With MLB owners continuing to lock out the players as the two sides slowly work toward a new collective bargaining agreement, Orioles officials are barred from specifically discussing players on the team’s 40-man roster.
The Baltimore Sun, of course, faces no such stipulations. Throughout the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at each Oriole, examining their 2021 seasons and what’s ahead for them in 2022, assuming the league and the players’ union eventually come together.
In a series ordered by players’ 2021 wins above replacement, Ramón Urías is perhaps a surprise as the first rookie to be featured after Ryan Mountcastle set the franchise record for home runs by a first-year player. But in Urías, the rebuild’s flurry of waiver claims has found an intriguing infielder.
2022 Opening Day age: 27
2021 stats: .279/.361/.412, .774 OPS, seven home runs, 25.7 K%, 9.5 BB%, 1.6 fWAR
Under team control through: 2026
2021 in review
Number to know: .369. Urías’ batting average on balls in play was the sixth highest in baseball (minimum 250 plate appearances). BABIP is a stat that typically indicates a player’s luck, with higher figures showing that balls they hit found holes more frequently. But examining other advanced metrics suggest that despite his high BABIP, Urías’ fortune wasn’t all that extreme. He hit .279 and slugged .412, with his expected measures of those stats — Statcast metrics based on exit velocity and launch angle — being .269 and .425.
What was good: On an Orioles team desperate for hitters who work the count and get on base, Urías was one of the few who did so. His .361 on-base percentage led all qualified American League rookies and all Orioles, outpacing Most Valuable Oriole Cedric Mullins by .001. Among players with at least 200 plate appearances, his 9.5% walk rate was the team’s second highest, and no Oriole swung at pitches outside the strike zone less frequently.
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What wasn’t: If there’s a qualm to take in Urías’ rookie season, it’s that he wasn’t on the field more. He made Baltimore’s Opening Day roster coming off a late 2020 audition in which he hit .360/.407/.560, but he failed to capitalize on the opportunity before being optioned to Triple-A with a .626 OPS. When starting shortstop Freddy Galvis suffered a right quadriceps strain that signaled the end of his Orioles tenure, Urías took over until an upper leg injury of his own limited his ability to play short beginning in early August. Still, even though the ailment cost him games and eventually landed him on the injured list, Urías posted a .790 OPS after his return to the majors. He ended the year playing only 85 games for Baltimore.
Looking ahead to 2022
Likely 2022 role: Starting or utility infielder
What’s projected: Urías’ role in 2022 is somewhat uncertain. Before the lockout, the Orioles signed Rougned Odor, though Yolmer Sánchez showed last spring that being a defensively skilled veteran doesn’t guarantee you the Opening Day second base job in Baltimore. The Orioles have also signed a stopgap free-agent shortstop the previous two offseasons, and it’s plausible they do so again once the lockout ends.
That could leave only one spot on the infield for a collection of infielders who made an impression in Urías, Jorge Mateo and Kelvin Gutiérrez. Both Steamer and ZiPS project Urías to be the most impactful of that threesome plus Odor, with both systems forecasting an average above .250, on-base percentage above .320 and slugging percentage above .400, a slight decline from his 2021 production. Still, that offensive performance would be worthy of the Orioles finding a regular role for Urías, whether it be in a platoon with Odor at second, as their starting shortstop or third baseman or as someone who moves among all three spots.
A step forward: For all the impact Urías made with his bat, his defense left plenty to be desired. The right adductor strain that eventually ended his season and required surgery surely hampered his range down the stretch, but he wasn’t particularly impressive with his glove beforehand.
Urías was the Orioles’ starting shortstop for 21 of their 22 July games, and during that month, only two of 35 qualified shortstops were worse in Statcast’s defensive success rate added, which measures how well a player performed relative to the estimated success rate of defenders leaguewide. He particularly struggled moving to his right, and he had more success when he was shifted toward third base. His bat makes him an intriguing piece for the rest of the Orioles’ rebuild, but improved glovework could make him an all-the-more valuable player worth holding onto.
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. The past three players featured in the series were Cedric Mullins, John Means and Austin Hays. The Orioles due up next are Cole Sulser, Ryan Mountcastle and Tyler Wells.