Rightfielder Anthony Santander, who was having an outstanding season before an oblique injury ended it on September 4th, was voted Most Valuable Oriole for 2020, the team announced Friday.
The award is voted on by members of the media who cover the Orioles.
Santander, 26, played in each of the Orioles’ first 37 games, the only player to do so before being injured in the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees.
The switch-hitter, who was chosen in the December 2017 Rule 5 draft from Cleveland, hit .261 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs. The 11 home runs were leading the team until Renato Núñez hit his 12 on Tuesday night. Santander’s RBI total still leads the team.
Santander had an 18-game hitting streak from August 5-23, the longest by an Oriole since Nick Markakis in 2014, and had RBIs in eight straight games from August 6-14, the longest by an Oriole since Jonathan Schoop in 2017.
“It’s such an honor to receive this award,” Santander said in a video conference call. “I’m very thankful for those who voted for me, that took me into consideration. I think it’s part of our big competition among everybody.”
At the time of his injury, Santander was leading the American League with 25 extra-base hits.
Santander also played well in right field and had four assists.
“It’s definitely been a long road. It’s been a long journey,” Santander said. “I’m very thankful for this opportunity. I’m very happy for this award. It’s amazing to be here and really know the results I’ve been getting after so much work, after so many sacrifices, it’s all been worth it.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said the club has missed Santander.
“Big void him not being in the lineup these past 20-plus games,” Hyde said. “Big-time run producer, great at-bats, loves to play, a gamer, drives the ball out of the ballpark, gets huge hits for us, plays a really good right field. Love watching him play.
“Well deserved of the award just because he was having a Silver Slugger, All-Star-type of season. Looking forward to him getting healthy and being with us next spring.”
Santander struck out 86 times in 93 games in 2019. This year, he struck out 25 times in 37 games.
“I think it’s part of the hard work you put in,” Santander said. “Usually power hitters tend to strike out a lot, so whenever I’m behind in the count, or if I have two strikes, I try to simplify my approach and not try to do too much, just try to take advantage to what’s given to me and just go with the pitch.”
Santander won’t be returning to his native Venezuela for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic and will prepare for 2021 in south Florida. He said his oblique is improving.
“It definitely feels so much better now,” he said. “Just continue to follow my treatment so that I can be ready for next season.”
Another leading candidate, shortstop José Iglesias, also has played in only 37 games because of injuries. Iglesias, who was on the 10-day injured list because of a nagging quadriceps muscle injury, also missed three games after his left wrist was bruised when he was hit by a pitch in Saturday night’s game against Tampa Bay.
Iglesias is hitting .372 with two home runs and 22 RBIs.
Others who received votes were Núñez, Rio Ruiz, Hanser Alberto, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Tanner Scott, Pedro Severino and César Valdez.
The Orioles do not disclose vote totals or the second- and third-place finishers. Voters are asked to choose their top three candidates.
I voted for Santander, Iglesias and Scott.
Notes: John Means will start Saturday night against the Blue Jays, and Keegan Akin will start the final game on Sunday. Hyde said that no one from the bullpen has been shut down … Nunez, who has a sore knee, should play this weekend.