School is out, but report cards are in. This time, we're looking at Orioles' slugger Anthony Santander. Santander is coming off the best season of his career, and now being just two years away from free agency, trade rumors are likely to pop up throughout the offseason. How good was Santander's 2022 season?
Like all of Birds Watcher’s 2022 report cards, the standard letter grading system is in use. A player's offense, defense, and a miscellaneous category will be given a letter grade resulting in a final numerical GPA.
After a disappointing 2021 season, Santander bounced back in a big way. Santander slashed .240/.318/.455 with 33 HR, 24 2B, and a 117 OPS+. That OPS+ was 2nd best on the team (min. 150 PA), and he led the team in home runs. He also hit a career high in HR and, excluding the 37-game 2020, in OPS+.
Santander had an injury-plagued 2021 that held him to just 110 games. Strikeouts rose and walks fell. He reversed that trend in 2022, as he limited his K% to 18.9% and increased his BB% to 8.5% - respectable numbers. This led to a career-high .318 OBP. Santander may never excel at getting on base, but he's made definite improvements in his game.
Could Santander be even better than his results say? Batted ball data says so. His .336 wOBA was underlined by a .352 xwOBA, a .240 AVG by a .257 xBA, and a .455 SLG by a .471 xSLG. That xwOBA was in the 88th percentile of all hitters. Curious about how Santander could be next season without the shift? He had a .391 wOBA as a left-hander without the shift and a .297 wOBA with the shift. Underlying stats show that Santander may have been better than his results suggest, but regardless, Santander improved in comparison to previous years and was one of the best hitters on an improved Orioles team.
Depending on which statistic you ask or which position you look at, Santander is either an above average or a terrible defender. He played a career high 299 innings in LF along with 695 innings in RF. The added versatility is nice, but only if he plays LF well. Both OAA (-5) and DRS (-8) say he should not be in left field. Right field is more contentious. Fangraphs has generally been favorable to Santander, giving him 3 DRS this season, but Baseball Savant gave him 0 OAA. Overall, it was a poor season in left but a solid season in right.
Santander would do well to stay in right field given his arm strength (63rd percentile), but the glove just isn't really there. Neither is the speed to play in the outfield. Going forward, the best option for Santander would be DH, especially with Trey Mancini no longer with the team. But, if the Orioles choose to keep Santander in the field, he's fine as a right fielder, but the left field experiment should end. This was a pretty typical year for Santander defensively.
Switch Hitting Success: A
Anthony Santander had a record-breaking year as a switch hitter, becoming the second player in MLB history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in four different games, a feat not done since 1996 (via MLB.com)
Baltimore Orioles 2022 Report Card: Anthony Santander
In 469 PA against RHP, he hit .221/.301/.420 with 22 HR. In 178 PA against LHP, he hit .293/.365/.548 with 11 HR. Santander feasts off of lefties, and while he doesn't hit right-handers as well, that's still a 104 OPS+ against RHP. His ability to seamlessly switch between sides of the plate in the same game is incredible. Santander's switch hitting ability is invaluable.
In comparison with his past seasons, Santander's come a long way against left-handers. In 2021, he posted just a .697 OPS with 4 HR in 157 PA against lefties. He hasn't seen numbers this good since 2019, in which he posted a .810 OPS against LHP. He did regress against RHP, but he is a very, very good hitter when he gets to see left handed pitching.
Final GPA: 3.10
This is a very solid GPA for a very solid season. I'm not sure where Anthony Santander would rank among all Right Fielders in baseball, but he's established himself as the top power hitters on this team. Santander improved his own game, turning from a one-dimensional, solid power guy to an above average power hitter with the ability to get on base. At 28, there's still room for Santander to have his best season yet in 2023. Regardless of what the Baltimore Orioles choose to do with Santander before the end of the next season, Santander's presence has been felt in Baltimore, and his effort was invaluable to the 2022 miracle run.