Baltimore Orioles: Ramon Urias is X-Factor for Second Half
Ramon Urias is playing much better for the Orioles since coming off the Injured list.
After a surprising first half, the Baltimore Orioles began their first series after the All-Star break against the New York Yankees with a .500 record at 46-46. Unfortunately, the O’s lost the first game of that series 7-6 to fall to 46-47 and were in danger of losing the second game after falling behind 3-0 early on. The O’s were able to rally back, though, and held a slim 4-3 lead entering the eighth inning needing six outs from Felix Bautista and Jorge Lopez.
After a clean top of the eighth from Bautista, the Orioles had the bottom of their lineup due up and were not showing much threat of adding any insurance runs until the number 8 hitter, Ramon Urias, stepped up with a runner on first and two outs against Yankees reliever Shane Greene. In front of more than 36,000 fans, Urias crushed a home run into the left-center field gap over the Great Wall of Baltimore to increase the Orioles’ lead to 6-3 and give Urias his tenth homer of the season. The Orioles would win by that score.
After a strong 2021, Urias earned a spot on the Opening Day roster in 2022 but struggled offensively for the first several months before an oblique injury sidelined him for about a month starting in the second week of June. Before the injury, Urias had a .225 batting average with a .660 OPS while playing mostly at third base. While he was sidelined, the O’s struggled to replace him at third base with Tyler Nevin and Jonathan Arauz taking most of the reps there. Since being reactivated on July 4th, Urias has increased his batting average by nearly 40 points and his OPS by 102 points and currently has a slash line of .263/.307/.455 for an OPS+ of 114, which indicates that he is 14 percent better than the league-average hitter.
The .307 on-base percentage is lower than you would like but Urias makes up for it with his extra-base hit power. 23 of Urias’ 59 hits this season have gone for extra bases with 13 doubles and 10 homers, but he has a low walk rate of 5.8% that will need to improve if Urias wants to continue to be an everyday player for the O’s. Since being picked up off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020, Urias has been an above-average hitter for the O’s with a career OPS+ of 115 along with 18 home runs in 159 games. Along with this offensive production, Urias has had an impressive season defensively and has been one of the best defensive third basemen in the American League, according to Baseball-Reference.
With this impressive defense at the hot corner, combined with his improved power numbers since coming off the injured list, Urias has proven to be a valuable asset to the Orioles who have plenty of more well-known hitters at the top of the lineup but have not had much offensive production from the three infield spots left of first base. The trio of Urias, Jorge Mateo, and Rougned Odor are often the last three hitters in the Orioles lineup as none of them give the consistent offensive production that the top 6 hitters do, although all three have been valuable everyday players.
With the trade deadline approaching in about a week, the Orioles have some tough decisions to make with a playoff spot within striking distance, but Urias has chosen a good time to heat up since there are multiple infielders in Triple-A who seem to be ready for big league action in Gunnar Henderson, Terrin Vavra, and Jordan Westburg. As those three players approach the big leagues, Urias will be helped by his versatility to keep a spot on the roster. He has played all three infield positions somewhat regularly in his big league career as he primarily started at shortstop last season.
Regardless of what moves the Orioles make at the deadline, Urias figures to be the everyday third baseman for the rest of 2022 because of the success he has had. Moving forward, he could be a potential trade candidate during the offseason with a bundle of infielders coming through the minors, and he will be entering his age-29 season in 2023. If the Orioles seriously want to contend for a playoff spot this season, they will need Urias to continue to be an above-average hitter and defensive player to complement some of the stars already in the lineup.