During the 2016 season, a young outfielder for the Single-A Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League had a huge season. Over 128 games he hit .290/.368/.494 with 42 doubles, 20 homers, 90 runs and 95 RBIs. He led the league in doubles and extra-base hits and was third in homers and RBIs.
He was really good in games against the Orioles’ Single-A Frederick Keys team and the manager in the Frederick dugout took note. So after the season when it was getting close to the time for the Rule 5 draft, that manager passed along a recommendation.
The manager, Keith Bodie, felt the Orioles should take Anthony Santander in the Rule 5 draft. They did and a few years later it seems to be working out pretty well for the Orioles.
Bodie has been the hitting coach at Double-A Bowie the last two years, and earlier this week at Bowie during the Eastern League Championship Series, I asked him about that 2016 season. He had seen Santander play 17 games versus his Frederick team. Santander hit .375/.446/.766 in those games with seven doubles, six homers and 18 RBIs.
“I called Kent Qualls (director of minor league operations) and almost begged him to take Anthony,” Bodie remembered this week. “He was a very impressive player. I liked the way he went about his job. He had been in their (Cleveland) organization for a while, five or six years, but was still young. They had a bunch of prospects on that club and he could get lost in the sauce.
“He was a switch-hitter with power and some of the better pitchers on our staff were no problem for him. I saw what you are seeing now. And we really didn’t have a player like that in our organization. A switch-hitter with power. Could also run a little bit and play some defense.”
Cleveland had signed Santander out of Venezuela on July 2, 2011. He was a postseason All-Star for Lynchburg in 2016 but Cleveland didn’t protect him. Maybe they thought no one would take a player out of the Carolina League right to the majors.
Santander also came to the Orioles with some previous arm and shoulder issues and he didn’t make his major league debut until Aug. 18, 2017. His Rule 5 status carried into May of the 2018 season.
But look at what he is doing now. He’s batting .272/.307/.488 with 19 doubles, one triple, 18 homers, 51 RBIs and an OPS of .796. He sat out Friday night in a 0-for-19 slump since snapping his 12-game hitting streak and was 0-for-5 last night. But since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on June 7, he leads the Orioles in RBIs (50), XBH (37) and total bases (165), is tied for first in homers (17) and third in hits (93).
“So they took him and he got an opportunity here. Last year people wrote him off a little bit. I saw him last week when he came in our clubhouse. His body is way better than it was. He’s strong but lean and is making the best of his opportunity,” said Bodie.
Another bad loss: The Orioles have had a lot of losses this year and some of the very brutal variety. Last night’s 8-4 loss at Detroit in 12 innings qualifies. They blew a 3-2 lead with two outs in the last of the ninth and led in the top of 12th, only to lose the game on a walk-off grand slam by John Hicks.
The Orioles (48-100) have lost 100 or more in back-to-back seasons for the first time in team history. They have had eight walkoff losses and one walkoff win.
The Orioles bullpen, which had pitched to an MLB-best 2.73 ERA since Aug. 20, last night allowed six runs over 7 1/3 innings.
The Orioles, who have lost 11 of 14, are 2-3 versus Detroit, 2-6 in extra innings and 3-10 in September.