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4/15-4/17 Series Preview vs. Baltimore Orioles

The Yankees kick off their first road trip of the 2022 season on Friday with a three game set against the Baltimore Orioles. Let’s take a look at how the Orioles stack up.

Their Story So Far

Manager Brandon Hyde and the Baltimore Orioles are off to a rough start this year, currently sitting in last place in AL East at 1-5 with a -12 run differential. Their only win was a 2-0 game against the Milwaukee Brewers in the Orioles home opener. None of this is really a surprise. The Orioles are not going to be good this year. Most of their best players are currently in the minor leagues. MLB.com has their farm system ranked as the best in baseball, led by catcher and #1 overall prospect Adley Rutschman. They have five players total in MLB.com’s Top-100 prospects and hold the #1 pick in this years amateur draft. It won’t be much longer before the Orioles become worth watching again, but it’s going to be a long 2022 at Camden Yards.

Projected Lineup (2021 stats)

  1. CF Cedric Mullins (.291/.360/.518, 136 wRC+)
  2. 1B Ryan Mountcastle (.255/.309/.487, 111 wRC+)
  3. RF Anthony Santander (.241/.286/.433, 92 wRC+)
  4. DH Trey Mancini (.255/.326/.432, 105 wRC+)
  5. 3B Ramon Urias (.279/.361/.412, 115 wRC+)
  6. 2B Rougned Odor (.202/.286/.379, 83 wRC+)
  7. LF Austin Hays (.256/.308/.461, 106 wRC+)
  8. SS Jorge Mateo (.247/.293/.376, 83 wRC+)
  9. C Robinson Chirinos (.227/.324/.454, 108 wRC+)

Mullins is their best player. The 13th round pick in 2015 bursted on to the scene last year in his first season as a full time starter. He posted a 30/30 season with a 5.3 fWAR. Mountcastle, Santander, and Mancini are legit as well. Santander struggled last year but is off to a torrid start this year (.400/.609/.667, 265 wRC+). Former Yankees Rougned Odor and Jorge Mateo have full time gigs for the time being. Love Odor, but glad we don’t want to watch him hit anymore. I’ll take a shot for every mound visit he does this series. As terrible as the Orioles are, their lineup actually has some decent hitters in it. It isn’t going to be a walk in the park for Yankees pitchers.

Probable Pitchers

Friday (7:05 ET): LHP Jordan Montgomery (career vs. Orioles) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (career vs. Yankees)

Jordan Lyles has been around forever and is still somehow only 31 years old. He made his debut way back in 2011 with the Houston Astros. Back then he was considered a top prospect but Lyles has never consistently put it together in the majors. His best season was 2019 when he went 12-8 with a 4.15 ERA (4.64 FIP) and 1.6 fWAR in 141 innings with the Pirates and Brewers. Last year Lyles was prime “innings eater on bad team” fodder. He put up a 5.15 ERA (5.34 FIP) in 180 innings for the Texas Rangers. The Orioles signed him to a 1-year, $7 million contract this winter.

Lyles throws six pitches. He leaned on his 4-seam fastball 39.5% of the time last year, averaging 93 mph. His slider (23.2%) and curveball (18.3%) were his secondary offerings of choice in 2021. Batters hit a combined .229/.253/.415 against the slider last season. Lyles throws his sinker (8.9%) and changeup (7.9%) about equally as his third tier offerings. Baseball Savant had him adding a cutter last year, which he threw just 2.8% of the time. Jordan threw his slider less and his changeup more than he did last year in his first start this season.

Lyles started the second game of the year for the O’s and it was not particularly pretty. He lasted just five innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and gave up 5 ER, 7 hits, 3 walks, while striking out 2. This will be Lyles second career start against the Yankees, the other was last year with the Rangers.

Saturday (7:05 ET): RHP Jameson Taillon (career vs. Orioles) vs. RHP Tyler Wells (career vs. Yankees)

Tyler Wells, 27, is in his second season in the big leagues. He was claimed off waivers from the the Twins in 2020 after missing 2019 due to injury. Tyler spent all of last year coming out of the bullpen for the Orioles and was pretty decent. In 44 games and 57 innings Wells pitched to a 4.11 ERA, though his 3.63 FIP and 5.42 K/BB ratio show he was probably better than meets the eye. The Yankees saw Wells six times as a reliever last year, touching him up for a 4.70 ERA in 7.2 innings.

Wells has five offerings. As most relievers do, Wells relied most heavily on two pitches last year. His fastball was thrown 56% of the time, averaging 95.2 mph. His slider was his second most used pitch, being throw 27% of the time and limiting hitters to a .197/.186/.348 line. Tyler’s changeup was also effective, keeping hitters to a measly .161/.197/.290 line while being thrown 10.4% of the time. Wells’ curveball (4%) and sinker (2.6%) round out his arsenal.

Tyler Wells pitched the third game of the season against the Rays and got crushed. In 1.2 innings Wells allowed 3 hits, 4 ER, 2 walks, and a HR in the 8-0 loss. Despite that start, Wells appears to the have the makings of three quality pitches. He also had success in the minors, posting a 2.82 ERA across three seasons in 255.2 innings. It will be interesting to see if he can become something for the O’s in the rotation this year. Worst case he has his middle relief success to fall back on.

Sunday (1:05 ET): LHP Nestor Cortes (career vs. Orioles) vs. LHP Bruce Zimmermann (career vs. Yankees)

Bruce Zimmermann is a lefty that came over from the Atlanta Braves in the 2018 deadline deal that sent Kevin Gausman the other way. Like Wells, Zimmermann is in his second big league season with the Orioles. Bruce made 14 appearances with the big club last year (13 starts) and pitched to a 5.04 ERA (5.38 FIP) in 64.1 innings. The Yankees saw him twice last year. They touched him up in a 5-1 win the first time, and then got shut down the second time they saw him in a 10-6 Orioles comeback win.

Zimmermann has a classic four-pitch repertoire. His fastball was thrown 42.2% of the time in 2021, and got crushed to the tune of .392/.367/.711. Yikes. Bruce follows up that pitch with his changeup (25.8%) and slider (18.7%). His curveball (13.3%) comes last amongst his pitches thrown. He threw his curveball more than his slider in his first start, so we’ll see if that trend continues. Last year it was a more effective pitch than the slider, holding hitters to a .139/.205/.167 line as opposed to .225/.215/.250 versus the slider.

Zimmermann pitched the home opener for the Orioles and pitched well. He threw 4 shutout innings, giving up only 3 hits, 2 walks, while striking out 4. He did not qualify the win, but still a solid way to start the season. Zimmermann will be looking to build off that in a tough matchup against the Yankees.

Three Things to Watch

Yankees starting pitchers: There is a lot I will be watching for from the Yankees starters this series. Jordan Montgomery was hit by a liner in his first start against the Red Sox. By all accounts he is fine and ready to go but it will be worth watching to see if he looks healthy. As I touched on in my Blue Jays Series recap there were interesting developments from both Jameson Taillon and Nestor Cortes in their first start. Is Taillon’s slider for real? Has Cortes’ fastball added another gear? Lots to look forward to in this series.

Bottom of the order: After a brutal start to the year, Isiah Kiner-Falefa went 3-for-3 on Thursday night and was driven in twice by backup catcher Jose Trevino. It was a much needed outing from the eight and nine spots. The Yankees need them to build off that. Hopefully IKF has shaken off the cobwebs and can get going. Did Trevino earn more playing time with that performance? It will be worth watching.

Offense vs. bad pitching: The Yankees have been struggling to score runs early on this season. Their runs scored by game have been 6, 4, 3, 0, 4, 4, and 3. They rank 22nd in baseball in runs scored as of this writing. This is the series to turn it around. The Orioles staff on paper is really bad. Hopefully that is enough to get the Yankees bats going as we move into the second half of April.

 

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