The success that the Orioles enjoyed this year came unexpectedly for most fans and pundits. Brandon Hyde’s young squad won over 100 games, thanks in part to a group of O’s who had a better season than many imagined they would.
4 Orioles players who did better than anticipated in 2023
Several Birds went to the All-Star Game this year. Others have a decent chance to win individual awards at the end of the season ceremonies. Whether it be pitchers, infielders, outfielders or the faithful catching crew, Camden Yards was treated to a spectacular year of baseball.
Some of these players, though, were a wonderful surprise that maybe even Hyde himself was not expecting such a massive output from.
1. Ryan O'Hearn
O’Hearn is arguably the player most deserving of being on this list. A longtime Royals player who had never been a threat at the plate, he was traded to the Orioles in January for cash considerations. Not expected to be a major piece in the lineup, most fans knew little about him coming into Opening Day.
By the end of the year, though, most people in the majors were aware of the 29-year-old’s performances. 22 doubles and 14 home runs lead the way to a .289 batting average. Additionally, the veteran was five for six on his stolen base attempts. 2023 was O’Hearn’s most successful season in the MLB, uncontested, and it helped propel the Birds to the best record in the American League.
2. Gunnar Henderson
Everyone knew this was going to be Henderson’s first year to prove himself. No one knew how well he was going to do it. A strong fielder with a solid arm, the rookie was not someone whose direction you wanted to hit the ball toward.
His fielding prowess was indeed far above the rookie average, and it was a key factor in what ended up likely being a Rookie of the Year campaign for the youngster. In addition to his fielding, Henderson smacked 28 home runs and stole 10 bases.
One of the sole bright spots in the O’s ALDS series against Texas, the third baseman had six hits in 12 at bats including another longball. The scope of his breakout season was not anticipated, and Hyde can now look forward to many productive seasons from the 22-year-old.
3. Yennier Cano
What was Mike Elias thinking when he traded Jorge Lopez to the Twins? Yes, it was not his decision solely, but getting Cano in that trade did not seem like an even deal. The righty ended up only pitching 4 and one third innings, giving up a horrific nine earned runs.
Nobody expected him to be an All-Star this year. The 29-year-old was more than that; he was a revelation to the Birds’ bullpen, shutting down opposing batters en route to Felix Bautista coming in to secure the save.
Posting an impressive 2.11 ERA with a solid contribution of eight saves, more importantly, Cano finished second in the league with 31 holds. At the start of the season, there was a lot of worry about how good Baltimore’s relief pitchers would be. Thanks to a breakout season which no one saw coming, all worries were quickly laid to rest.
4. Kyle Bradish
Many expected Bradish to be a star pitcher for Hyde this year, but few went as far as to predict the type of season he would contribute to the team. A 2.83 ERA was good enough to see the 27-year-old place fourth in the majors.
The righty picked up a dozen wins and held a steady 1.04 WHIP which also secured him (two-way tie) third best in the league. He earned the start for Baltimore’s first home playoff game in years and will likely start Opening Day 2024.
Bradish did not just have a “good” year, he came from nowhere to establish himself as Hyde’s ace and the O’s most-feared starting pitcher.