TDG’S Triple Play: Baltimore Orioles!
The Triple Play is back for a fifth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Phil Barrington and he is joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. 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!
Follow Phil (@barrington_phil) Ben Sanders (@HPBenSanders), Andrew Jurewicz (@a_money2727), and Sam Wirsching (@SamFBB1) on Twitter and read their analysis here at the site!
Jorge Mateo, Age: 27, Position: SS
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
I wish I could quit you
Jorge Mateo has been at or near the top of MLB’s stolen base leaderboard all season. To fantasy baseball players who stick to redraft leagues, this may have come as a surprise. To dynasty veterans, it was long overdue. Once a top prospect drawing Jose Reyes comparisons, it took Mateo until his age-27 season just to get an MLB starting job. His 33 stolen bases have made him fantasy relevant, but his .220/.265/.382 slash line is a reminder of why it took so long for him to arrive. His blazing speed has never been in question, but his bat is unreliable, to put it nicely.
Mateo has been a fixture on my main dynasty team for years, unfortunately. Every time I think I’m out, he does just enough to pull me back in. The guy has 33 steals with a .265 OBP – imagine if he figured out how to get on base! It looked like he might be making strides in midseason, as he slashed .265/.313/.482 with six homers and nine steals in July and August. I was starting to think he just needed regular MLB playing time to develop, but he’s crashed back to reality in September with a .180/.203/.295 line.
Play by the rules
MLB is increasing the size of the bases and limiting pickoff attempts in 2023, both moves designed to encourage more base stealing. This will obviously impact a player like Mateo, who gets nearly all his fantasy value from swiping bags. It’s hard to say what that impact will be. It’s very possible that a little extra advantage will make Mateo almost impossible to catch stealing, and his already-great SB numbers will take off even more. On the other hand, the changes could make base thefts easier for everyone else, causing the relative value of his steals to go down.
For Mateo to take advantage of the changes, he must stay in the lineup and get on base. Though he’s been the Orioles’ regular shortstop most of the season, his playing time has taken a slight hit since the promotion of Gunnar Henderson. Baltimore could move Mateo to a utility role and still take advantage of his speed and defense without having his awful OBP in the lineup every day. There’s little reason to expect imminent improvement in that category, given his 4.9% BB-rate and 27.8% K-rate.
Wheels and deals
Mateo still has some significant fantasy potential. The dream that he could be Jose Reyes or Trea Turner is long dead, but a Whit Merrifield or Tommy Edman performance level isn’t out of the question. I wouldn’t bank on it, as he really hasn’t shown the contact skills those guys have, but it’s possible.
Rather than making him part of your long-term plan and hoping against the odds for that breakout, I’d focus on his potential short-term value. If you desperately need steals, he may be relatively cheap compared to other trade options. Better yet, if someone else desperately needs steals, try to leverage that to swap Mateo for a player with more long-term upside.
Felix Bautista, Age: 27, Position: Closer
Analysis by: Sam Wirsching
Questions surrounding the Organization
Coming into the 2022 season there were a number of questions surrounding the Baltimore Orioles. Were they ready to take a step forward? Is their budding farm system going to start producing? Who was the real Cedric Mullins? What were you to make of their pitching situation? During the off-season they pushed the outfield fences further out. Would that change the way the stadium played? Before the move Baltimore was the friendliest park for hitters. In addition the Orioles were changing the way they approached pitching internally. The last great pitcher they developed felt like it was Mike Mussina. Was Baltimore pitching coming back with both of these changes? Well if this season is any indicator, they are. They have a number of young interesting pitchers to talk about, but my choice is someone who seemingly came out of nowhere to lead their bullpen this year and for the foreseeable future: Felix Bautista.
Where did he come from?
Felix Bautista signed with the Marlins at the tender age of 18 and pitched for that organization for two years in the Dominican Summer League (DOSL). He was released after that second year when among other bad stats he walked 14.6 hitters per 9 innings pitched. And that was it. He was out of baseball for 18 months until he caught on with the Orioles in the DOSL. He pitched there another two years. The first successfully as a starter and then after that he moved to the bullpen where he has been ever since. From 2018-21 he slowly moved his way up the organizational chart and in 2022 when Baltimore left spring training with the Major League club. He was ready to show THE Show he was there because he belonged.
The Good Stuff!
Bautista is a right handed pitcher that has three pitches: a four seamer, a slider, and a splitter. The pitches to know for him are his four seamer and splitter. The four seamer sits at 99mph with elite active spin rates. It is an amazing pitch that sets up his put away pitch: the splitter. Batters are hitting .089 on that pitch with a .189 slugging. These pitches have made Felix difficult to hit. And when they do get hits, they haven’t done much with them. That’s why mid-season the Orioles traded their closer Jorge Lopez to the Twins. Bautista was named closer and hasn’t looked back.
So in my league what do I do?
Going forward Felix Bautista is a must roster in all leagues. Baltimore has shown they will give the job to one reliever if they can run with it. Their home park has blossomed into a pitching park. They have changed their approach to pitching and all over the organization it shows. And while this is a pitching write up, their offense is young, talented and hungry. There will be a lot more opportunities to close here than in seasons past. Felix is only 27. I see in dynasty this off-season being the last opportunity to trade for him as I have him as a top tier closer.
Jackson Holliday, Age: 18, Position: SS, Level: Low-A
Analysis by: Andrew Jurewicz
Was the season over for your dynasty team in June? In a rebuild and holding a top end pick…again?!? Let’s spend some time getting your franchise ready to turn the corner with some new talent by looking ahead to the upcoming first year player draft, starting with Jackson Holliday.
Taken #1 overall in the 2022 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, Holliday is the spawn of former big leaguer, Matt Holliday, a seven-time all star and four time Silver Slugger; not a bad start with the baseball bloodlines. This younger version of Holliday shows out as an instinctual left handed hitter with a simple swing with pop and an advanced approach. He ripped through the Complex League over eight games and 33 plate appearances slashing .409/.576/.591, earning a quick promotion to Low-A Delmarva. Considerably younger than the average hitter age at Low-A, 21, he held his own over 12 games there hitting .238/.439/.333. However, what stands out over that span is a BB/K ratio at 26.3/17.5%, showing off the advanced approach. More than likely he’ll pick back up in Delmarva in 2023 and if he gets off to a hot start I wouldn’t be surprised by another quick promotion.
Planning your Holliday
Holliday was going to be an obvious first round pick heading into upcoming FYPDs but in my opinion his draft stock has improved with a good start to his pro career. Initially I thought he’d be more in the #4-6 pick overall range but I’ve moved him up my board into into the #2 spot. I’d even understand if someone decides to take him in a league at #1 overall, the talent level is there and I’m also a big fan of mlb bloodlines. In addition I give a bump for the reason the Orioles organization have done a very good job identifying and developing talent in recent years and are in the early stages a problem for AL East participants. Not good news for my Yankees but I’m excited to see what the Orioles product looks like.
What about that beast named Gunnar at SS they have already? I’d say the Orioles are setting the table to compete with their bats but it seems like there are a few question marks about the future SP rotation outside of Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish. Does this make Holliday potential trade bait? A prospect of this caliber should help to land a pretty decent SP one would think if this were to happen.