The Orioles’ primary motivation for trading shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Philadelphia Phillies was being able to acquire a minor league pitcher with good strikeout numbers in Tyler Burch for a player who only was under contract with Baltimore for two more months.
But it certainly helped that, in Galvis’ absence for the past month with a right quadriceps strain, Ramón Urías has held his own as the Orioles’ shortstop. Even before adding two more hits Saturday, he’s batted .297/.360/.418 since replacing Galvis. Urías, a 27-year-old rookie, has “pleasantly surprised” manager Brandon Hyde, who said Urías will be his primary shortstop over the season’s final couple of months.
“He’s always had a really simple swing, and the swing really hasn’t changed. It’s just about being a little bit more on time and catching the ball a little bit more out in front. I like that he doesn’t chase. He swings at strikes for the most part, and he’s played really consistent defense. So I give him credit for a guy that got an opportunity, got claimed [on waivers], gets an opportunity and is making the most of it. I’m really, really happy with how he’s playing.”
Yet in describing the trade, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias not only mentioned Urías’ play, but also noted other rookies could join him.
“We’ve seen some really encouraging play here from Ramón Urías, and we’ve got some other players in the minor leagues who might come up and help out in the middle infield here in the second half,” Elias said.
Even if Urías is locked in at shortstop, some change could be good at second base, where several candidates haven’t been able to capitalize on the opportunity at the position. Entering play Saturday, the Orioles’ second basemen have collectively posted an OPS of .579, more than 50 points worse than any other team’s production from that position. Pat Valaika has played twice as many games at second this season as any other Oriole and is batting .203/.261/.297 even after a two-hit game Saturday, while Domingo Leyba also struggles in the majors.
Among the prospects Elias was likely referring to, Jahmai Jones is one knocking hardest at the door. Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels this offseason for starter Alex Cobb, Jones hit an inside-the-park home run Friday and a traditional one Saturday for Triple-A Norfolk, where he’s hitting .257/.358/.460 while moving between second and occasionally left field.
Jones is already on the 40-man roster and thus would not require a spot to be opened there to join the Orioles. The same is true for Rylan Bannon, one of the prospects the Orioles got from the Los Angeles Dodgers in trading away Manny Machado in 2018, but Bannon has largely struggled, dealing with injuries and poor performance.
Another possibility who technically isn’t on the 40-man roster as of now is Richie Martin, who is rehabbing with Double-A Bowie after suffering a broken left wrist in May while playing center field for Norfolk. Like Jones, he homered Saturday. Whenever the Orioles activate him from the 60-day injured list, they’ll need to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
Hyde, though, suggested the Orioles will want Martin to get some playing time at Triple-A before returning to the majors. He spent all of 2019 with the Orioles after they took him first overall in the Rule 5 draft. He hit .208/.260/.322 having never played above Double-A, then missed the 2020 season after suffering a broken right wrist in summer training camp.
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“That was something going into this year that we thought was important, and last year, was for Richie to get Triple-A playing time defensively, as well as offensively, get some at-bats in Triple-A, and he still hasn’t done that,” Hyde said. “I think we’re weighing all options as he comes off of rehab.”