Infielders (6): Jackson Holliday, Jordan Westburg, Gunnar Henderson, Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O'Hearn
If the Corbin Burnes trade told us anything, it made it clear that Mike Elias and the Orioles are in it to win it this season. Elias stated that the Burnes acquisition will have a "tremendous impact" on the Orioles' chances to win a World Series. That convinced me Elias will aim to field the best team he can from day 1. The best team features baseball's number one prospect and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Jackson Holliday at second base on opening day. I expect Holliday to be joined by Jordan Westburg (3B), Gunnar Henderson (SS), and Ryan Mountcastle (1B, with Ryan O'Hearn filling in on occasion) around the infield.
If Holliday makes the team, it would push one of Ramon Urias or Jorge Mateo out. Although I am a big fan of Urias, I project the Orioles trading him at the end of Spring Training to an infield-needy team and awarding the utility job to Mateo.
As was the case last year, the infield's positional flexibility is elite, with Holliday, Henderson, and Westburg capable of playing third, second, and short. Mateo makes the team for his speed, defense, and ability to play the outfield as well.
O'Hearn, Mountcastle, and Heston Kjerstad will rotate between DH, the bench, and the field in the early going.
Outfielders (5): Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, Heston Kjerstad, Ryan McKenna
Death, taxes, and an outfield of Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, and Ryan McKenna. Yes, the Orioles once again keep the outfield band back together (no, not this "Outfield" band). For the fourth straight season, the Orioles are expected to open with an outfield alignment of Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander from left to right.
Hays and Santander debuted with the Orioles in 2017 and were teammates with Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, JJ Hardy and Zack Britton. Mullins debuted the following season and literally and figuratively was ushered in as the team's new centerfielder by Jones. How fitting would it be for these Oriole lifers to remain healthy and start all season as the Orioles push for a World Series?
On the contrary, Kjerstad and McKenna's spots are far from guaranteed. The Orioles claimed outfielder Sam Hilliard off waivers from Atlanta at the start of the offseason, and he will likely compete with McKenna for the fourth outfielder spot. However, Hilliard bats left and may be redundant with Kjerstad and Colton Cowser if and when he comes up. No, I am giving this spot to Brandon Hyde's favorite Ryan McKenna.
Kjerstad gets the final spot for me over Cowser. Yes, Kjerstad is a bit redundant with Ryan O'Hearn, but I believe the O's want to give Kjerstad a chance to show what he can do in a more regular role, especially after he concluded 2023 in Baltimore and made the playoff roster. I envision Kjerstad starting 3-4 times a week, occasionally playing right field and DHing when O'Hearn or Mountcastle get a day off.