All eyes in Baltimore are on, for good reason, the future. With a few exceptions - Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle - it feels like the Orioles most worth talking about are the ones that aren’t there yet. Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, D.L. Hall and so on and so forth.
Well, while it is fun to think about what the Next Wave will bring to Camden Yards, there is a team playing there right now. And Ramon Urias is showing he might be a player worth talking about as well.
The season’s only four games old, but Urias is off to an, if not spectacular, certainly steady start. He’s batting .267 (4-for-15) with hits in three of the four games. He’s got doubles for two of those four hits. While the bats have been cold for Baltimore to start the season, Urias is showing signs that he could be an asset in the lineup.
And, when considering what Urias has done in Baltimore, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Yes, he’s played only 99 games and had 302 at-bats with the Orioles, but he’s done nothing in that time but show that he could be a decent and dependable bat.
He made his major league debut in 2020 and thrived for a brief window of time, going 9-for-25 while picking up three extra-base hits. He got a much bigger chance in 2021 and continued to pass the test, batting .279 in 85 games and 262 at-bats. That’s more than half a season, and plenty of time for any “beginner’s luck” that may have helped Urias in 2020 to wear off. But he kept producing, posting a .774 OPS and a 111 OPS+, and getting on base at an impressive .361 clip.
And then, for anyone who still needed to see more, Urias had more answers this spring, batting 10-for-26 (.385) while slugging three home runs and posting a 1.236 OPS across the 10 games. Now, anyone who’s any level of baseball fan knows that you can only take spring training stats so far. Someone doing well isn’t a lock to have a good season. Anyone struggling could very well end up winning the MVP.
But spring training, in Urias’s case, suggests he’s been able to take his corrections and lessons from a year ago and apply them right away after the winter. Acceptable as Urias’s stats last season were, they are made even more impressive when considering that, over the last 61 games he played, he hit .292 with an .811 OPS. He hit six home runs and drove in 32 runs, a 162-game pace of 16 and 85, respectively. If you’re Brandon Hyde, you take that.
After hitting .226 in April and May, Urias spent the next few months showing his team that he had figured something out. And this spring, he showed that he hadn’t forgotten what that was.
In four games, he’s continued to look like the same up-and-coming hitter he’s spent the last two years indicating himself to be. He got things started in the win on Monday by going the opposite way for a single to right field, giving the Orioles the leadoff batter on base and a threat to start the second inning. Moments later, he capped off the rally he started by scoring on Cedric Mullins’s single to center field.
There are areas he needs to fix, strikeouts being first and foremost. He struck out 76 times in 85 games last year, and his pace for his career would be 141 projected over 162 games. That’s way too many times whiffing for a player who doesn’t bring too much power to the plate. And in the early going - he’s in the 31st percentile for strikeout percentage, even though he’s in the 90th percentile when it comes to chasing pitches - he hasn’t shown too many signs of improvement.
But as the Orioles continue to look for players who can be role players and supporting pieces as the high-ranking prospects arrive and form the core of what is hopefully a winning team, Urias is showing signs that, at 27, he can be one of those players. All he’s been throughout his career is a solid contact hitter. It hasn’t been the biggest sample, but hopefully in 2022 he makes it even harder to deny.