Who starts at third base while Orioles wait for Mayo?

If the Orioles can implement their prospect plan at third base, Coby Mayo will be handling the hot corner and hitting long home runs for many years.

They can figure out how to occupy the middle infield with the batch of shortstops who crash their top 30 prospects lists, including Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg among the first 10. Henderson could be the shortstop and Westburg the second baseman. They could reverse roles.

One of them could move over to third, but good luck trying to budge Mayo.

You can delay the fourth-rounder, but you can’t hold Mayo for long.

You also can’t rush him, and Mayo is 19 and finished the 2021 season at low Single-A Delmarva. He isn’t in the Orioles’ plans next summer, which again leaves them in the market for a third baseman.

If there’s an incumbent on the team, it’s Kelvin Gutiérrez after he did the bulk of the work down the stretch. Gutiérrez made 40 starts at third base, trailing only Maikel Franco (97), who was released in August. Ramón Urías made 10 starts and is more likely to play the middle infield or serve in a utility role.

Gutierrez-Throws-Orange-Sidebar.jpgGutiérrez earned another chance after the Orioles optioned him on July 22. He appeared in only eight games after being acquired from the Royals for cash considerations, going 4-for-23 with nine strikeouts, but was recalled to replace Franco.

The reboot was much better.

Gutiérrez batted .290/.347/.419 in his last 31 games and 101 plate appearances. He had four doubles, a triple, two home runs and eight RBIs. He pieced together a career-long 14-game on-base streak from Sept. 17-Oct. 1 and hit safely - as opposed to unsafely, when you run the bases while carrying scissors - in 14 of his last 16 games.

He also displayed a plus arm and led all Orioles infielders with five Outs Above Average, ranking second on the team behind center fielder Cedric Mullins’ 11.

It’s all good. It isn’t a good reason to hand Gutiérrez the job on opening day.

The Orioles sought an upgrade over Rio Ruiz last winter, experimenting with him at second base, and designated him for assignment. They’d prefer more power at third and will go shopping.

MLBTradeRumors.com ran the names of free agent third basemen, which includes players also listed at other positions:

Ehire Adrianza
Nolan Arenado - can opt out
Kris Bryant
Asdrúbal Cabrera
Starlin Castro
Eduardo Escobar
Wilmer Flores - $3.5 million club option, $250,000 buyout
Maikel Franco
Freddy Galvis
Josh Harrison
Brock Holt
Jake Lamb
José Ramírez - $11 million club option, $2 million buyout
Kyle Seager - $15 million club option
Travis Shaw
Jonathan Villar

As always, dismiss anyone that’s out of the club’s price range. They’re not hiding. You can find them.

Minor league free agents also are in play to increase the camp competition.

Mayo’s first professional season was a huge hit. He batted .319/.426/.555 with 14 doubles, a triple, nine home runs, 41 RBIs and 29 walks in 53 games, including 26 in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League. He also flashed what scouts and other talent evaluators regard as the strongest infield arm in the system.

The Orioles gave Mayo a $1.75 million signing bonus, way above the $565,600 slot value in 2020. Then he went out and showed why.

Maybe he climbs to Double-A in 2022 after a likely return to Delmarva and promotion to high Single-A Aberdeen.

In the meantime, who’s on third in Baltimore?

I don’t know.

* Orioles minor league pitcher Cameron Bishop started yesterday for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League and allowed five runs and five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. He tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his first appearance, but also walked three batters.

The Orioles’ pitching representatives had a tough night Monday. Logan Gillaspie started and allowed four runs and five hits with one walk in two innings. Conner Loeprich followed him and allowed four runs and four hits with two walks in 2 2/3 innings. Nick Vespi allowed one run and two hits in 1 2/3 innings.

Yusniel Diaz started in right field and had a double and three RBIs. Second baseman Greg Cullen came off the bench and went 1-for-2 with two runs scored.

Cullen started yesterday and went 0-for-2 before being replaced at second base.

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