Will stealing bases remain part of Orioles’ approach in 2020?

As the Orioles became more transparent with their plans for the organization and specifically how they were going to proceed with a complete teardown and rebuild, which also could be termed a “redesign” given the new titles and responsibilities, I didn’t recall hearing anyone declare that the team would steal more bases.

It just sort of happened.

When is the last time that the Orioles ranked sixth or higher in the American League in steals?

They swiped 84 bags to put them 16 ahead of the Red Sox and 10 behind the fifth-place Rays. Their total ranked 11th in the majors.

They came close in 2018 with 81 steals that ranked seventh in the league and 12th in the majors, but they were last in the majors in 2017 with 32, in 2016 with 19 in 2015 and 2014 with 44 and in 2012 with 58.

You need to go back to 2007 to find the Orioles in the top six. They ranked second with 144, which led the American League. Brian Roberts had 50 steals and Corey Patterson 37.

Former manager Buck Showalter wasn’t averse to fielding a running club, but he didn’t have the personnel. The Orioles were built to mash the ball. They tended to live and die via the home run.

It made little sense to risk outs on the bases when players throughout the lineup were capable of rounding them with one swing.

New manager Brandon Hyde knew his club would need to manufacture runs. Playing small ball was a logical approach.

It might not be part of a rebuild, but it fit the 2019 Orioles.

Villar-Head-First-Slide-White-Bregman-Sidebar.jpgInfielder Jonathan Villar provided Showalter with a stolen base option following the deadline trade with the Brewers, swiping 21, and he pretty much ran wild in his first full season with the Orioles.

Villar became the sixth different Orioles player with 20 or more home runs and stolen bases in the same season. He joined Brady Anderson (1992) as the only Oriole with 20 homers and 40 steals.

Only the Mariners’ Mallex Smith with 46 and the Royals’ Adalberto Mondesi with 43 had more steals than Villar, who was overjoyed at snagging 40. He was going to run no matter the situation.

In other words, the same as any other game.

The Orioles may not go back to a plodding team if they non-tender or trade Villar, but they won’t be as disruptive on the bases unless they find someone to mimic him.

Outfielder Austin Hays added another speed element after joining the expanded roster and the benefits really will show themselves if the Orioles can get a full season out of him.

Shortstop Richie Martin ranked second to Villar with 10 steals, but he could begin next season in the minors. Dwight Smith Jr. was third with five and he isn’t assured a spot on the opening day roster.

Hanser Alberto, Keon Broxton and Jace Peterson each stole four bases. Only Alberto remains in the organization.

Pedro Severino, Joey Rickard and Stevie Wilkerson each stole three bases. The Giants claimed Rickard off waivers on June 21.

Villar seemed to be in the middle of everything this season. He was one of five players to appear in all 162 games. He joined Trey Mancini as the first set of Orioles teammates since 2015 to each score 100 or more runs. He was part of a 10-player group with double-digit home run totals, which tied the club record. He became the fifth Orioles player to hit for the cycle on Aug. 5.

Villar and Severino homered on July 27 in Anaheim, giving the Orioles a major league record with 10 consecutive games with multiple home runs.

On Sept. 11, Villar hit the 6,106th home run of the 2019 season to establish a major league record.

Of course it was Villar.

He was the Forrest Gump of baseball.

Still to come is whether he’s an Oriole in 2020. Whether a price tag projected by MLBTradeRumors.com at $10.4 million is too rich for a team that didn’t include hefty pay raises in its descriptions of the rebuild process.

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