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Know Your Orioles 40-man: Jonathan Araúz

Mike Elias has occasionally brought to the Orioles players he acquired before. Jonathan Araúz is the latest one.

Boston Red Sox v Detroit Tigers
Recent Orioles waiver claim Jonathan Araúz has hit .204/.280/.320 in 59 big league games.
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Over the offseason, Camden Chat published an article about each member of the Orioles 40-man roster. During the 2022 season, we will update on new arrivals after they make it to the roster.

How he arrived: Arrived by waiver claim 6/15/22; had been with Red Sox

Who left: Zac Lowther designated for assignment 6/15/22

Eventually, there will be no more opportunities for the Orioles to randomly grab players who were drafted or acquired by the Mike Elias-era Astros. Last week offered a reminder that the day has not yet arrived, with the Orioles being awarded the waiver claim on 23-year-old infielder Jonathan Araúz, recently of the Boston Red Sox.

Araúz arrived in Houston in a 5-for-2 trade in December 2015 that centered around then-Phillies reliever Ken Giles. Recent ex-Oriole Thomas Eshelman went the other direction in this deal. At the time of the trade, Araúz was only 17 years old, having spent his first pro season in what would now be called the Florida Complex League.

It’s unusual for a just-signed player that young to skip right over the Dominican Summer League. Araúz batted .254/.309/.370 in 44 games. This kind of performance is what the scouting world might call “holding his own” - in which a young player is not putting up overwhelming numbers at a level but is clearly showing he’s not outmatched either. That’s probably why the Astros wanted him to balance out the Giles trade.

As Orioles GM, Elias has continued this trend of acquiring very young international players; the Panamanian Araúz signed, like most players in this group, after his 16th birthday. He netted a $600,000 signing bonus, which marked him as more than roster filler but not an immediate hype guy.

About a year after the trade that sent him to the Astros, Araúz checked in as the #15 prospect in the Astros system, as rated by MLB Pipeline. At the time, Pipeline wrote of Araúz:

Philadelphia executives likened him to Freddy Galvis with a more potent bat. He’s not flashy or fast, but Arauz is quick and athletic with nice actions and a solid arm. ... Arauz should be able to contribute with the bat as well. He’s a switch-hitter with bat speed and a penchant for making line-drive contact from both sides of the plate.

When this report was written, Galvis had played in parts of five big league seasons and put up a combined .648 OPS. Araúz having a “more potent bat” than Galvis never quite showed up in his minor league performance, though, with the best-hitting season of his career coming in 2019. That year, between High-A and Double-A, he batted .249/.319/.388 in 115 games. You can see how his development never fast tracked despite his US debut in 2015, since four years later he’d only spent a month at Double-A.

The no-longer-rebuilding Astros did not choose to put Araúz on their 40-man roster after what they’d seen from him since that Giles trade. The Red Sox swooped in and plucked Araúz in the Rule 5 draft. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season that followed, Araúz played sporadically as a utility infielder who appeared most often at second base. The “more potent bat” still had not arrived, though Araúz was still young, having only turned 22 in the early days of that 2020 season.

Even so, there’s a limited amount you can sweeten a .250/.325/.319 batting line. Araúz spent most of the 2021 season in the minors, appearing in Boston for good in late July. He batted similarly to his debut season in his sophomore big league action (.644 OPS in 2020, .643 in 2021).

The Red Sox moved on, though Araúz still has two minor league option years remaining. The Orioles moved in, assigning Araúz to Triple-A Norfolk after winning the waiver claim. This means no team with a worse record than the O’s wanted Araúz. Unlike previous years, there’s consistently been a half-dozen or more teams worse off than the O’s who get waiver priority.

Six days before finding Araúz on waivers, the Orioles selected Richie Martin to the 40-man roster. They didn’t send Martin packing as soon as Araúz became available, but I have to imagine these two guys will not co-exist on the 40-man for long. They’re very similar players, in that they’re infielders who have never hit much at any level, are painted with the “if he can’t hit, he must be good at defense” brush, but also haven’t been good at defense at the MLB level.

Araúz may be slightly more interesting by virtue of being about 3.5 years younger; he’s still only in his age 23 season. Martin’s MLB debut came in his age 24 season and he’s 27 years old now.

Unlike when Martin first arrived in the Orioles organization, there are high minors infield prospects of interest in Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, and even Terrin Vavra. So although Araúz may be more interesting, it’s not by much.

When Araúz made his Norfolk Tides debut on Tuesday night, he played third base, with Westburg at second, Henderson at short, and Vavra out in center field. Third base might be his path to Orioles playing time in the short term, as O’s 2022 third basemen are hitting a combined .208/.266/.339.

Araúz is the 14th player to be freshly added to the Orioles 40-man roster - not counting the temporary Toronto additions, Rico Garcia and Kyle Stowers - since the start of the regular season. That’s a lot of turnover. Of the previous 13 guys, 12 have played at least one game for the team. We will probably see Araúz. We may not see him for long before he becomes only a memory to us, if he even becomes that.

Still to come: That’s all, for now