When his cell phone rang Friday, infielder Rylan Bannon was outside doing work around the house. He didn’t see a name listed, so it was not one of his usual friends or contacts calling. But this was a call he was going to answer.
“It was a random number, it said Baltimore, so I knew I had to answer that one,” Bannon said in a Zoom interview yesterday.
That was a good move, as the Orioles were calling to tell him he had made their 40-man roster. That is a big deal for any player and a nice step up in their career. It means they will be included on the roster in major league spring training and they’ll report with the other position players. For Bannon, it could mean more than just showing up and getting a quick look.
“The 40-man roster is a huge steppingstone in your career. Thankful to have this opportunity,” he said.
With the Orioles infield unsettled for 2021, the 24-year-old Bannon might be able to not only win an opening day roster spot, but make a move to get significant playing time. Considered a plus defender with pop in his bat and a good on-base percentage, he’ll try to ride those strengths to get to the big leagues come February in Sarasota.
During a Zoom interview Friday after the O’s added Bannon and five others to the 40-man, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Bannon would definitely be in the mix come spring.
“He’s a guy that can move around,” said Elias. “I think if you ask what his best position is, you might get some different opinions whether that is second or third base. That is a good thing, it’s interesting. But it’s also about the bat with him. He’s had a terrific minor league career and he’s got power. Our hitting coaches at the Bowie camp really liked him, same in instructional league. He’s just been a popular guy. He was a good get in the (Manny Machado) trade in 2018 and while he wasn’t the headliner in that trade, we value him highly. I have no doubt that had he been exposed in this (Rule 5) draft, he would have been taken.”
Bannon looks forward to chasing a roster spot in a few months.
“From what they’ve told me, I think I’ll definitely be in the mix, whether it’s at second base or third base,” he said. “At instructs this year, I worked at second base a ton. They seemed to like me over there. It’s a position I can add to my arsenal. I feel good over there.”
Bannon, who has made 172 pro starts at third base and 85 at second base, was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ eighth-round pick in 2017 after he was the Big East Conference Player of the Year as an Xavier junior. He came to the Orioles in the July, 2018 Machado trade. In 2019, over 110 games at Double-A Bowie and 20 at Triple-A Norfolk, he batted .266/.345/.421. Late in the year, he hit .317 in 20 games for Norfolk.
Over his career in the minors, spanning 291 games and just over 1,000 at-bats, he’s hit .280/.375/.481 with 63 doubles, 10 triples, 43 homers, 161 RBIs and with an OPS of .856.
Bannon is listed at 5-foot-8 and 180 lbs. He’s got some bulk and has hit with power, but he has the stature of a speedy middle infielder, although he does not profile as one. Power will continue to be a part of his game moving forward, he said.
“It definitely plays into a lot. Especially this year being home a lot, I took a lot of time in the weight room and got a lot stronger,” he said. “The weight room has always been kind of my place to improve. That is where I see the most improvements to my game. I get stronger and a little bit more confident and definitely power has been a big part of my game ever since doing that. Yeah, I definitely think it will play at the next level.”
Bannon was added to the Orioles’ 60-man player pool at Bowie on Sept. 5 and later went to their fall instructional league in Florida. Now, after a couple of weeks off, he’s ready to start his prep for next season.
“I think I improved a lot in 2020. We had a little group of guys going over to the Bo Jackson dome over in Chicago, bunch of pro ball guys that were home. We worked out every day and got after it,” he said. “There were some infielders over there, so I got all my ground balls. They were sending me stuff to work on and I was sending video feedback. But the weight room has always been where I see the most improvement, getting stronger.”
Bannon is rated as the club’s No. 25 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 30 by Baseball America. His minor league resume includes winning the Single-A California League MVP award even though he played just 89 games. He had a .961 OPS. He’s been an All-Star in that league and in the Eastern League with Bowie. He played in the Arizona Fall League after the 2019 season.
Now with his second organization, he’ll make a run at his first major league job in Sarasota in a few months.