2021 Fantasy Baseball: Baltimore Orioles Team Outlook - Youth, Growing Pains & Breakouts

Get the inside scoop! 2021 fantasy baseball player profiles, team analysis and stat projections for Baltimore Orioles hitters and pitchers
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2021 Baltimore Orioles

After two dismal seasons (47-115 and 54-108), Baltimore moved closer to being a competitive franchise in a shortened season in 2020 (25-35). They allowed 20 more runs than they scored, a massive improvement over 2018 (270 more runs allowed) and 2019 (252 more runs allowed). The Orioles moved to 16th in the majors in ERA (4.53).

The development of 1B Ryan Mountcastle and OF Austin Hays are the keys to the offense, while also needing OF Trey Mancini to regain his previous form after missing last season with a battle with colon cancer.

Baltimore signed IF Yolmer Sanchez to compete for the starting second base job. They traded SS Jose Iglesias to the Angels for a pair of minor league players (P Garrett Stallings and P Jean Pinto).

Both SP Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer flashed at times in 2020, giving the Orioles hope that their starting rotation may have a couple of arms to build for their future. P Grayson Rodriguez is their top arm in their system that has ace upside.

The bullpen remains messy. Baltimore needs RP Hunter Harvey to prove he can handle the ninth inning and stay healthy for the whole season.

This season the Orioles’ goal is to move to a league-average team while building the core of their offense and the foundation of their starting rotation.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF D.J. Stewart

Baltimore gave Stewart the first four starts, but he didn’t have a hit over his first 14 at-bats. The Orioles demoted him for a month in early August. When Stewart returned, his bat flashed upside over nine games (13-for-33 with 10 runs, seven runs, and 12 RBI). Unfortunately, he drove the bus home with four hits in 39 at-bats with no home runs and three RBI.

Stewart played well in 2017 at AA (.278 with 21 HRs, 79 RBI, and 20 SBs) with strength in his approach (walk rate – 12.0 and K rate – 16.1). Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .255 with 64 HRs, 264 RBI, and 66 SBs over 1,788 at-bats while struggling to find his way with Baltimore over three seasons (.224 over 254 at-bats with 14 HRs, 40 RBI, and three SBs). 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: A possible flier with a 20/20 skill set while needing a lot to prove in the majors.

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2. OF Austin Hays

Last year Hays had the appearance of being a value at outfield in the fantasy market. He stumbled out of the gate over his first 19 games (14-for-69 with one home run and five RBI) before landing on the injury report for a month with a fractured rib. His swing improved over his final 53 at-bats (.377 with three home runs and four RBI).

Hays looked major league ready after blasting his way to majors in 2017 after dominating at High A (.328 with 16 HRs and 41 RBI over 262 at-bats) and AA (.330 with 16 HRs and 54 RBI over 261 at-bats). Injuries have been a problem for the past three seasons.

Hays underachieved over his 240 at-bats at AAA (.254 with 10 HRs, 27 RBI, and six SBs over 240 at-bats) before finding his stride in September with the Orioles in 2019 (.309 with four HRs and 13 RBI over 63 at-bats). In his limited at-bats in the majors, his strikeout rate (19.9) and walk rate (6.3) graded in a favorable area compared to his minor league career (18.8 and 4.7). Hays looks destined to make the major league roster out of spring training with visions of a great 2017 season in the minors in the back mirror (.329 with 32 HRs, 95 RBI, and five SBs over 523 at-bats). With 500 at-bats, I expect a neutral batting average with a 20/70/10 skill set out of the gate. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His early ADP (228) supports his expected upside, but Hays continues to have questions about his durability.

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3. OF Trey Mancini

Mancini missed all of last season due to his battle with colon cancer. He is expected to have a full recovery while returning to the middle of the Orioles’ lineup.

In 2019, Mancini had a career season while setting highs in runs (106), home runs (35), and RBI (97). His success was driven by growth in his approach (strikeout rate – 21.1 and walk rate – 9.3). He played well vs. righties (.297 with 23 HRs and 71 RBI over 411 at-bats). Mancini hit between five and seven home runs each month, with his best value coming in September (.365 with six HRs and 23 RBI over 104 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (42.7) came in at 95th compared to 100th in 2018. Mancini improved his swing path, which led to a drop in his ground ball rate (45.9) and growth in his fly ball rate (31.9). His HR/FB rate (23.6) is trending upward. Mancini is settling into a .270-plus hitter with 30 HR power. His productions in runs and RBI are subject to his supporting cast. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Possible regression in four categories, but his ADP (171) looks favorable after missing one season.

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4. 1B Ryan Mountcastle

The Orioles failed to commit to Mountcastle, which led to him not playing in the majors until August 21st. His bat hit the ground running, leading to a successful start to his major league career. Both his RBI rate (21.5) and contact batting average (.438) were elite. On the negative side, Mountcastle scored only 12 runs over his 126 at-bats while falling short of expectations in his average hit rate (1.476).

Despite success at AAA in 2019 (.312 with 25 HRs and 83 RBI over 520 at-bats), Baltimore didn’t call him up at the end of that season. He saw time at 1B, 3B, and OF in the minors after coming through their system as a shortstop. He has a free-swing mentality (strikeout rate – 23.5 and walk rate – 4.3). Over five seasons in the minors, Mountcastle hit .295 with 70 home runs, 274 RBI, and 27 steals over 2,078 at-bats. His lack of glove pushes him to first base with a minimal chance of earning a starting job elsewhere in the infield.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Start the bidding at .280 with a middle of the batting order opportunity. His next step is finding his power swing that should point to 30-plus home runs.

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5. OF Anthony Santander

When battling the ups and downs of a fantasy baseball season, it is a must to hit on multiple gap players to cover injuries. Santander played well over his first month in the majors (.287 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI over 115 at-bats). Unfortunately, his season ended in early September with an oblique injury.

Over the second half of 2019, Santander also showcased power (16 HRs and 44 RBI over 274 at-bats) with some batting average risk (.255). He hit .270 over 1,844 at-bats in the minors with 61 home runs, 295 RBI, and 37 stolen bases. His best success came in 2017 at High A (.290 with 20 HRs, 95 RBI, and ten SBs over 500 at-bats).

He hit only .245 with seven home runs, 35 RBI, and three steals over 237 at-bats over two years at AAA. Santander turned into a fly ball hitting over the past two seasons (43.2 and 49.6 percent), leading to a jump in his HR/FB rate (15.6 and 17.5). His strikeout rate (15.2) in 2020 was also the lowest of his career in the majors.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Trending toward starting job with a 25/85 skill set.

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6. C Chance Sisco

Sisco has yet to find his stride in the majors. Over 443 at-bats with Baltimore, he hit .205 with 56 runs, 16 home runs, and 50 RBI. Sisco only had six hits in the big leagues vs. left-handed pitching over 50 at-bats with three home runs and six RBI. Over seven seasons in the minors, he hit .305 with 38 home runs, 255 RBI, and 14 stolen bases over 1,931 at-bats. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: With 12 home runs over 265 at-bats in the majors and growth in his HR/FB rate in 2019 (18.2) and 2020 (19.0), Sisco has the foundation to be a sneaky C2 in deep leagues, but his playing time isn’t a lock while owing a platoon feel.

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7. 3B Rio Ruiz

The front runner to start at third base for the Orioles in 2021 should be Ruiz. He flashed power over five seasons in the majors (25 home runs and 99 RBI) in 724 at-bats while failing in batting average (.220). His approach at the plate has been close to the league average (strikeout rate – 21.7 and walk rate – 9.2). Ruiz needs growth against right-handed pitching (.208 with 20 home runs and 77 RBI over 606 at-bats) while holding his own vs. lefties (.280 with five home runs and 22 RBI over 118 at-bats). 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Possible developing power, but Ruiz needs to hit the ball harder to offset his batting average weakness. Only a short-term filler if he gets off to a hot start.

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8. 3B Yolmer Sanchez

After struggling to make an impact over three seasons with the White Sox (.253 with 22 home runs, 157 RBI, and 27 steals over 1,580 at-bats), Sanchez found himself looking for a new job in the majors in 2020. He signed a minor-league deal with the Giants, but he failed to earn an at-bat. Baltimore claimed him off waivers at the end of October after finishing last year back in Chicago. His bat has minimal upside in power with a questionable floor in speed. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Sanchez has a rotational feel with a league-average approach. With 500 at-bats, he may offer double-digit power and speed.

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9. OF Cedric Mullins

Mullins played well over three seasons at AA (.281 over 709 at-bats with 24 home runs, 83 RBI, and 38 steals), pointing to upside down the road in the majors. He struggled in his two chances at AAA (.235 over 510 at-bats with 11 home runs, 43 RBI, and 25 stolen bases). Mullins flashed upside over the final six weeks with Baltimore (.291 over 127 at-bats with 14 runs, three home runs, 12 RBI, and six steals). His speed is intriguing, but Mullins strikes out too much (24.2 in 2020) with weakness in his walk rate (5.2). 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Only a gap player for now who will be found on the waiver wire in most fantasy formats.

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C Adley Rutschman

Baltimore drafted Rutschman in the first round in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft. He came into college with a light-hitting swing. His power developed in 2019 (17 home runs over 185 at-bats) at Oregon State, along with his approach (76 walks and 38 strikeouts over 266 plate appearances). 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: The COVID era in baseball led to him not getting an at-bat in the minors in 2020. Rutschman looks to be a couple of seasons away from the majors.

Bench Options

Pedro Severino (C): Severino will battle for starting at-bats again in 2021 after showing growth with Baltimore (.249 with 18 home runs and 65 RBI over 465 at-bats). Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .246 with 30 home runs, 195 RBI, and eight steals over 1,769 at-bats. His approach over the last two seasons came at about league average (K rate - 21.8 and walk rate - 8.7) while setting a career-high in his HR/FB rate (15.1) in 2019 (12.2 in 2020). 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Possible double-digit power is Chance Sisco fails to secure the starting job.

Chris Davis (1B): He quickly played himself into a bench role in 2020. He finished with only six hits in 52 at-bats while picking up 17 strikeouts. Some of his failure came from a knee cap injury that led to him finishing the year on the injured list. Over the past three seasons, Davis only hit .169 over 829 at-bats with 28 home runs and 86 RBI. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Fading off into the sunset due to a tremendous strikeout rate (37.5).

Baltimore Orioles John Means

Pitching Staff

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1. SP John Means

Means started 2020 on the injured list with a left arm issue. He battled home runs (8) over his first six starts, leading to a 8.10 ERA and .293 BAA over 20.0 innings. Over his final four starts, Means pitched at a high level (1.52 ERA and 30 strikeouts over 23.2 innings). He finished with a lower walk rate (1.4) and a spike in his strikeout rate (8.7), which is a good sign going forward. Means relies on plus changeup (.217 BAA) and a winning slider (.200 BAA). His four-seamer (.245 BAA) had more life in 2020 (94.2 MPH). Over five seasons in the minors, he went 35-41 with a 3.83 ERA and 494 strikeouts over 622.2 innings. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: At this point in his career, Means has outpitched his minor league resume. There are signs of growth, highlighted by his improved command. With an ADP of 224 in the early draft season, he projects as an SP6 in 12-team leagues.

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2. SP Alex Cobb

Over three seasons with Baltimore, Cobb went 7-22 with a 5.10 ERA and 148 strikeouts over 217.0 innings. Home runs (1.7 per nine) have been a problem with a low strikeout rate (6.1). He teased over his first four starts (2.75 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 19.2 innings) while finishing the year with success in two games (three runs over 13.0 innings with nine strikeouts). Unfortunately, from August 17th to September 11th, Cobb allowed five home runs over 19.2 innings, leading to a 7.32 ERA and 29 hits allowed. He missed a pair of starts in early September with possible contact to Covid. Both his curveball (1.79 BAA) and split-finger fastball (.179 BAA) had an edge, but batters drilled his sinker (.348 BAA). When at his best from 2011 to 2017 with Tampa, Cobb went 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA and 570 strikeouts over 700.0 innings. His walk rate (3.1) was above his career average (2.6). 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: He is only an innings eater who needs to fix his home runs allowed problem.

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3. SP Keegan Akin

Akin flashed in 2018 at AA (3.27 ERA and 142 strikeouts over 137.2 innings), but his walk rate (3.8) still wasn’t major league ready. In 2019, his command regressed (4.9 walks per nine), which led to a spike in his ERA (4.73 ERA). Akin did add more strikeouts (10.5 per nine) to his resume, even with a step back in command. Over four seasons in the minors, he has a 3.78 ERA and 413 strikeouts over 376 innings. In a pair of starts for Baltimore in September, Akin flashed strikeout ability (no runs over 10.1 innings with 17 Ks). Over his six starts in the majors, he posted a 4.03 ERA with nine walks and 34 strikeouts. His average fastball came in at 92.4 MPH, with his best success coming from his slider (.250 BAA) and curveball (.222 BAA). At age 26, Akin doesn’t come to the Orioles with an elite pedigree. I expect WHIP risk while wins could be an issue due to pitching deep in games. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: More of a spot starter in the fantasy world with flashes of greatness when he’s throwing strikes.

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4. SP Dean Kramer

After struggling as a reliever in 2017 (1-4 with 5.18 ERA and 96 strikeouts over 80 innings), Kremer moved into the starting rotation over the past two years in the minors. His arm shined in 2018 (10-5 with 2.88 ERA) thanks to a jump in strikeouts (178 over 131.1 innings). He handled himself well at AA (2.98 ERA and 87 strikeouts over 84.2 innings) in 2019, but Kremer was roughed up in his four starts at AAA (8.84 ERA and 1.759 WHIP over 19.1 innings). Baltimore gave him four starts in September with exciting results in his first three matchups (1.69 ERA over 16 innings with eight hits allowed and 20 strikeouts). He gave away his gains in his final start (seven runs and 10 baserunners over 2.2 innings). His fastball came in at 93.5 MPH. Both his slider (.188 BAA) and curveball (.182 BAA) may develop into assets while not allowing a hit in his minimal usage (10 pitches) of his changeup. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: With minimal experience above AA, Kremer isn’t a lock to earn a full-time starting job in Baltimore. His drawing card is his strikeouts, which could come quicker than expected if his command improves.

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5. SP Bruce Zimmerman

Zimmermann went 18-14 with a 3.20 ERA and 303 strikeouts over 298 innings in his three seasons in the minors. His arm has been relatively consistent in his career except for his time at AAA (4.89 ERA over 38.2 innings with 33 strikeouts). Baltimore gave him two games in the majors in 2020, leading to a 7.71 ERA and seven strikeouts over seven innings. His AFB (92.0) projects below the league average while relying on a changeup, slider, and curveball as his secondary pitches. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: This season Zimmermann will battle for the fifth starting job for the Orioles. The key here is more strikes thrown and the development of his changeup—only a player to follow this spring.

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SP Michael Baumann

Despite some struggles at High A (3.83 ERA) in 2019, Baumann dominated over 13 games at AA (2.31 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 70 innings) as a result of a career-low walk rate (2.7). Over three seasons in the minors, Baumann went 24-13 with a 2.82 ERA and 291 strikeouts over 297 innings. He relies on a hard-sinking fastball, but his command in the strike zone needs improvement. His early ticket points to a start at AAA while being a few starts from the majors. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Keep an open mind as he could come quickly if he repeats his command at AA. Baumann didn’t pitch an inning last year due to a flexor issue with his right arm.

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SP Grayson Rodriguez

The future ace of the Orioles lies in the left arm of Rodriguez. Baltimore selected him in the first round of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft after completing his high school career. In his first year at A Ball, Rodriguez went 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 129 strikeouts over 94.0 innings. His walk rate (3.4) still needs work. His fastball sits in the mid-90s while offering a slider/curveball combination as his secondary pitches. Rodriguez continues to develop his changeup, which will be critical to his success in the majors. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: This season he’ll start the year at AA with a chance to make a push to AAA. Baltimore isn’t close to becoming a contender, so they won’t push him to the majors unless his arm makes a considerable step forward in his command.

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CL Hunter Harvey

Harvey continues to underachieve in his pro career due to multiple injuries. In 2019 over 11 starts at AA, he posted a 5.19 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 59 innings. His risk came from 14 home runs allowed. Harvey pitched better in relief at AAA (4.32 ERA and 22 Ks over 16.2 innings) with success as well in the majors (one run allowed over 6.1 innings with 11 Ks). Over six seasons in the minors, he posted a 3.67 ERA and 300 strikeouts over 252.1 innings. Harvey started last year on the injured list with a right elbow issue. The Orioles didn’t give him a save chance in 2020 while failing to dominate in his 10 appearances (4.15 ERA and six strikeouts over 8.2 innings). He relies on a high 90s fastball while also offering a changeup and curveball. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Closing flier, but his injury risk would force me not to overpay for him on draft day.

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RP Tanner Scott

Scott started to find his way in 2018 and 2019 at AAA (2.51 ERA with 70 strikeouts over 57.1 innings). The Orioles gave him chances in the majors over this span, but his arm fell short of expectations (5.20 ERA over 79.2 innings with 113 strikeouts). Scott’s failure came due to a massive walk rate (5.3). He showed improvement in 2020 (1.31 ERA and 23 strikeouts over 20.2 innings). Even with growth, his walk rate (4.4) still had risk with regression in his strikeout rate (10.0). 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Not closer-worthy at this point of his career, but he will be one of Baltimore’s top relieving options this season.

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RP Zac Lowther

The bullpen options for Baltimore look relatively weak for upside relievers. Rather than write about a boring arm, I thought it was more important research to look at another possible live arm in the Orioles’ system. Lowther went 13-7 in 2019 at AA with a 2.55 ERA and 154 Ks over 148 innings. His strikeout rate (10.5) has strength in the minors, along with his three-year resume (23-13 with 2.26 ERA and 380 Ks over 326 innings). His fastball isn’t an edge, and his command (3.8 walks per nine) offered risk in 2019. 

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Overall, his strike-throwing ability paired with a viable slider and changeup point to a push to the majors early in 2021.

2021 Baltimore Orioles

After two dismal seasons (47-115 and 54-108), Baltimore moved closer to being a competitive franchise in a shortened season in 2020 (25-35). They allowed 20 more runs than they scored, a massive improvement over 2018 (270 more runs allowed) and 2019 (252 more runs allowed). The Orioles moved to 16th in the majors in ERA (4.53).

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