These three Baltimore Orioles hitters have made the biggest improvements from the first half of the regular season to the second.
Who made progress in 2019? Who no longer has a role in the Baltimore Orioles organization? Who makes this team better in 2020 and beyond? These are some of the bigger questions that needed to be answered this season in the first year of a complete rebuild in Birdland. We have some answers, but there are plenty of questions surrounding this roster as the offseason approaches.
General manager Mike Elias is already underway with the next phase of the rebuild, making sweeping personnel changes down in the minor leagues, within the scouting department, and in the front office. In just a few weeks, he will turn to the roster as players are released, new talent is brought in, Rule 5 eligible players are added to the 40-man, and maybe a trade or two gets done. The only thing we know about this offseason is that it will be busy and a lot of fun to watch unfold.
Before we get deep into the offseason talk, I want to talk about that first question that kicked off this article. Who made progress in 2019? Trey Mancini has recorded career-highs in nearly every offensive category, including 34 home runs, 36 doubles, 101 runs scored, and 93 RBI. He’s been solid all season and was deservedly named the Most Valuable Oriole of 2019. Anthony Santander has also shown sustained success at the plate this year and all but cemented his place in the 2020 Opening Day starting lineup.
But who improved the most from the first half of the season to the second half of the year? The Baltimore Orioles saw three players make significant strides over this time span, all of whom have major questions surrounding their role in 2020.
Does Rio Ruiz have a role with the Baltimore Orioles next year?
Infielder Rio Ruiz has saved his best work for the final few weeks of the regular season. While struggling to consistently produce for much of the season wasn’t the plan for Ruiz, ending on a high note and leaving the powers that be with a positive image as they head into the offseason is exactly what Ruiz needed.
In 79 games before the All-Star break, Ruiz hit .235 with five home runs, a .305 on-base percentage, a .092 ISO, and a 69 wRC+. For every big defensive play and clutch hit, Ruiz had a week of struggles and hitless nights.
It’s hasn’t all been great since the break, but Ruiz is currently hitting .239 with six home runs, a .317 OBP, a .257 ISO (0.94 before the break), and a wRC+ of 107 (37 games). His near 40 point jump in wRC+ from the first to the second half of the year is the highest among all Orioles hitters.
A lot of shifting is going to happen around the Orioles infield this offseason, which could mean more regular playing time for Ruiz, at least until the Orioles decide Rylan Bannon is ready to come up to the bigs (primarily a third baseman, might be better at second base).
If a door does open for Ruiz, he has to show more consistency and his play this September (.245/.307/.531) is a good start. It’s also important to remember that he’s just 25 years old and getting his first major workload in the majors. Making the big improvement that Ruiz has made tells me he’s starting to settle in and adjust to major league pitching. Now, we see if he can take the next step in spring training. If he can be a reliable utility man with a little pop in his bat, the Orioles will have themselves a solid role player.
Next, we look at an Orioles hitter who is very quietly having a fantastic season.