On a weekend that might go down as the best Camden Yards has to offer this season — beginning with a pair of 13-0 wins and hearty crowds for the team's signature giveaways — it's not the what as much as the whom that should be heartening to Orioles fans.
All year long, the Orioles (24-58) have been an inexperienced team, but not necessarily a young one. Some roster shuffling over the past month has added some actual youth to their lineup, and this weekend is showing some of the fruits of it. Catcher Chance Sisco, 24, and outfielder Anthony Santander, 24, each homered in consecutive games, while designated hitter Renato Núñez, a young 25, hit two homers to give him a team-high 18.
Sisco and Santander combined to drive in nine runs in Friday's 13-0 win, giving a glimpse of the types of young players who might actually be around when this rebuilding project turns around.
"I feel like for the most part, we're a fun team to watch, even though our record doesn't show it," manager Brandon Hyde said. "I think we have some exciting young players that play hard every single night, that are growing in the big leagues and gaining experience, and I think we play fun baseball to watch.
"To watch Chance Sisco develop — and once again, he's a … young catcher that just caught back-to-back shutouts against the Cleveland Indians, a playoff club. That says a lot. Tony Santander, the way he's swinging the bat; Nuney, obviously, two homers. There's just really good stuff from our young players the last couple of days. I think we're fun to watch."
In the case of Sisco and Santander, who each debuted late in 2017 and spent some time with the club without much success in 2018, the recent success is particularly noteworthy. Despite achieving spring training success and performing in a manner that might have allowed them to make the major league club in different circumstances, the Orioles sent them out and began them at Triple-A Norfolk.
In many cases, that distinction was made for players whose development truly mattered to them, illustrating that their long-term success and growth into major league players was taking precedent over what might help the club in April and May. Sisco and Santander performed well enough that they forced the issue to get themselves to the majors — Sisco especially — and that success has carried over to the majors.
Santander is batting .293/.352/.500 with nine extra-base hits in 21 games. Sisco has had the smaller side of the Orioles' catching platoon, but is batting .286/.400/.690 with nine extra-base hits in just 42 at-bats when given the chance.
Before the game, Hyde said those opportunities would continue to grow for Sisco. Likewise for Santander, who is becoming increasingly hard to keep out of the lineup as so many of the other corner-outfield options other than Trey Mancini trend in the opposite direction.
As the Orioles face down another half-season remaining, having their youngest players be among their most productive — Mancini excluded — will create the kinds of crowds and wins they've experienced so far against the Indians.