson won Rookie of the Year last year and it looks like he may end up being significantly better this year, which should scare the rest of the league. Rutschman is his usual steady self at the plate while managing Baltimore's pitching staff with the skill of a seasoned veteran. Westburg and Cowser are off to great starts after some trials and tribulations last year. In short, the Orioles' young lineup is on the short list of the best in baseball despite their youth, and it doesn't look like that is going to change anytime soon.

Where is Baltimore's pitching depth going to come from?

Now we arrive at the elephant in the room with the Orioles' pitching staff. Yes, the Orioles did finally make a big trade when they acquired Corbin Burnes, and he has been very good. Yes, Baltimore is getting Kyle Bradish and John Means back this week. However, no one would argue that that the Orioles have a lot of pitching depth, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, especially with Craig Kimbrel already dinged up, Felix Bautista out for the year, and Grayson Rodriguez on the IL with a shoulder injury.

The simple solution here that many are likely to suggest is that the Orioles can always add an arm or two at the trade deadline this year. However, things appear to be shaping up to be a seller's market when it comes to pitching, as the number of quality arms that are likely to be available AND healthy seems to be a pretty small number, especially when it comes to starters. Baltimore can probably get some help, but impact arms are going to be few and far between, and may be priced outside of the Orioles' comfort zone. Get acquainted with Paul Blackburn.

The wild card here is top pitching prospect Cade Povich, who could be pushing for a call-up soon. He currently holds a 1.11 ERA through six starts at Triple-A with the strikeout numbers you like to see. Walks have been an issue, so Baltimore may wait until he gets his wildness in check. Chayce McDermott is another interesting arm sitting at Triple-A as well, but he has more walks than innings pitched this season, so he likely has more work to do to prove worthy of a big league promotion to a contending team.

Regardless of the answer the O's chose, this question definitively has not been answered yet.

More Orioles News from Birds Watcher