If the Orioles want to provide more rest for some of their veteran players next season, they could use better options on the bench.
If they intend to keep Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander, it’s obviously going to influence the composition of their bench.
It shouldn’t be hard to follow along.
Santander must spend the first 44 days of the season on the active roster before the Orioles can option him to Triple-A Norfolk without first running him through waivers and offering him back to the Indians. It seems unlikely that the Orioles would go this far with Santander and suddenly decide to cut him loose.
Though the number of position prospects is rising in the system, the Orioles haven’t reached the point where they can turn away a player who batted .290/.368/.494 with 42 doubles, 20 home runs and 95 RBIs with Single-A Lynchburg in 2016 and went 19-for-50 (.380) with five doubles and five home runs this summer at Double-A Bowie while on an injury rehab assignment.
Santander was 8-for-30 with three doubles in 13 games with the Orioles after finally coming off the disabled list. Six hits came in his last 14 at-bats while they were plummeting into last place in the American League East. He’s a switch-hitter who turns 23 next Thursday.
I didn’t see anything in the field to indicate that he’s going to be a liability with the glove. It’s a tiny sample size that would have been much smaller if the Orioles hadn’t fallen out of contention.
Santander was glued to the pine. Manager Buck Showalter pried him loose only after the Orioles were mathematically eliminated.
A healthy spring should lead to his inclusion on the opening day roster, but we’ll need to find out what moves are in store via free agency and trades. The focus won’t rest entirely on the rotation.
The Orioles want to add at least one left-handed bat, especially with outfielder Seth Smith expected to leave as a free agent. This team leans heavily to the right if you factor in Adam Jones, Trey Mancini, possibly Austin Hays, Manny Machado, Tim Beckham, Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo and catcher Caleb Joseph.
Catcher Welington Castillo most likely will decline his $7 million option, but the Orioles could keep left-handed hitting Chance Sisco in the majors.
Backup outfielders Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry, the latter a free agent, also bat from the right side. Showalter values Gentry’s defense and baserunning and could push for the veteran’s return, but that doesn’t solve the left-right issue.
The bench eventually will hold four players, but it may not start out that way. Early off days can lead to the tweaking of the rotation, bullpen and reserves. The Orioles broke camp this year with 11 pitchers after placing Chris Tillman and Wade Miley on the disabled list and carrying Oliver Drake as an eighth reliever.
(How many fans will remember that the opening day roster included Drake, Tyler Wilson and Vidal Nuno?)
Santander’s inclusion, along with a backup catcher and utility infielder, leaves room for one more player in a standard setup. It could push Rickard down to Triple-A, again depending on other moves made over the winter.
Santander started in left field last night and went 0-for-2 with a hit by pitch for Salt River in the Arizona Fall League. Ryan Mountcastle played third base and was 0-for-4.
Left-hander Keegan Akin allowed one run and three hits in two innings. Jesus Liranzo tossed a scoreless inning with one hit and one strikeout. Left-hander Luis Gonzalez walked a batter and struck out one in a scoreless ninth.