SARASOTA, Fla. - Don’t fall in love with spring training statistics. But when is it wrong to ignore them?
Anthony Santander has become a fascinating study in Orioles camp. Given virtually no chance of making the club based on his struggles last summer and prospects moving past him. His inclusion in a round of cuts seemingly a matter of when instead of if.
Until he arrived in Sarasota in tremendous shape and starting ripping line drives all over Grapefruit League ballparks.
Until he amassed 11 hits in his first 25 at-bats before going 0-for-3 yesterday, the damage including six doubles and two home runs.
A .440 average led the team and his .480 on-base percentage ranked second to catcher Chance Sisco (.577), who appeared in five fewer games.
Outfielder Ryan McKenna, named to the Arizona Fall League’s Top Prospects Team, was reassigned to minor league camp on March 3.
Santander and Austin Hays keep pushing for inclusion on the opening day roster and the possibility exists that the Orioles carry both of them, which was unfathomable back in January. Two players who had forgettable 2018 seasons, Hays due to shoulder and ankle injuries.
The Orioles optioned Santander to Double-A Bowie after his Rule 5 status expired. He batted .258/.293/.402 in 54 games with the Baysox and spent time on the disabled list with a knee infection. And this happened after he had gone 20-for-101 (.198) with the Orioles, who didn’t include him on their expanded September roster.
Was there any reason to expect him to emerge as one of the top producers in spring training?
Santander played winter ball in Venezuela, pieced together a nine-game hitting streak with Tigres de Aragua to close the regular season and homered in the playoffs. The move to Florida didn’t slow his roll.
What the muscular 24-year-old outfielder is doing now provides a reminder of why former executive vice president Dan Duquette wanted Santander in the Rule 5 draft. And how Santander was able to dominate in the Carolina League, where he slashed .290/.368/.494 with 42 doubles, 20 home runs and 95 RBIs in 128 games with Lynchburg in 2016 before the Orioles plucked him from the Indians system.
Santander, ranked as the Orioles’ No. 9 prospect at the end of the 2016 season and No. 8 a year later, spoke earlier this month about tweaking his mechanics. Meanwhile, I’m making major adjustments to my roster projections, especially with no one claiming right field with only a few weeks left.
He no longer can be ignored. The numbers are screaming for his inclusion.
Is it OK to listen?