Watch out American League, the Baltimore Orioles are here to stay

After a strong trade deadline, the Baltimore Orioles have solidified their stronghold on the American League, entering their weekend series against the New York Mets with an AL-best record of 67-42.

The team’s big acquisition of Jack Flaherty was met with cautious intrigue at the time, a pitcher who seemed to have passed his prime. Instead, Flaherty spun one of his best starts of the season, firing six innings of one-run ball against Toronto, striking out eight batters. Flaherty also had the best average fastball velocity in almost a month, and second-best mark of his season at 94.1 mph. The Athletic‘s Eno Sarris noted that fastball velocity has been a key for Flaherty this season.

If Flaherty can keep this momentum for the last two months of the season, Baltimore’s pitching staff has been lengthened and improved.

On top of adding Flaherty, the Baltimore Orioles tout a strong lineup and a stacked farm system to replenish at will. Player development has long been a goal of the new regime, even in the 100-plus loss seasons. Those early draft picks have panned out in the forms of Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and Jordan Westburg. Other player development wins include Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, and even Aaron Hicks. Hicks in particular has been interesting to watch, as he had posted OPS+ numbers well below league average for a little more than two seasons. Now, Hicks has 11 extra-base hits, a .349 OBP, and 119 OPS+ in 42 games with Baltimore.

Even with Hicks on the injured list, the Orioles lineup is a force to be reckoned with. At every position except shortstop, the player with the most starts there has posted an OPS+ north of 100. While Gunnar Henderson has seen more time at shortstop of late, Ramon Urias and Jordan Westburg have seen time at third base, eliminating the weak bat of Jorge Mateo. While he is downright miserable in the batter’s box, Mateo provides value with his elite speed and strong defense, a valuable bench piece on a contending team.

General manager Mike Elias and his front office staff are owed a ton of credit for this run, targeting and then developing the sort of players they envisioned helping the next best Baltimore team. Westburg, for example, was a head-scratcher when drafted 30th overall in 2020. Despite strong college numbers, Westburg was seen more as a second- or third-round prospect. Instead, Westburgh reached Double-A in his first professional season, and the big leagues in his third.

With so many young players on the roster and lurking in the upper-minors, the Orioles seem to be a burgeoning super team on the rise. American League, you have been warned.