Should the Baltimore Orioles look to platoon third base this season?

Rio Ruiz #14 of the Baltimore Orioles (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Rio Ruiz #14 of the Baltimore Orioles (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Orioles’ infield excess creates a platoon opportunity at third base

Most of the Baltimore Orioles positional talk has been centered around the outfield surplus, but a surprising excess at third base could offer a unique opportunity.

Over the past two years, Rio Ruiz has been the Baltimore Orioles’ primary third baseman. The narrative leading up to this season was the same until the O’s back-office found another corner infielder in the free agency realm. With the recent addition of Maikel Franco, Birdland could once again have the opportunity to platoon a cornerstone position.

Most notably, from 1979 through 1980, the Orioles had two well-known platoon roles. First was the Earl Weaver magic in left field with four rotators (Roenicke, Lowenstein, Kelly, Ayala). Then in 1980,  he platooned Rick Dempsey with Dan Graham behind the plate. If anyone could use some Orioles magic from the past, Brandon Hyde and Co. certainly could during the 2021 campaign.

Starting with Franco we find, a well-traveled veteran of the MLB with stints in both Philadelphia and Kansas City. Last season with the Royals, he hit .278 in a shortened season. Not all-star worthy, but nothing to shirk at either. With Freddy Galvis locking up the shortstop role, it’s important to note that both he and Franco shared the left side of the infield before.

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Should the Baltimore Orioles look to platoon 3B this season?

Since coming to Baltimore in 2019, Ruiz has hit an average of .229 over the past two seasons. For sure a work in progress, he hit almost .050 points better than what he did in Atlanta the three seasons before 2019. Last year in a condensed season, Ruiz hit .222 with 9 HR and 32 ribbies.

With Franco’s arrival just a few short weeks ago, the Skipper has been playing Ruiz in other roles. Still, with Pat Valaika and Ramón Urías battling it out at second base, the more realistic response in this 1v1 battle for third base is to start either Ruiz or Franco there and then shift the other to the DH role. That position will be a free-for-all between the aforementioned, the leftover catcher, and outfielder.

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Typically, what is looked for when platooning a role is how players respond to left-handed hurlers vs. right. In this instance, it may simply be a better opportunity to see who gets hot first and then go from there. Competition is always a good thing when working with a rebuild, and if it’s handled correctly, it could be the ignitor that sparks the switch from rebuild to contender.