submitted by Braden Kletz
In the 2020 season, every Orioles fan saw the impact Anthony Santander made on the field. He certainly wasn’t a household name around the league though. That could be for a variety of reasons, but his stats were outstanding for only playing 62% of the 60-game season.
Let’s start from the beginning. Santander is Venezuelan native who was a Rule V pick for the Orioles in 2016. Making his debut in 2016, Santander didn’t really start rolling until 2019, when he hit .261 with 20 home runs over a 93-game stretch. He dealt with persistent injuries at the beginning of his career that landed him on the injured list several times. With the 2020 season being his best, yet shortest, it begs the question: how good can Santander be if he is fully healthy all year long? Because when healthy, he’s been tearing opposing pitchers apart.
In the winter of 2018, Anthony played in the Venezuelan League for the Tigres where he hit a solid .251 over 53 games. It seems as though he is determined to keep perfecting his craft, which shows his drive to keep getting better year after year. If it weren’t for COVID-19, he probably would’ve played in Venezuela again. At this point in his career, it’s hard to deny his talent with the bat in his hand. And that was shown this past season in 2020.
Up until his oblique injury, Santander was top 5 in just about every hitting category. Even with missing 23 games, he ended 8th in extra base hits in the American League. Percentage-wise, he batted in at least one run in 86% of the games he played in, and averaged at least a hit in every game. In any other year, those numbers are All-Star worthy. The sample size was unnervingly small, but the numbers are very promising.
One thing that about Anthony that flies under the radar is his fielding ability. If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t aware of how good he was until he was nominated for a Gold Glove at the end of the year. But if you look at the stats, it’s all there. Santander was near the bottom of the league in errors only having two the whole year, and was top five in both putouts for right fielders and assists in right field – again, despite only playing in 37 games.
With Trey Mancini coming back seemingly healthy and a rejuvenated farm system, 26-year-old Anthony Santander seems to be in a great spot to help this O’s team compete in the very near future. His projected numbers on Pro Baseball Reference are somewhat promising, giving him a .249 batting average with 21 home runs and 66 RBI. But if he can limit his slumps like he did at the beginning of the 2020 season, he could be in for a very productive season.
With Spring Training under way, I can’t wait to watch this guy swing the bat.