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Baltimore Orioles

Oriole of the Day: Power surge not enough to mask Rylan Bannon’s Triple-A struggles

This week, Major League Baseball and its players’ union will meet daily to try to complete a new collective bargaining agreement.

The league has already elected to postpone the start of spring training games until at least March 5. At any point, the owners could choose to lift the lockout they unanimously implemented when the previous CBA expired and allow the season to begin. Instead, negotiations between the league and players over a collection of issues are threatening Opening Day, scheduled for March 31.

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In the meantime, the Orioles and other MLB teams are unable to adjust their 40-man rosters or even acknowledge the players who are members of them. The Baltimore Sun can at least do the latter, and in the final stretch of this Oriole of the Day series, we’ll take a close look at some of the youngest members of Baltimore’s 40-man roster. The remaining players have yet to make their major league debuts.

Like Dean Kremer and Yusniel Diaz, infielder Rylan Bannon came to the Orioles in the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Outside of one explosive stretch, he largely struggled in a full season spent mostly at Triple-A.

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Quick hits

2022 Opening Day age: 25

2021 stats: .177/.297/.370, .667 OPS, 15 home runs, 20.9 K%, 13.8 BB% with Triple-A Norfolk

Under team control through: 2027

2021 in review

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Number to know: 10. In a 10-game span in August, Bannon hit 10 home runs, slashing .417/.500/1.278 in a stretch that seemed as if it might propel him to the majors. But Bannon’s numbers outside of that binge perhaps better tell the story of his time in Triple-A, with a batting line of .142/.268/.241.

What was good: Beyond his power outburst, one aspect of Bannon’s 2021 season worth appreciating was his ability to draw a walk. He ended the season with nearly as many walks as hits, supplanting his struggles with another way to get on base. Of the 173 players who got at least 300 plate appearances in Triple-A, Bannon’s walk rate was the 17th highest, according to FanGraphs. In Baltimore’s system, only top prospect Adley Rutschman and infielder Patrick Dorrian walked more frequently than Bannon.

What wasn’t: Bannon’s August surge provided what otherwise would have been lacking from his season: a positive stretch. He missed most of June with an oblique injury, then returned with a week with High-A Aberdeen in which he went 1-for-20. In a month of games back with Norfolk before the two-homer day that started his run, Bannon hit .086/.238/.200. He followed that 10-game star turn with a .155/.313/.214 line and one home run in his final 31 games.

Looking ahead to 2022

Likely 2022 role: Infield depth.

What’s projected: Bannon has the fortune of being an infielder in the upper levels of the Orioles’ farm system at a time when many of those spots in the majors are unsettled and the prospects coming behind him are likely another year or two away. But 2022 might be Bannon’s last chance to secure a role at second or third base before the likes of Jordan Westburg and Gunnar Henderson arrive to claim those jobs for the next half decade.

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A step forward: When Bannon made contact and the ball didn’t go over the fence, he got a hit the least frequently of practically any upper minors hitters. Of the nearly 400 players with at least 300 plate appearances in Double-A and Triple-A, Bannon had the lowest batting average on balls in play at .176; the next closest was .211. Typically, a low BABIP is a sign that a player experienced quite a bit of bad luck, and although it’s difficult to confirm that in Bannon’s case because of the lack of publicly available advanced metrics, that hints at a potential turnaround in 2022.

Three up, three down

This series is ordered based on the WAR, as measured by FanGraphs, each member of Baltimore’s 40-man roster produced in 2021. For the remaining players, who have yet to reach the majors, they are ordered by when they were added to the 40-man roster and their prospect rankings. The past three players featured in the series were Kelvin Gutiérrez, Jahmai Jones and Yusniel Diaz. The Orioles due up next are DL Hall, Kyle Bradish and Terrin Vavra.


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