While Anthony Santander passed his summer audition with the Orioles and made himself a piece of the rebuilding process moving forward, he certainly has more work to do over the winter and in spring training. There’s room for improvement.
It had to come up in his exit interview.
Santander had 20 doubles and 20 home runs over 93 games and gained manager Brandon Hyde’s trust in the outfield. He was comfortable going back for the ball and making catches against the fence and led the club with five outfield assists. But Baseball-Reference.com registers his dWAR at -0.3.
More important to the Orioles is the .297 on-base percentage and the streaky nature of his season, which included back-to-back games with home runs on June 28-29, July 19-20, July 23-24 and Aug. 30-21.
The former Rule 5 pick belted four homers in five days, but also had sustained periods when he couldn’t buy a hit. He collected only one in his last 23 at-bats before being shut down.
Santander batted .274/.333/.443 in 28 games in the first half and .255/.282/.489 in 65 games after the All-Star break. He appeared to wear down as the season wound down, slashing .320/.346/.526 in July, .274/.305/.549 in August and .155/.184/.321 in September.
Hyde kept Santander out of the lineup after Sept. 23, suggesting that the outfielder was beat up and needed a break. The length of the season might have caught up to him, which is understandable.
Santander should be in the opening day lineup next year as long as he’s healthy, though a disastrous spring training could impact the plan. The question is whether he’s in left field or right, which is tied to whether Trey Mancini is in right or playing first base.
Hyde doesn’t have a set outfield. Austin Hays is expected to be in center on a regular basis, but decisions must be made regarding Dwight Smith Jr., DJ Stewart, Cedric Mullins, Mason Williams and others.
Smith started the most games in left field with 82 and he isn’t a lock to make the club or stay in the organization. Stevie Wilkerson made the most starts in center with 57, but Hays should prevent a similar scenario from unfolding. Mancini made the most in right with 79.
Stewart started 24 in right and nine in left.
The outfield mix no longer includes Joey Rickard, Keon Broxton and Drew Jackson.
Yusniel Diaz isn’t breaking camp with the team. The Orioles would love to get him through a season healthy and have him put up big numbers at the Triple-A level.
Here’s a leftover from the mailbag that relates to the outfield:
Why did the Orioles trade Mike Yastrzemski instead of giving him a chance?
I’m more curious about the decision to exclude him from the spring training roster until 2019. Otherwise, let’s remember that every team passed on him during the Rule 5 draft. For three straight years.
He also slashed .202/.276/.327 in 27 games with Double-A Bowie in 2018. He slashed .240/.322/.417 in 81 games with Triple-A Norfolk in 2017. He never hit more than 15 home runs in a single minor league season, but clubbed 21 with the Giants this summer. He had some health issues along the way that stalled his progress.
We can’t assume that his stats with the Giants, including the .272/.334/.518 slash line in 411 plate appearances, would have transferred over to the Orioles in its exact same condition. Different league, division, opponents, etc.
We’ll never know.
Yastrzemski is a terrific story, an overnight sensation at age 28 (he turned 29 on Aug. 23). The Orioles certainly could have used him in the outfield. And the pitcher acquired for him in spring training, Tyler Herb, makes the transaction appear worse by posting a combined 5.82 ERA and 1.629 WHIP in 26 games between Norfolk and Bowie.
But it’s a stretch to suggest that the Orioles totally botched their handling of Yastrzemski.
A do-over would be nice, though.