TDG’s Triple Play: Baltimore Orioles!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Paul Monte and a rotating panel of writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Dean Kremer, Age: 25, Position: SP
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
What if I told you that you could draft a 25-year-old #2 starter who came up through the Dodgers organization? And what if that starter harnessed four above-average pitches and 60-grade command? Add in that his line last year included a 26.5% strikeout rate and a 2.76 FIP, and you’d probably say, “I’d love to draft Walker Buehler with one of my first 2 picks!” Well, what if I then told you that Buehler is actually a year older than this pitcher, and has never had a season with a FIP as low as the one that Orioles starter Dean Kremer posted in his 2020 debut season? And he’s available after pick 500 in most drafts??? Sign me up!
Mean, Dean, Strike Throwing Machine
Kremer’s prospect calling card has always been his command. He finds the zone and has a deep arsenal to keep hitters off balance. He throws both a 4-seamer and a 2-seamer, each sitting between 92-94 MPH with above-average movement. He mixes those with a tight cutter and an improving changeup. The real gem, though, is his curveball. Huge break and consistent placement at or below the bottom of the zone make this an invaluable put-away weapon for the young starter.
This is an absolutely wicked curveball from Dean Kremer to get a strikeout in his scoreless first inning tonight. pic.twitter.com/ITsa3XJi1Q— Locked On Orioles (@LockedOnOrioles) March 19, 2021
No Longer the Dean of Admissions
Kremer’s actual results in 2020 did not look as sterling as some of his peripherals would indicate. Throughout the minors, he has thrown strikes about 65% of the time. However, in just under 20 innings in the majors last year, he was under 59% strikes. This led to an uncharacteristic 14.5% walk rate. If he can pitch with the same control and efficiency he showed in the minors, then he should be able to last longer in games and be a solid source of wins (to the extent that any Orioles pitcher can be) and quality starts. He was also the benefactor of an unrepeatable fluke by not giving up a home run despite calling Camden Yards home. However, with his ability to work the zone, and the wrinkle he has in his fastballs, he should be able to build on his minor league track record of suppressing long balls.
Kremer is not going to be any championship team’s MVP, but he should be a solid contributor. When you’re looking for guys to take a chance on later in drafts, why not look at someone with great command whose team will want to see him start all year? I think you can expect an ERA around 4.25, a WHIP around 1.25, and about a strikeout per inning from him. That’s basically what you’re hoping for from guys like Mike Minor of Josh Lindblom, who are getting drafted 200 picks earlier. I’ll take a shot on youth. I’m all in.
Anthony Santander, Age: 26, Position: OF
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Anthony Santander may not end the season as a member of the Orioles, but he is one as of now, so let’s dive in. Sporting a clean-cut, well-coifed, full head of hair, Santander was signed by the Indians back in 2011 from Venezuela (where he resides in the off-season). He toiled away for five seasons in their farm system while battling injuries throughout, never making it above High-A. The Orioles saw something in him and took Santander in the 2016 Rule Five draft. They held him even through injury (more on those later, ugh), truly believing in Santander. He finally debuted back in 2017 with a 13-game cup of coffee followed by a slightly longer look (33 games) in 2018, before joining the big-league team for good in late-May of 2019.
Astute managers in 2020 took advantage of the lack of interest in Santander as he produced a stat line of 11 home runs, 56 Runs + RBI, and a slash line of .261/.315/.575 while showcasing the power he had shown previously in the minor leagues. In 483 minor league games, Santander sported an 8% walk rate and 20% strikeout rate with 61 home runs and a slash line of .270/.335/.450 and he carried that over to his MLB career thus far. The switch-hitting Santander also had elite advanced stats in 2020, with a K%, xBA , and xSLG all in the 87th or above percentile, while also hitting the ball to all fields.
That’s the good; now time for the not-so-good. An oblique injury ended his breakout 2020, and as injuries continue to rear their ugly, unwelcome head like the Medusa, they must be considered when assessing Santander’s ability to hit a baseball in the future. His 2016 season ended with shoulder surgery to remove a bone spur; his 2017 was cut very short by elbow and forearm injuries, and right ankle surgery cut short his 2018 season. In 2019 he was playing through so many little injures (according to the manager) toward the end of the season that the team did not specifically say what they all were. He also had Covid-19 in July 2020, because of course he did. This is all very worrisome, and I can see why many of you would want to avoid him altogether.
However, after reading interviews with and listening to Santander, he gives the impression of a great teammate and student of the game while exhibiting a toughness of fighting through injuries when he can. The 2020 Orioles team MVP has hit out of the 3-hole throughout spring, and he, along with Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle should form the middle of the order for the Orioles this season. As Santander has entered his arbitration years the Orioles may be more inclined to trade him to a contender (or at least a bigger market) where he can be properly appreciated by more fans.
For fantasy purposes, Santander is currently being drafted in 2021 NFBC leagues as the 44th outfielder off the board at pick 159 and 166 ADP on Yahoo. At minimum Santander is a good bench power bat and the more outfielders you can start, the more Santander fits on your team. He is a target in Dynasty leagues, especially ones that use OPS as a stat, as I want him on my team when he has that fully healthy, breakout season. Why not 2021, his age-26 season? It is coming, I can feel it in my (non-injury prone, just bad at baseball) bones.
Grayson Rodriguez, Age: 21, Position: SP, Level: Single-A (2020 Alternate Site)
Analysis by: Paul Monte
Things are Looking Up
When your major league team has a combined record of 126-258 (that’s a .328 winning percentage) over the last three seasons you would hope that the minor league system is robust. It’s not always the case as teams like the Rangers and Rockies toil in the bottom third of prospect rankings. Baltimore does not have that problem as they are a consensus top 10 farm system. There has only been one miss on first-round picks in the last 6 drafts and their top 5 prospects were all first-round picks.
Nothing Can Stop Me
One of those first-round picks was the Orioles number two prospect, Grayson Rodriguez. Taken 11th overall in the 2018 draft out of Central Heights High School, the 6’5” right-handed Texan hit the ground running and never looked back. Only COVID was able to stop his progression through the Orioles minor league system. After a very strong debut in rookie ball, he started 20 games in full-season South Atlantic League Single-A. Rodriguez was able to build on what he started in the Gulf Coast League by tossing a solid 94 innings. He managed to strike out 129 batters despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the league. He did walk 36 batters so that would have been a focus heading into the 2020 season. Although he was not immediately added to the 60 man roster, he was eventually brought to the alternate site and was able to spend two months with the team.
Most sites have an estimated debut of the end of 2021 for Rodriguez, which I feel is aggressive. Still just 21 years old with no experience above A-ball, I do not see the incentive for the Orioles to start his clock. They will not be in contention for the playoffs and he would be better served to build up his innings in the upper minors than he would against the AL East. Armed with a 60-70 grade fastball (depending on which scouting report you are referencing), he also has at least two above-average secondary offerings in his slider and change-up. The fourth pitch, a curveball, checks in as average but there is hope for improvement. The reason that he ranks so highly in prospect rankings is that he also has shown the ability to command the zone; it’s rare to find the command and the stuff paired together at such a young age.
The Orioles have a long history of screwing up their pitching prospects. DL Hall and Rodriguez look to break that mold and give Oriole fans something to cheer about for years to come. You could dream of the pair being a legit 1-2 punch in the 2020s. Rodriguez does not seem to get the same fanfare that prospect pitchers in his same range are getting so this will likely be the last window that will be open to acquiring him for fair value. Once the minor league season starts I expect to see his name pop up and his recognition grow.
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