The last time the Orioles had multiple players in the All-Star Game, they didn’t just have two. They had five.
It didn’t feel like it at the time, but the 2016 squad that sent Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo, Matt Weiters, Brad Brach and Zack (then Zach) Britton to the Midsummer Classic in San Diego would be the last winning Orioles team for a long time.
Baltimore has had just one All-Star each season since (excluding 2020, when the game was not played due to the coronavirus pandemic).
But 2023 represents another step forward in the franchise’s multiyear rebuild. The Orioles entered June with a winning record for the first time since 2017. It only seems right that the O’s reinforce their newfound status as legitimate contenders to the baseball world with a strong showing in Seattle in July.
Last year’s Most Valuable Oriole is the most promising All-Star candidate of any position player on the roster. Rutschman’s first All-Star nod could kick off a string of them, because the 25-year-old is poised to establish himself as one of baseball’s best catchers for years to come.
Rutschman is hitting .284 with an .824 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS). He came into Thursday’s game in Milwaukee leading the AL in walks (45) while posting a 1.8 WAR, according to Baseball Reference, good for third highest on the team.
Rutschman also benefits from Sean Murphy’s departure from the AL via a December trade from the Athletics to the Braves. Kansas City’s Salvador Perez remains one of the better hitters at his position — he boasts an .808 OPS — but at 33 he doesn’t bring the same defensive prowess as Rutschman.
Bautista, 27, has built on his breakout 2022 campaign by posting a 1.20 ERA in 29 appearances. His strikeout numbers are even gaudier than they were a year ago: 62 punchouts in 30 innings. “The Mountain” recorded his 16th save Thursday, tying him for second in the AL with Toronto’s Jordan Romano. They trail only Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase, who has 20.
Cano, 29, has burst onto the scene this year, thanks to an outstanding four-seam fastball and an almost unhittable changeup. The righty didn’t even make Baltimore’s Opening Day roster. Now he has a 1.09 ERA in 27 appearances.
Austin Hays has been productive, hitting .302 with an .824 OPS, but he will have a hard time beating out the likes of Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Randy Arozarena, Adolis García and others in the outfield.
Still, an injury could open a spot for Hays, who’s out to prove his hot start is more sustainable than last year’s.
Fellow outfielder Cedric Mullins was building a solid case for his second All-Star nod before suffering a right groin strain at the end of May.
A lot can happen in the three weeks before All-Star rosters are announced. But the Orioles’ impressive first half could yield accolades for their burgeoning group.