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The Orioles could look to Anthony Santander for depth, or more, in 2018

The Orioles outfield situation is somewhat set for next year. However, one name remains somewhat of a mystery in terms of future value.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It just wouldn’t be an Orioles offseason without discussing outfield depth, would it? Every year, the names are different but the fact remains the same — one more reliable outfielder would do wonders for the team’s playoff chances. In 2018, even with help from emerging youngsters, there’s still a need for more help out there with Adam Jones.

That’s where the idea of Anthony Santander emerging into a reliable option becomes an attractive talking point.

This week, a story on Baseball America from Kyle Glaser was published that spotlighted on Santander, who will be 23 entering next season. He’s coming off of an up-and-down Arizona Fall League performance, but he’s certainly saying all the right things. Obviously you’d expect nothing less from a player who wants to put his best foot forward to make a big-league club, but one section of the piece did stand out.

On missing a significant amount of time due to injury, he took the optimistic approach that makes you wonder if it wasn’t somewhat of a blessing in disguise:

It was a lost year on paper, but Santander saw it differently.

"It really wasn't frustrating because I took it as an opportunity down in Florida to work on my body," Santander said. "Work to get stronger, work on my bat and my defense. Just be ready for when I was given the opportunity and the chance to produce for my team."

Again — not a terribly shocking quote from a player who has been injured. But when you step back and take a look at Santander’s situation as a whole, you have to wonder if he maybe didn’t benefit from the time to ease into the organization in Florida at the beginning of the year. Maybe, in a roundabout way, it was his best opportunity to get acclimated with the organization.

He lost a significant portion of last season and that’s not ideal — but was there any major disadvantage in putting in rehab work down south compared to getting reps at Frederick and Bowie?

On paper and by almost every other test, we’ve established that Santander can hit minor-league pitching. And it’s not really that much of an unknown. His 2016 season with Lynchburg dominating Carolina League pitching is what has him with the O’s in the first place, and those 15 games in Bowie at the end of last year shouldn’t be ignored.

Santander collected 39 total bases in 50 at-bats with the Baysox. He knocked five home runs out of the park, walked seven times and did everything the Orioles needed to see to prove he was healthy. It’s becoming clear that the 2016 campaign wasn’t an aberration. It’s who Santander is.

For more on his in-depth game, I highly recommend our Nick Cicere’s post from the end of September in which he took a great look at Santander’s game as a whole. It gives you a good idea of what kind of hitter Santander is now and where he could be headed with a few refinements in his game.

For now, all we can do is look to the future and decide where he might fit in on the roster. And when you take a look at the options, it’s difficult to not come to the conclusion that there’s a real possibility he runs onto the orange carpet on Opening Day next season. Remember — with the Rule 5 requirements, he’ll need to be on the roster to kick off the year before he can be optioned.

With legitimate starting options at the corner outfield spots (hello, Trey Mancini and Austin Hays), it’d be almost ideal for Santander to have a good spring training and make the first roster of the season. Three young outfielders with potential all on the roster at the same time? That’s something that Buck Showalter has only been able to dream of.

If nothing else, it’s time to seriously consider the idea that Santander can have a significant role in 2018. He’ll certainly be one of the more intriguing storylines of the spring.