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Know Your Orioles 40-man: Anthony Santander

The injury-plagued right fielder failed to build on a strong 2020 season. Can the Rule 5 pick turned Most Valuable Oriole put together a complete season in 2022?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

This article is part of the Know Your Orioles 40-man series, which features an article about each player currently on the Orioles roster. There will be one every weekday until we run out of players.

The Orioles’ love for the Rule 5 draft has spanned multiple administrations. Mike Elias kept the tradition alive by snagging two pitchers last offseason, and one of them turned out pretty well.

Tyler Wells has a bright future ahead of him, but nobody can call him the O’s most successful Rule 5 acquisition quite yet. That title still belongs to Anthony Santander.

The Orioles claimed Santander from Cleveland back in 2016 after he slashed .290/.368/.494 as a 22-year-old at High-A. The Indians likely felt they could avoid protecting Santander because, well, he had not faced pitching above High-A. They clearly forgot about Dan Duquette.

Santander missed almost all of 2017 with a forearm strain, but the Orioles kept him in the system. He fulfilled his major league service time requirements from the Rule-5 draft before spending time in Bowie and Norfolk in 2018. He delivered a .261/.297/.476 slash line over 93 games in 2019, and wowed early in the 2020 abridged season.

Santander’s average did not change in 2020, but his slugging percentage headed toward the moon. He slashed .261/.315/.575 over 37 games, and the switch hitter was unquestionably the best player on the team. Santander led the league in extra-base hits when a strained right oblique prematurely ended his season. He finished the year with 11 homers, 13 doubles, a triple and 32 RBIs. He was voted the Most Valuable Oriole despite his early exit.

Unfortunately, Santander failed to carry the momentum from his MVO season into 2021. Santander’s line dipped to .241/.286/.433 over 110 games. He tallied 18 home runs, 50 RBIs, and 24 doubles in 406 at bats.

Santander limped out of the gate hitting just .196/.230/.321 in April/May and made three trips to the injured list during the season. He sprained his left ankle and right knee over the course of the season and visibly appeared hobbled at times throughout the year.

It always feels uncomfortable to label a player “injury prone,” but Santander has struggled to stay on the field. Fortunately, the 27-year-old still demonstrates the player he can be when his body holds up. Santander played in 26 games last August and slashed .309/.350/.617. He hit eight of his 18 homers that month and even stole a base! If only the good times could last forever.

Santander’s defense took a hit last season—leg injuries will do that to you—and the Orioles elected to use him as a designated hitter more than they originally envisioned. He still possesses the ability to be an average right fielder when healthy, and he resembles Baltimore’s best option for the position right now.

End of season prediction: Santander is no stranger to trade rumors, but injuries have prevented Baltimore from selling high on the right fielder. He is also, you know, a pretty good player when healthy. There is room on a winning team for 2020 Anthony Santander. There is room for August of 2021 Anthony Santander. Will the Orioles get him this year?

Santander is arbitration eligible but will not be a free agent until 2025. He agreed to a $3.15 million deal before the lockout, and is not making enough money to represent a true need for the Orioles to part with him.

Kyle Stowers should debut this season, but a majority of Baltimore’s best outfield prospects are still a year or two away. Santander will likely split time between right field and DH. His bat will keep him in the lineup if his body can too.

Santander’s name will be floated at the deadline again if he stays healthy. The Orioles will likely pull the trigger if they feel they can maximize his value, but another injury or slow start to the year will keep the Venezuela native in Baltimore. The Birds do not have to deal him, but I’ll predict they flip him at the right time after a hot June and July.

Previously: Félix Bautista, Logan Gillaspie, Isaac Mattson, Cionel Pérez, Bryan Baker, Rougned Odor, Joey Krehbiel, Tyler Nevin, Kyle Bradish, Rylan Bannon, Yusniel Díaz, Kelvin Gutiérrez, Kevin Smith, Terrin Vavra, D.L. Hall, Jahmai Jones, Bruce Zimmermann, Mike Baumann, Ryan McKenna, Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, Jorge López, Ramón Urías, Dillon Tate, Paul Fry, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells, Cole Sulser, Jorge Mateo, Tanner Scott, DJ Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle, Tyler Wells, Austin Hays

Monday: Trey Mancini