Baltimore Orioles: Diving Into Anthony Santander And Yusniel Diaz

As the Grapefruit League season reaches the mid-way point, two Baltimore Orioles outfield prospects are performing well.  They seem destined to head in opposite directions, however.

The Baltimore Orioles, as of Sunday’s game with the Philadelphia Phillies, are 9-7 on the Grapefruit League season, with two ties. Included in the games played were two split-squad games, one on March 1st and another on March 9th.  Among the team leaders during those 20 total games are outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Anthony Santander.

Diaz, the Orioles #1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is slashing .333/ .324/ .515 in a team-leading 33 at-bats over 14 games.  Santander, a Rule-5 pick in 2016 and currently on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, is slashing .458/ .500/ .958 in 24 at-bats over 13 games.

While their slash lines are quite different, their other stats are rather similar.  Diaz has scored three runs while hitting three doubles and one home run.  He also has seven RBI and five strikeouts on the spring season.  Santander has seven RBI and six strikeouts to go along with his five runs scored, six doubles and two homeruns.

Santander has two minor league options remaining while Diaz must be added to the 40-man roster by November of this year according to RosterResource.com.  Regardless, both players will factor into the future of the Baltimore Orioles.

Diaz, the centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July, will certainly be placed on the 40-man roster at some point in 2019.  I see no way that the Orioles would invalidate that trade by losing such a prospect.

Santander was selected in the 2016 Rule-5 draft based on his power bat and drew comparisons to Victor Martinez from then Baltimore General Manager Dan Duquette.  He made that comparison when talking to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com.

As this pair moves forward into the 2019 regular season One of these outfielders is coming north with the Orioles and one returning for more fine-tuning in the minor leagues.  I believe Santander has a high probability of making the team as he seems to finally be living up to his offensive potential.  Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun has him on his early Opening Day roster, as well.  Diaz, who has been hot and cold this spring, was reassigned to minor league camp following Sunday’s game.

Diaz had no walks so far this spring and with his almost four point drop (15.5% to 11.8%) in walk percentage after joining the Orioles organization last summer, I see him possibly returning to Bowie (AA) and the Eastern League to work on his patience at the plate.  I feel Diaz needs to show an ability to get on base more in order to fit in with what the Orioles, as a team, seem to be trying to do under manager Brandon Hyde.

In all fairness, Santander has worked just one walk so far this spring and in fact, has a lower minor league career walk percentage than does Diaz, 7.58% to 10.47%, respectively.  I think what will separate the two is Santander’s higher on-base and slugging percentages.

Despite their current differences, I am bullish on both of these young sluggers and do foresee a time when both are members of the Baltimore Orioles’ outfield.  Now is not the time for Diaz, however.  There certainly is no need to start Diaz’s service clock as the Orioles are in the infant stages of their rebuild.  I would not rule out a September call-up for the young Cuban native if his offense continues to show improvement at the minor league level.

Next: Orioles Make Second Round Of Camp Cuts

The Orioles return to action Tuesday night at 6:35 against the New York Yankees. Mike Wright is scheduled to start as he continues to fight for the a rotation spot.