Break up the Orioles! Fresh off a sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Baltimore comes to Yankee Stadium for a three game series against the Yankees. Let’s take a look at the AL East’s first place and undefeated club.
Their story so far
The Orioles dismantled the Red Sox over the weekend, outscoring them 18-5. Boston isn’t supposed to be very good this year, but keep in mind that this is what’s expected to be an even worse Orioles team. A team that literally had zero percent odds of making the playoffs entering the 2021 campaign.
Baltimore’s rotation trio of Actually Good Pitcher John Means, a revived Matt Harvey (!), and Bruce Zimmermann (who?) confounded Red Sox hitters in this series. So did the Orioles’ bullpen. And it’s not like Boston is without any good bats. It’s a lineup that features Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez, among others.
Means set the tone in the series after he pitched seven shutout frames in the opener. The left also allowed just one base hit. The Yankees will see him on Wednesday. Harvey and Zimmermann also fared well (10.2 innings, 5 runs combined), but the Yankees will miss those two.
Offensively, the Orioles didn’t hit much until yesterday’s 11 run outburst. It was the aforementioned pitching that beat Boston. But yesterday, the O’s blitzed Boston with a three run first frame and a seven run third inning to leave the Sox in the dust. Cedric Mullins was the star yesterday; he reached base in all six plate appearances.
Although Baltimore comes in to the Bronx on a high note, they’re not to be mistaken as some sort of upstart club. As you’ll see below in the team’s projected lineup and probable pitchers, there’s a reason this team is projected to finish in the AL East cellar. Facing the Orioles is a good opportunity for the Yankees to bounce back from the team’s stumble out of the gate against Toronto.
|Player||Injury||Roster Status||Estimated Return|
|Chris Davis||Lower Back Strain||60-day IL||June|
|DJ Stewart||Strained Hamstring||10-day IL||Mid April|
|Shawn Armstring||COVID-19 Protocol|
|Hunter Harvey||Strained Oblique||60-Day IL||Late May|
Spotlight: Cedric Mullins
Switch hitting center fielder Cedric Mullins has never cracked any league-wide top prospect lists, but he’s taken Baltimore’s center field job and ran with it since last year. Part of that may be the organization’s dearth of upper-level talent, but at the same time, Mullins held his own in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The 26 year-old hit .271/.315/.407 (97 wRC+) and played excellent outfield defense according to Statcast (94th percentile in Outs Above Average). And now, he’s off to a hot start in 2021 (even if just three games).
Mullins tormented the Red Sox over the weekend. He got aboard in 10 of 14 plate appearances, including three doubles, a walk, and three runs scored. Obviously, that’s unsustainable. But if there’s any possibility for Mullins to post a batting line similar to last season alongside his plus glove in center, Baltimore has a real find.
Projection systems don’t believe in Mullins’ bat, and perhaps understandably so. He posted some decent batting lines in the minors, but looked overmatched in his first taste of the majors in 2019. That year, Mullins received 74 plate appearances but hit a meager .094/.181/.156 (-10 wRC+). As such, even with a solid 2020 performance in mind, PECOTA (72 DRC+), ZiPS (79 wRC+), and Steamer (81 wRC+) don’t see much for Mullins at the dish.
If Mullins proves to hit like projections indicate, it’s not necessarily a terrible outcome either. With his speed and defensive ability, he should be able to find a role as a fourth outfielder or reserve.
In this series, Yankees pitchers will be more preoccupied with the likes of Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle. Still, Mullins is off to a hot start and the Yankees will want to keep him off the basepaths in front of Baltimore’s middle of the order hitters.
Here’s Roster Resource’s projected lineup for Baltimore, plus PECOTA projections in parentheses:
- Cedric Mullins, CF (.217/.278/.361, 72 DRC+)
- Trey Mancini, 1B (.260/.328/.468, 110 DRC+)
- Anthony Santander, RF (.252/.305/.466, 102 DRC+)
- Ryan Mountcastle, DH (.256/.299/.445, 96 DRC+)
- Rio Ruiz, 2B (.230/.310/.395, 90 DRC+)
- Maikel Franco, 3B (.252/.312/.444, 100 DRC+)
- Freddy Galvis, SS (.247/.302/.413, 90 DRC+)
- Austin Hays, LF (.256/.302/.455, 100 DRC+)
- Pedro Severino, C (.241/.305/.401, 89 DRC+)
- Chance Cisco, C (.220/.328/.386, 96 DRC+)
- Ramón Urías, INF (.235/.308/.400, 91 DRC+)
- Pat Valaika, UTIL (.232/.280/.429, 83 DRC+)
RHP Jorge López
López cracked a couple of top-100 prospect lists five years ago (Baseball America and MLB Pipeline) while with the Brewers, but hasn’t amounted to much. The 28 year-old owns a lifetime 6.03 ERA in 228.1 major league innings with Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Baltimore. Tonight is his season debut. (Stats vs. Yankees)
LHP Jordan Montgomery
I’m really looking forward to watching Monty pitch this season. As I wrote following the 2020 campaign, there are a number of underlying indicators pointing up for the tall southpaw. He’s also coming off a strong spring training performance (0.90 ERA in 10 innings), but take that with a heaping grain of salt. (Stats vs. Orioles)
RHP Dean Kremer
You may recall Kramer pitching well against the Yankees last summer. In two early September starts, the righty gave up only two runs in 11 innings against the Yanks, although those lineups had stars on the injured list. That said, Kremer is actually a pretty decent pitching prospect and not some pushover. (Stats vs. Yankees)
RHP Gerrit Cole
The Yankees will hand the ball to the team’s ace for the second time in five games to start the season. Cole is on regular rest thanks to Friday’s off day and it’s exciting to see the Yankees want to use him early and often. Cole looked strong in 5.1 frames against Toronto last week. (Stats vs. Orioles)
LHP John Means
The soon-to-be 28 year-old lefty has been a diamond in the rough for Baltimore. He emerged as an out of nowhere All-Star in 2019, and although he had some issues with home runs allowed last year, he still put up a league-average ERA. As noted, he’s coming off a strong season debut against Boston. (Stats vs. Yankees)
RHP Jameson Taillon
We’ll finally get our first regular season look at Taillon at the end of this series. The Yankees are slow playing things for the newly acquired righty, who hasn’t pitched in almost two years now due to Tommy John surgery. Should be an exciting one to watch. (Stats vs. Orioles)
Here’s how Baltimore’s bullpen shapes up for this weekend. I’ve noted the amount of pitches thrown for each over the weekend in the table below.
|Tanner Scott (L)||25|
|Paul Fry (L)|
|Wade LeBlanc (L)|
The Orioles’ bullpen is pretty fresh for this series. Valdez, who notched two saves against Boston, is the team’s closer while Hunter Harvey is sideline. Valdez unique in that he’s the polar opposite of what you’d expect in a relief role. Rather than blow it by hitters, the 36 year-old averages 86 MPH on his fastball. His go to pitch is his changeup, which comes in at 78 MPH and is used nearly 80 percent of the time. 80 percent changeups! Pretty weird.
Scott is probably the team’s best reliever. He’s a hard throwing lefty who posted a 1.31 ERA in 25 games last season. Sulser has some interesting Statcast metrics but hasn’t put things together yet. He’s probably not available for tonight’s game anyway. Tate, traded from the Yankees to Baltimore a few years back, appears to have moved to a relief role full-time. His stuff certainly could play well there. Fry is a middle innings lefty. Plutko and LeBlanc serve in long relief roles. Wells and Screroler are Rule 5 picks looking to stick around in low leverage roles.