Baltimore Orioles: Three Rebound Candidates For The 2020 Season
By Nick Stevens
Who are the likeliest candidates to rebound in 2020 for the Baltimore Orioles? We look at one infielder, one outfielder, and one pitcher who top the list.
As a fan of any sports team, especially the Baltimore Orioles, one of the more depressing and frustrating aspects of following your favorite team closely is watching a player with high expectations placed on them struggle. You have all these hopes of this particular player making a valuable contribution to the team, but they fall short and the process of trying to figure out what they can to do rebound begins.
In Birdland, we saw Trey Mancini go from an American League Rookie of the Year finalist in 2017 to a -0.3 fWAR player in 2018. He rebounded well in 2019, earning Most Valuable Oriole honors after a season that saw him slug 35 home runs with a 132 wC+.
Who will become the Trey Mancini of 2020? I don’t think any of these players reach the production levels that Mancini reached in 2019, but there are a few players that showed flashes of what could be.
For the exercise, we’re taking one infielder, one outfielder, and one pitcher who we think has the best odds of breaking out and improving in 2020. Let’s start with the infield, specifically at the hot corner.
Rio Ruiz improved throughout the year and showed off him respectable glove.
I’m not exactly sure how it all started, but since last season came to a close, my anticipation for seeing what Rio Ruiz can do next season has continued to rise.
Acquired via a waiver claim last winter, Ruiz hit .232 with a .306 on-base percentage, 12 home runs, 46 RBI, and a wRC+ of 79 across 127 games in his first season with the Baltimore Orioles. Overall, the numbers look far from impressive, but there are signs that give me hope he can rebound next year.
Ruiz posted an OPS of .635 with a wRC+ of 69 before the All-Star break, but improved those numbers to a .766 OPS and 97 wRC+ during the second-half the regular season. His increased production was fueled by a higher walk rate (10.1%), lower strikeout rate (18.9%), and a massive increase in extra-base hits.
In 238 pre-All-Star at-bats, Ruiz accumulated 12 extra-base hits (7 doubles, 5 home runs), but saw that number climb to 15 extra-base hits (6 doubles, 2 triples, 7 home runs) in more than 100 fewer at-bats (132). This comes out to an ISO jump from .092 to .235).
Defensively, Ruiz recorded two Defensive Runs Saved, a 1.8 Ultimate Zone Rating, and worked a Defensive rating of 3.3, per Fangraphs. All three ranked among the Orioles leaderboards, with his 3.3 Defensive rating ranking 17th among all third basemen in baseball.
Ruiz is just 25 years old and entered 2019 with 195 career at-bats in the major leagues in parts of three seasons with the Atlanta Braves. Fangraphs grades Ruiz at a 50 FV hit tool, 50 FV fielding tool, a 55 raw power tool. He showed glimpses of each tool last season. Now, with the third base job his, can he put it all together?