Three years into the Orioles’ rebuild under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, the team’s roster has been a mix of young players trying to fill out their promise and castoffs from other clubs, without much in between.
The Orioles’ poor performance in that time meant they were often high in the waiver claim order and thus had the first crack as teams knocked players off their rosters. If there was a need — such as on the infield or on the pitcher’s mound — the Orioles have been aggressive in plugging those holes with these low-cost solutions.
Between waiver claims or trades for players who were designated for assignment by their previous club, the Orioles have fielded an entire team of such players who were brought in by Elias alone in the past three seasons.
Some have fared better than others. Pedro Severino lasted three seasons, Hanser Alberto became relatively beloved and Cole Sulser was the club’s best reliever by far in 2021. Others, like Keon Broxton, didn’t work out.
Eventually, the Orioles will no longer need the combined thousands of at-bats and hundreds of innings from players other teams have discarded. Until then, here are the Orioles’ “DFAll-Stars” — a full team of players Elias claimed on waivers or traded for after they were designated for assignment, and what they contributed while they were here.
First, we’ll run through the hitters.
Catcher Pedro Severino
Stats: 938 plate appearances in 257 games; .712 OPS; 0.6 FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement
The Orioles’ primary catcher for the past three seasons, Severino came with a reputation as a catch-and-throw backstop but instead will be most remembered for his hot starts in 2019 and 2020, though he fell off after each. He elected free agency after being outrighted this fall and reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, paving the way for Adley Rutschman to eventually get to the majors.
First baseman Rio Ruiz
Stats: 718 PA in 213 G, .672 OPS, 0.2 fWAR
Ruiz wasn’t primarily a first baseman, but played a ton of innings there in his two-plus seasons with the Orioles. Elias’ first major league addition as a 2018 winter meetings waiver claim, he was the Orioles’ main third baseman until Maikel Franco was signed in 2021 and spent some time at second base before being designated for assignment and claimed on waivers by Colorado.
Second baseman Hanser Alberto
Stats: 781 PA in 193 G; .735 OPS; 2.5 fWAR
Alberto bounced around on waivers before the 2019 offseason but the Orioles were glad to get him back. He hit well against left-handed pitching and was an infectiously energetic player on a team that had little to play for in 2019 and 2020. The Orioles didn’t tender him a contract for 2021, though, as they felt his salary would have been too high in the arbitration process, and he wound up with the Kansas City Royals.
Shortstop Andrew Velazquez
Stats: 77 PA in 40 G, .480 OPS, -0.2 fWAR
Velazquez was pressed into shortstop duty at times in 2020 because of José Iglesias’ lingering quadriceps injury and also played some center field with the Orioles. A waiver claim from the Cleveland Indians that spring, he signed with his hometown New York Yankees in the offseason and became a popular player there in 2021.
Third baseman Kelvin Gutiérrez
Stats: 153 PA in 41 G; .663 OPS, 0.2 fWAR
Kansas City designated Gutiérrez for assignment in late June, and the Orioles traded for him. Before long, he was their primary third baseman. Gutiérrez got some of his consistent hard contact in the air in September and ended up hitting well down the stretch, creating some intrigue as to whether he’s turned an offensive corner and can be a contributor in 2022.
Left fielder Dwight Smith Jr.
Stats: 464 PA in 122 G; .703 OPS; -1.0 fWAR
Smith came in a trade for international bonus pool money after the Toronto Blue Jays designated him for assignment in spring training in 2019 and was hot out of the gate that spring before his bat cooled off. He didn’t last through the 2020 season, as Ryan Mountcastle took his place in left field.
Center fielder Keon Broxton
Baltimore Orioles Insider
Stats: 112 PA in 37 G; .611 OPS; 0.1 fWAR
Another international bonus trade, this with the New York Mets early in the 2019 season, brought Broxton to the Orioles to fill the hole in center field left by a demoted Cedric Mullins. Broxton didn’t fare much better, striking out in 43.8% of his plate appearances.
Right fielder Jorge Mateo
Stats: 116 PA in 32 G; .749 OPS; 0.3 fWAR
Mateo played a little corner outfield this year, even if the Orioles wanted to keep him on the infield after claiming the former top-100 prospect on waivers from the San Diego Padres. Wherever he plays, the Orioles love his speed and energy, and believe the consistent playing time they can offer can unlock a high level of talent as an everyday player.
Designated hitter Ramón Urías
Stats: 323 PA in 95 G; .790 OPS; 1.6 fWAR
An infielder by trade, Urías probably has the best offensive skill set and forecast of any of these types of players they’ve brought in. When Urías took over as the primary shortstop for Freddy Galvis midway through 2021, he went on a six-week tear before being slowed by a groin injury. Expectations should be positive for him going forward.
Severino is the only player who qualifies as a true catcher, but manager Brandon Hyde said Pat Valaika (431 PA in 142 G, .628 OPS, -0.8 fWAR) was the emergency catcher in September, and filling out this team with a backup catcher qualifies as an emergency. Otherwise, utility men Domingo Leyba (72 PA in 21 G; .451 OPS, -0.4 fWAR) and José Rondón (1 G, 1 PA) fill out the bench.