Baltimore Orioles

Facing another injury, Orioles’ outfield depth remains basic example of what club should strive for | ANALYSIS

Eight weeks and three outfield injuries ago, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde sat at his office desk in the team’s Sarasota, Florida, spring training complex and hand-waved away the Orioles having more outfielders than outfield spots available with a simple truth.

“I think things tend to work themselves out,” he said.


Since then, DJ Stewart has missed over a month with a hamstring strain, Austin Hays missed two weeks with a hamstring strain, and now the Orioles have lost Anthony Santander to a left ankle sprain for what could be a lengthy stretch.

Those absences laid bare that a position group that rightfully is a point of pride and strength for these rebuilding Orioles also doubles as their most basic and competent piece of roster-building — one executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is rightfully trying to emulate on the infield and elsewhere in the organization.


It might end up being a while before Stewart, Hays, Santander, Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins are all available in the Orioles outfield again. But it took a while to get to the point in which they were all viable options. It also speaks well to each player that it would be imperative that each plays as often as possible the way Hyde said they would when healthy.

This group didn’t come together overnight. Stewart was the Orioles’ top draft pick in 2015, followed by Mountcastle (compensatory first-round), Mullins (11th round) and top depth outfielder Ryan McKenna (third round). Hays was taken in the third round of the 2016 draft, and Santander was selected in the Rule 5 draft in 2016.

Though there’s a long lead time between drafting a player and him being ready to hold his own in the big leagues, these picks were made at a time when the Orioles’ major league outfield around stalwart Adam Jones basically featured displaced first basemen and underperforming trade acquisitions that cost the team promising young pitchers.

It was an area that needed addressing, and years later, it’s produced a deep, versatile group — even if Mountcastle was drafted as a shortstop. It’s lacking consistency, and some of that is owed to inexperience. But the group complements itself nicely — and has built-in cover for scenarios like this.

“You’ve seen it too many times — when you think you’ve got more than you need, all of a sudden [injuries] happen,” Hyde said. “That’s why depth is so important. That’s why your minor league system is so important. One day you feel like, ‘How am I going to play everybody?’ and the next day you’re short on the bench.

“That’s why, for me, I’m day-to-day with decisions when it comes to spring training, too. You guys always ask me, ‘How am I going to [do it?]’ There’s so many things that can happen on a day-to-day basis in baseball. You just take it and hopefully you’ve got a ton of depth and hopefully everybody stays healthy. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work sometimes.”

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That the Orioles might be able to withstand losing Santander for a stretch speaks well to how this group was assembled, but also shows how perilous other parts of the club are where those types of homegrown players haven’t bubbled up to the majors yet to provide depth.

It’s why the Orioles have taken six infielders in the top five rounds of the draft in the past two years, spent big on Latin American infielders in the international market and acquired infielders in trades as well.


Some will develop faster than others, and even those top players might take a while to establish themselves in the big leagues the way this group has. Who knows what the Orioles outfield will look like by then.

What’s clear now, though, is that every aspect of the roster will have to be as functionally deep and malleable as the outfield has proven to be for the Orioles to eventually contend the way they plan.


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