Do the Baltimore Orioles Have Too Much Talent for One Team?

The Baltimore Orioles need to better utilize their plethora of talent to become the clear-cut World Series favorites.

Craig Kimbrel #46 and Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate a win with teammates after the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 10: Craig Kimbrel #46 and Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate a win with teammates after the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Yes, that title sounds blasphemous when you first read it. How can a team have too much talent, and how could that possibly be a problem for the Orioles? Let me tell you.

As most people know, the Orioles have one of the deepest and strongest farm systems that we have seen in recent history. They also have one of the best teams in baseball this season. They currently have the fourth-highest winning percentage in baseball.

As with any team who wins as much as the Orioles, they have a very talented roster.

The roster might be talented but one could argue the farm system is even more talented. They entered the season with six prospects in the Just Baseball Top 100 with others knocking on the door. The real concern with having this much organizational talent is whether or not the Orioles are putting the best possible team on the field. Right now, the answer is no.

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Before diving in, this is meant to be a think piece. A look at what the Orioles could do to optimize their lineup. What moves can be made that will allow the Orioles to compete for a World Series title this season.

Holes in the Lineup

The Orioles have a couple of holes in the lineup. Brandon Hyde and Mike Elias have shown that they value the veterans in this lineup and are willing to give them some grace. Rightfully so, the Orioles vets have earned some grace but just how long is the leash?

Lets take a look at how the Orioles are performing positionally:

PositionPrimary PlayerswRC+ (Rank)fWAR (Rank)
CatcherAdley Rutschman, James McCann77 (23rd)0.3 (24th)
First BaseRyan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn118 (11th)0.7 (10th)
Second BaseJorge Mateo, Jordan Westburg82 (22nd)0.8 (12th)
Short StopGunnar Henderson160 (2nd)3.0 (3rd)
Third BaseJordan Westburg, Ramon Urias126 (5th)1.6 (5th)
Left FieldColton Cowser, Austin Hays67 (26th)0.0 (23rd)
Center FieldCedric Mullins, Colton Cowser79 (20th)0.1 (25th)
Right FieldAnthony Santander, Ryan O’Hearn136 (6th)1.5 (7th)
Designated HitterRyan O’Hearn, Adley Rutschman139 (4th)1.1 (4th)

Some of these numbers may stand out and appear to be a bit alarming so allow me to offer some context. Let’s start with catcher. Adley is having a great season with a 132 wRC+. However, James McCann has started 21 games at catcher with a 39 wRC+ bringing down the team numbers.

Colton Cowser is another player who’s impact may not be seen in the table. He has started five games in right, seven in center, and 28 in left. He has also changed positions in numerous games. As a result his 127 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR are spread out across numerous positions.

Looking at this table, it is easy to see that the Orioles are being carried by five positions. They are top 10 at five positions and bottom 20 in the other four which clearly shows some room for improvement. How can the Orioles fine tune this lineup?

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Phase out James McCann

James McCann has done nothing but hurt the Orioles this season. He currently has a fWAR of negative 0.4 which is 44th among catchers with at least 70 plate appearances. McCann should be playing as little as possible.

Part of the problem is that the Orioles want Rutschman’s bat in the lineup as much as possible. That is understandable but it also means that Rutschman is playing less games at catcher because he is getting less days off. More games at DH for Rutschman means more games at catcher for McCann.

So far this season Rutschman has played in 49 of the Orioles 52 games with 30 starts at catcher. In contrast William Contreras, who has been the best catcher in baseball this season, has played in all 52 of the Brewers games with 42 starts at catcher.

With McCann playing this poorly, the Orioles cannot keep going with this 60/40 split of the catching duties. It needs to look more like the Brewers and Contreras, an 80/20 split.

Another option would be for the Orioles to DFA McCann, who will be a free agent this offseason and promote newly acquired Blake Hunt. Hunt is hitting .300/.374/.563 in Triple-A this season. He is a very experienced minor league player and it is hard to imagine him being worse than McCann is right now.

Call up Coby Mayo

There was even an argument to be made that when Jackson Holliday was called up, it should have been Mayo got the call. Mayo has been one of the best hitters in all of minor league baseball this season. He is hitting .291/.359/.605 with a 140 wRC+ and 13 home runs.

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Unfortunately, this is a move that likely cannot happen until closer to the All-Star break. Mayo fractured a rib making a play on defense and is going to be out for at least a month, maybe more. Once he is back, healthy and has his feet under him, the Orioles should waste no time calling him up.

The corresponding move to promoting Mayo would involve attempting to trade Ramon Urias. He likely does not have much value at the moment but he has two years of team control after this season. He is also historically a great defender and slightly above average hitter.

Promoting Mayo is one big move that would lead to a number of smaller changes that would also benefit the Orioles. The obvious is Mayo takes over at third base which is not a position the Orioles need help at. However, Mayo playing third would push Jordan Westburg to second base who is having an incredible season.

Moving Westburg to second base would allow Jorge Mateo to move back into a super utility/platoon role. He would likely see time in center field and at second base. Mateo is playing well this year and would serve well in a bench role where he sees regular playing time.

Is it Time for Baltimore to Move off Hays and Mullins?

Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins have been through the thick of this rebuild. They had to endure some of the worst seasons of baseball the Orioles have seen this century. After years of being bright spots on one of the worst teams in baseball, they have been anything but this season.

Mullins is now three years removed from a magical 30/30 season and looks like a shell of his old self. The struggles at the plate are hard to ignore. Hitting .193/.241/.333 is not going to cut it on a playoff team. He is also really struggling to impact the baseball posting his lowest hard hit rate since 2021.

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Hays started the All-Star game last season and is now struggling to make any kind of impact. He has dealt with injuries and maybe that is playing a role, but it has been hard to watch this season. In just 29 games Hays has managed to rack up a negative 0.7 fWAR. He is barely slugging .200 and is not playing the level of defense we have grown accustomed to.

I ultimately do not think the answer is to move off of Hays and Mullins, at least not yet.

For now however, they both need to be relegated to bench/platoon roles. Hays is posting a 114 wRC+ against lefties, which is more than palatable. Mullins has a 93 wRC+ against righties which is fine if he is playing solid defense in center. There should be no reason for them to block younger players who are performing better.

Moving forward, the Orioles will be best served by giving regular playing time to Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers.

Pitching Staff Reinforcments

Thus far in the season, the Orioles have had one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. The performance is particularly impressive given the injuries that they have been dealt. So far the Orioles have seen Kyle Bradish, John Means, Tyler Wells, Dean Kremer, and Grayson Rodriguez spend time on the injured list. Despite that, both the rotation and bullpen have been exceptional as a staff.

UnitIPK/9 (Rank)BB/9 (Rank)ERA (Rank)FIP (Rank)
Rotation2878.81 (5th)2.73 (11th)3.04 (3rd)3.47 (5th)
Bullpen1848.56 (19th)3.62 (17th)3.72 (11th)3.86 (14th)
Both4718.71 (8th)3.08 (16th)3.31 (4th)3.63 (4th)

Prior to this season, there were very few people who would have told you that the strength of this team would be the pitching staff. Even fewer would have thought the rotation to be this good.

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At this point in the season last year, the bullpen was arguably the strongest part of the team. As you can see, the bullpen has taken a step back.

The internal moves made by the Orioles should be ones that focus on strengthening the bullpen. It is very hard to win in October with a mediocre bullpen.

Promote Cade Povich

Cade Povich has been one of the best pitchers in Triple-A baseball this season. He has made 10 starts in Norfolk this season. Across those 10 starts he has thrown 53.2 innings while striking out 11.91 hitters per nine. He is also only walking 3.19 hitters per nine and has a 2.35 ERA. By adding Povich to the rotation, it will allow the Orioles to bump Albert Suarez to the bullpen.

As stated, the Orioles have suffered a number of injuries. As a result, spring training standout Albert Suarez has made four starts. He has been outstanding in those four starts, pitching to a 1.86 ERA across 19.1 innings. Why would the Orioles move the starter with the second-lowest ERA in the rotation to the bullpen?

Right now, Suarez makes the most sense. Grayson Rodriguez has been the weakest starter with a 3.20 ERA, but you can’t move him to the bullpen. Cole Irvin seems to have found something. Suarez is a 34-year-old who is attempting a comeback after two years in the KBO.

His starts are currently averaging less than five innings, which puts a lot of strain on the bullpen. He also has a 0.90 ERA in 10 bullpen innings this season making him the perfect candidate.

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Suarez immediately turns into a high leverage reliever, and Povich could prove a solid arm in the back of the rotation. Some might wonder what happens to Povich when Kremer, Means, or Wells comes back. There are really easy solutions for that dilemma.

If Povich isn’t pitching well, he can be optioned back to Triple-A. If the Orioles do not believe it would affect his development, they could opt for moving Povich to the bullpen. When Wells comes back, he is likely going to the bullpen regardless and wouldn’t kick Povich out of the rotation.

At the end of the day, promoting Povich is a very low-risk, high-reward scenario.

Pursuing External Options

Even after promoting some prospects and optimizing the talent on the team, there is still a ton of talent left in this system. The next moves for the Orioles to make are in the trade market. The team has a chance to go out and make a big splash. The Orioles World Series window is wide open and have the opportunity to maximize their chances at a title.

Add Star Closer Mason Miller

Miller is set to be the talk of the trade deadline. Will the A’s move him? No one knows but with where the A’s are at as an organization, it is hard to picture them saying no to the right package.

By now, it should be clear that the Orioles need bullpen help. So why not make a run at the player who has been best closer in baseball. Miller will also be under team control through the 2029 season. This is a move that will serve the Orioles through this season and beyond.

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The Orioles have the ability to outbid any other team that would look to make a deal like this. Here is what I believe a deal would look like:

BAL Receives OAK Receives
Mason Miller – CLHeston Kjerstad – OF/1B (JBB #53), Connor Norby – INF (BAL #6),
Justin Armbruester – RHP, Trace Bright – RHP

It is really hard to predict trade packages and how the market will fall. Given the numbers that Miller has flashed and the amount of control he has, it will likely take two top-10 prospects to garner the A’s interest. Two minor league arms with potential help sweeten the deal and outbid any competition.

Miller would come into Baltimore and most likely split closing duties with Craig Kimbrel for this season. Looking towards next season, Felix Bautista and Mason Miller could form one of the best bullpen duos the sport has ever seen.

Reunite with Old Friend Tanner Scott

Tanner Scott is coming off a career year with the Miami Marlins. He was one of the best relievers in the sport last year and played a large part in the success of Miami. He is again finding success this year although the peripherals are suggesting some regression.

This season Scott has a 1.64 ERA through 22 innings. However, a 3.09 xERA and 4.09 FIP would indicate that he has been a little lucky. Regardless, the 29-year-old is once again finding success. Being in the last year of his contract and with Miami having the second-worst record in baseball, he is almost certainly going to be moved.

A deal for Scott should not be terribly expensive, but he is going to have a market which could drive up the price a little. A potential deal for Scott should look like this:

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Bal ReceivesMIA Receives
Tanner Scott – RPJud Fabian – OF (BAL #14) & Michael Forret – RHP

As stated with the trade for Mason Miller, it is really hard to predict exactly what a package will look like. With a headliner such as Fabian, I do not think the Marlins get a prospect of that quality from anyone else. The Orioles have so many outfield prospects that they wouldn’t even notice him being traded away. Forret is a 20-year-old in Low-A that is currently leading Delmarva in strikeouts with 12.4 hitters per nine in 34 innings pitched.

The New Look Orioles

With these hypothetical moves that have been made, the Orioles have promoted minor league talent, made tweaks to the lineup, and made trades to improve the bullpen. Here is what the lineups should look like moving forward:

vs RHPvs LHP
1. Gunnar Henderson – SS, 151 wRC+1. Gunnar Henderson – SS, 187 wRC+
2. Adley Rutschman – C, 82 wRC+2. Adley Rutschman – C, 228 wRC+
3. Ryan O’Hearn – DH, 150 wRC+3. Ryan Mountcastle – 1B, 166 wRC+
4. Ryan Mountcastle – 1B, 103 wRC+4. Anthony Santander – RF, 171 wRC+
5. Colton Cowser – LF, 140 wRC+5. Jordan Westburg – DH, 111 wRC+
6. Jordan Westburg – 2B, 153 wRC+6. Austin Hays – LF, 114 wRC+
7. Cedric Mullins – CF, 93 wRC+7. Colton Cowser – CF, 86 wRC+
8. Kyle Stowers – RF, 151 wRC+8. Jorge Mateo – 2B, 154 wRC+
9. Coby Mayo – 3B, .989 OPS9. Coby Mayo – 3B, .897 OPS
1. Anthony Santander – OF, 75 wRC+1. Cedric Mullins – OF, 0 wRC+
2. Austin Hays – OF, -23 wRC+2. Kyle Stowers – OF, N/A wRC+
3. Jorge Mateo – UTL, 80 wRC+3. Ryan O’Hearn – 1B/OF, -100 wRC+
4. James McCann – C, 36 wRC+4. James McCann – C, 42 wRC+
*Coby Mayo’s numbers are from this year in Triple-A

The lineup has improved significantly just from creating a couple of platoons and promoting Coby Mayo. There may be some skepticism about playing Cowser in center, but he has graded out as a defender with elite range (5 OAA) and arm strength (99th percentile) this season.

The pitching staff has also seen some upgrades due to these projected moves. Here is what the pitching staff should look like:

1. Corbin Burnes – RHP, 65.2 IP, 2.60 ERA1. Craig Kimbrel – RHP, 20 IP, 3.15 ERA
2. Kyle Bradish – RHP, 25.2 IP, 1.75 ERA2. Mason Miller – RHP, 23 IP, 1.96 ERA
3. Grayson Rodriguez – RHP, 45 IP, 3.20 ERA3. Yennier Cano – RHP, 23 IP, 3.13 ERA
4. Cole Irvin – LHP, 50.2 IP, 2.84 ERA4. Danny Coulombe – LHP, 19.2 IP, 3.20 ERA
5. Cade Povich – LHP, 53.2 IP, 2.35 ERA5. Tanner Scott – LHP, 22 IP, 1.64 ERA
6. Albert Suarez – RHP, 29.1 IP, 1.53 ERA
7. Jacob Webb – RHP, 23.1 IP, 2.31 ERA
8. Dillon Tate – RHP, 16 IP, 2.25 ERA
*Cade Povich’s numbers are from this season in Triple-A

The pitching staff has now gone from great to possibly the best in baseball if everyone stays on track. The corresponding moves to make this happen would be to remove Keegan Akin, Cionel Perez, and Thyago Vieira from the bullpen. Akin can be optioned to Triple-A as he has one option left. Perez and Vieira would have to be DFA’d and placed on waivers.

That shouldn’t be a problem as this is the second season in a row where Perez has really struggled. Vieira was just acquired in a trade and currently has an ERA over six on the season.

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As stated at the beginning, this is a think piece meant to explore how the Orioles can best utilize their plethora of talent. This is just one way that the Orioles could go about it. There is no telling what the Orioles will or will not do. However, it is clear that the Orioles can certainly utilize the immense amount of talent that they have better than they currently are.