The Baltimore Orioles have shocked many by emerging atop the AL East and securing the best regular season record in the entirety of the American League, with 101 wins. While the Orioles were dominant in their path to clinching the AL East, teams who were similarly successful like the Tampa Bay Rays have shown that regular season prowess does not instantly translate to greatness in the postseason.
This Orioles roster is largely inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs, which raises some question marks as to how they will perform. However, if these five players are at the top of their games, the Orioles are sure to make a deep playoff run.
The Five Players Key to An Orioles Playoff Run
1. Gunnar Henderson
The heavy favorite to take home American League Rookie of the Year honors, 22-year-old Gunnar Henderson has been electric at the plate and in the field this year. Posting a 6.3 WAR, crushing 28 Home Runs, and tallying 82 RBIs, Henderson’s contributions could be likened to a shot of adrenaline, having the sixth most runs scored in the AL this year with 100, as well as the second most triples in the AL with nine.
When batting Henderson brings an intensity that is unlike any other bat in the Orioles lineup, bringing that same energy to the playoffs is crucial for with a single swing of the bat Henderson can make the Orioles competitive in just about every game they compete in.
When it comes to defense, Henderson’s ferocity is there as well, making incredible diving plays or making throws from his knees, essentially the kid is a defensive unit posting the seventh-best defensive WAR in the American League, while still being the eighth-youngest player in the AL. While his passion and energy are what make him so special, his inexperience like other Orioles players could come into play, so jumping the mental hurdle of actually being in the playoffs and having to perform will be a necessity.
I still can’t get over this play by Gunnar Henderson pic.twitter.com/gM9K9rgTwE
— 𝙆𝙣𝘽 (@kazknowsball) October 6, 2023
2. Adley Rutschman
Arguably the face of the Orioles franchise, as it currently stands, Adley Rutschman is everything you could want former first-overall pick and now MLB star. Rutschman has the ability to consistently get on base and make a difference in any game.
For the 2023 season, Adley had the third-most walks in the American League, the eighth-most hits in the American League, and the fifth-most singles in the American League, all leading him to have the sixth-best Base Percentage in the American League at .374. Just being able to get on base while be a great asset for the Orioles offensively, as it creates the ability to drive in more runs and gets the opposing pitcher’s throwing count up. This allows the Orioles to have greater run difference if players like Rutschman are batted in, in turn giving Orioles pitchers greater wiggle room and comfort when pitching.
Furthermore, his competence as a catcher, bolsters the Oriole’s defensive holding, as it will be harder for opposing teams to run on a catcher who had the third most assists in the American League this year with 45.
3. Yennier Cano
Now that Felix Bautista is set to undergo Tommy John surgery, the question of who the Orioles will have to rely upon as the closer for the postseason emerges. In all likelihood, the job most likely belongs to 2023 All-Star Yennier Cano, who after a rocky start with Minnesota last year, has come into his own as an Oriole this season.
Cano has had a great year overall, but his performance has tapered off in the second half of the season. He can be an extremely volatile player, in some games striking out the side when called to finish a game or in others letting multiple batters get on base, potentially giving up runs, making every time he steps into a game a bit of a nail-biter. For the year, Cano has a 1.005 WHIP and a 2.11 ERA. He has what it takes to make an incredibly positive impact on Oriole’s run, but ensuring that he is locked will be something the team must do.
Yennier Cano slams the door for the @Orioles by striking out the side. 😤
— MLB (@MLB) September 27, 2023
4. Ryan Mountcastle
Ryan Mountcastle has dealt with injuries on and off throughout the 2023 season, playing in 115 games, but when he has consistently played he has been one of the best offensive players on in the Oriole’s lineup, notching 114 hits and hitting .270, with a .779 OPS. He had hot streaks throughout the months of July and August, at one point having a 12-game hit streak, and has batted .322 since the All-Star break with a .893 OPS.
Mountcastle continuing his hot hitting will be huge for the Orioles when facing teams like the Texas Rangers, as he is able to deliver what his team needs, getting lots of clutch hits, and big RBIs in big-time moments. Another big bat in the Orioles lineup is important, as it gives the team incredible levels of depth that are huge for a playoff run.
Ryan Mountcastle good to have you back pic.twitter.com/qxzYgbQMd9
— 𝙆𝙣𝘽 (@kazknowsball) October 1, 2023
5. Grayson Rodriguez
Rodriguez had a rocky start to his MLB career, playing in 10 games and posting a 7.35 ERA, and was promptly sent down to the minors. However, since being brought back up to the Major League level, Rodriguez has a 2.58 ERA, a 5-2 record, and a 1.096 WHIP through 13 games, while striking out 8.6 batters per nine innings. Rodriguez has what it takes to truly make a tremendous impact on the Orioles and their playoff outlook. He has the ability to be a legitimate ace and now he can prove he can gain that title with all the eyes on him during the MLB playoffs.
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