The Orioles were feeling pretty good about themselves after a surprising sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays from July 31 to August 31. 2 and a competent start to the season 5-3. Somehow, these positive vibes seem weeks old. The O fell on the circular saw which is the check the notes The Miami Marlins, who had not played for more than a week due to COVID-19 related postponements and had to add a group of healthy players during that time just to line up a roster.
After two excruciating days, the O’s lost three games to the Marlins, including a double sweep, scoring a grand total of one run in 23 innings.
The Orioles are going to be ridiculed for such a terrible performance. It’s disappointing, especially in the wake of unexpected excitement at the start of the season. Still, that doesn’t erase some of the great O’s stories in this cropped season. One that I have enjoyed so far is the collection of over 20-year-old players who were acquired for very little but have become regulars and key contributors.
Here’s a rundown of the five, including how the Orioles got them back and a look at each.
Acquired via: Selected on waivers by Giants
Remaining power: Average
In a four-month period after the 2018 season, Hanser Alberto has been called on waivers four times. The Orioles claimed it a second time, catching it from the Yankees … and also the fourth time, picking it up from the Giants. This is also a good thing, as he was one of three players from position O to reach the top 1.0 fWAR last season (along with Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini).
This year he’s off to an excellent start. He torments lefties again, but he also hits for a bit of power. On top of all that, he always does similar things with his batted ball profile and home plate discipline: he swings a lot, doesn’t hit the ball very hard, doesn’t hit, barely walks, and always accumulates a bunch of blows. He also plays a competent defense at second base; he was +6 outs above average (OAA) in 2019.
With Alberto, you could see things unfolding in two ways. He could be a commercial chip for another team looking for help in the infield and also against left-handed pitchers. Or he could stay, since the O’s don’t have many options on the court and he’s also eligible for arbitration for two more years. Either way, it was a wonderful find and an absolute pleasure to watch.
Acquired via: Indian rule 5 draft pick
Spurchasing power: Average
Santander is the only player on this list who has not been added from a waiver selection. The youngest also is also the one who has undoubtedly the highest ceiling. He was on track for some sort of breakout in 2019 (he didn’t play regularly until June) when a combination of fatigue and labrum derailed him during the home stretch of the season:
June: 97 wRC + (91 PA)
July: 124 wRC + (105 PA)
August: 118 wRC + (118 PA)
September / October: 23 wRC + (87 PA)
After the Orioles slowed down with him in the spring (with the start of the season delayed), Santander appears to be in full health. He’s run and pitched really well (he’s a useful corner fielder), although his offense has waned in recent days (88 wRC +). If he wants to take this next step, he will have to rediscover this form before September.
Similar to last season, his Statcast numbers are not obvious, but a potentially positive sign is that he is shooting the ball more (7.7% to 8.1%). He’s unlikely to win much in the base percentage department since he rarely walks, he’ll have to hit for power more consistently. Either way, he’s not going anywhere for a while.
Acquired via: Selected on waiver of the Braves
Remaining power: Average
Two things immediately stand out about Rio Ruiz. The first is his defense. If you’ve watched the Orioles play August 4-5 with Renato Núñez on third base, you’ve noticed that they just aren’t the same defensively without Ruiz’s stable glove. That’s not to say Ruiz is a wizard on the pitch – surprisingly, he ranked in the last handful of third baseman with an OAA rating of -4 in 2019 and is listed as being particularly bad for entering the game. balloon – but Núñez was even worse in his expanded role in 2018 (-8 OAA). There’s a reason Núñez is a DH.
The second thing about Ruiz is that he’s more interesting on the plate now. Something seemed to change after his recall from the miners last August:
Before 08/09/19: .238 / .306 / .335, 70 wRC + (289 PA)
After 08/09/19: .235 / .320 / .515, 117 wRC + (150 PA)
To Camden Chat, Nick Cicere detailed position and swing changes that Ruiz has been doing over the past year. It’s hard to pretend they don’t pay. Ruiz, who is not eligible for officiating until 2022, appears to have a pretty firm grip on third base at the moment.
Acquired via: Selected on waivers for Rangers
Remaining power: Moo
More than anyone on this list, Núñez needs to create value with his bat. After joining the Orioles in 2018 and settling into a full-time role, he has demonstrated his ability to hit the ball hard and out of the stadium. And like Alberto, he started strong this season (139 wRC +).
Despite this, there isn’t much else to his game. He hits a lot, and he doesn’t walk a lot. His low OBP .300s (career .312) isn’t something you want from someone hitting in the middle of the order. It doesn’t add value on basic trails, and it’s a handicap anywhere on the course.
And even! Núñez is still one of the most productive hitters on the team. There is even a silver lining that he could improve his discipline at plate and increase his steps (so far he has seen a slight decrease in the chase rate and a slight increase in steps). With a little more power and a little more OBP, Núñez can be a pretty efficient DH. It’s not extremely valuable or something that will keep it for a long time, but it is something.
Acquired via: Selected without derogations from Nationals
Remaining power: Average
When the Orioles added Severino ahead of the 2019 season, it looked like they were getting a decent backup receiver option that also had a rifle for an arm. But while Severino has a strong arm and a good pop time, it’s not up there with the league’s elite defensive receivers. It is also Fairly average when it comes to height framing.
Instead, Severino impressed with unlikely offensive skills. After receiving sporadic work in previous years, he played 70 games with the Nationals in 2018 and received 213 home plate appearances. He hit .168 and posted a wRC + of just 31. Jumping to the Orioles and a bigger role, Severino’s wRC + improved to 94 in 2019. His walk and strikeout rates stayed on. almost identical, but he reduced his swing rate (mostly on out-of-zone pitches) and added some pop. Severino ran out of steam last year, but he’s off to a good start again (117 wRC +).
You can’t talk about “Orioles” and “catcher” without a mention of Adley Rutschman. The young phenomenon will eventually find his way to Baltimore, pushing any other capture option to the backup service. It could end up being Severino, or it could be treated to make way for someone else. The fact that Severino made this first part a possibility is a credit to the work he put into the dish.
Photo credit: Kenya Allen / PressBox