Ruiz enters spring training as favorite at third; Orioles had 5 on Top 100 list once before -

Rich Dubroff

Ruiz enters spring training as favorite at third; Orioles had 5 on Top 100 list once before

Four weeks from now, spring training is scheduled to begin for the Orioles. There’s been lots of attention on the Orioles’ search for a shortstop and additional starting pitchers, but there’s been little attention on third base.

At the end of last year, Rio Ruiz had just completed his second season at third, and there was speculation the team would seek an upgrade. Ruiz was the first major league player added to the Orioles’ roster after Mike Elias took over as executive vice president/general manager in November 2018. The Orioles claimed him on waivers from Atlanta early in the Winter Meetings.

He played 127 games in 2019 and had a .232 average and .682 OPS. Ruiz, who had a brief demotion to the minors, hit 12 home runs and drove in 46 runs.

After he returned from the minors, Ruiz had the most memorable hit of 2019. On August 11th, a day after the Orioles had suffered a 23-2 loss to the Houston Astros, Ruiz hit a two-run, ninth-inning home run that gave the Orioles an 8-7 win over Houston.

In the 60-game 2020 season, Ruiz played in 54 games, tying him with Hanser Alberto for the club lead. He hit .only 222 with a .713 OPS but his power numbers weren’t bad — nine home runs and 32 RBIs, tying him with Anthony Santander, who missed the final 23 games of the season.

FanGraphs gave Ruiz a neutral WAR (Wins Above Replacement), 0.0 while calculated his WAR as .7 with a .3 Defensive WAR.

There doesn’t seem to be a rush to replace Ruiz, who is entering his final year before he’s eligible for arbitration, but Elias is always on the hunt for competition. There are several players, both on the 40-man roster and off it, who can play third.

The most obvious is Rylan Bannon, who was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in November. Bannon, who also worked out at second base during October’s Instructional League at Sarasota, Florida, was one of the players the Orioles obtained from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado in July 2018.

Bannon had decent power numbers in the minors, hitting a combined .266 with a .766 OPS at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in 2019. He had 11 home runs and 59 RBIs in 130 games.


The Orioles claimed Yolmer Sánchez on waivers from the Chicago White Sox. He’ll likely replace the departed Alberto at second base but in 2018, a year before he won the American League Gold Glove at second, he was Chicago’s regular third baseman.

Sanchez has a .245 lifetime average and .660 OPS but can play third, if that’s the direction the Orioles decide to go.

The Orioles still have Pat Valaika as a utility infielder, but he’s more comfortable at the other three infield positions. Ramón Urias, who was used in 10 late-season games at shortstop and second base, played occasionally at third in the minor leagues.

Tyler Nevin, whom the Orioles acquired from Colorado in the deal that sent reliever Mychal Givens to the Rockies last August, probably will begin 2021 as Norfolk’s first baseman. Nevin has started 101 minor league games at third, and the Orioles value versatility.

Stevie Wilkerson, who demonstrated versatility in 2019, will be returning as a non-roster player. Wilkerson played center field for the Orioles in 2019 when they lacked options, and he did play third occasionally in the minors.

The Orioles have chosen a number of infielders in the last two drafts. Most of them are listed at shortstop and are still inexperienced pros. Other than Bannon, there doesn’t appear to be minor league competition for Ruiz at the moment.

5 players in the Top 100: Many fans were delighted that the Orioles have five prospects in Baseball America’s newest rankings of the Top 100.

A reader wondered whether the Orioles had as many as five prospects ranked in the publication’s Top 100 before.

According to Baseball America, the Orioles also had five Top 100 prospects in 2008 — catcher Matt Wieters (12th), right-handers Chris Tillman (67) and Radhames Liz (69), left-hander Troy Patton (78) and outfielder Nolan Reimold (91).

If you missed the rankings on Monday, catcher Adley Rutschman was second overall. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (22nd), left-hander DL Hall (59th), outfielder Heston Kjerstad (62nd) and first baseman/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle (63rd) also made the list.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB





  1. Orial

    January 19, 2021 at 8:39 am

    I remember picking Ruiz as my breakout player last year at this time. Not gonna do it again. He’s ok–that’s all. Fielding was a little disappointing,seemed he hit lefties better than righties(go figure). By process of elimination he is the man. 5 prospects in the top 100 is VERY impressive. Good signs. Nats ZER0 is almost as satisfying(yeah I’m a bitter old goat).

    • Jammer Daniels 5

      January 22, 2021 at 6:29 am

      The Orioles is the only team that would have Ruiz as a starting anything but, wins and loses still doesn’t matter to our Orioles. That’s getting old and they can forget making money until Elias rebuild is ready.

  2. jimcarter

    January 19, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Looking at the 2008 list, one must realize the chance that even 3 will be long term stars is slim.

  3. NormOs

    January 19, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    The O’s have a definite problem in the infield, the exception, of course, is 1st base. At this time there is no SS or 2B candidate and Ruiz is not good enough either as a MLB 3B or as a hitter. BTW, I love it too, Nats ZERO.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    January 19, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    “There doesn’t seem to be a rush to replace Ruiz”

    Well they should be. I’m not going to sit here and call Ruiz a bum, but at almost 27 years of age, and 700+ ABs in the bigs while hitting .220, and displaying nothing more than moderate and sporadic power considering that adonis body of his while playing in the bandbox called Camden, I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of what he is. And what that is simply isn’t what it should be as the starting 3rd basemen of the Baltimore Orioles.

    So I ask … When exactly will the Orioles be in a rush to replace this guy … or win for that matter?
    Rylan Bannon at 3rd to start 2021.

  5. WorldlyView

    January 19, 2021 at 4:49 pm

    BRR: Why spend money now to upgrade third base or any other position when the recently signed cohort of Dominican teenagers could make O’s a contending team by 2024?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      January 19, 2021 at 7:04 pm

      Becauses there’s a good chance I’ll be pushing up daisies by then. 🙂

    • CalsPals

      January 19, 2021 at 7:11 pm

      Those kids would be 20, no way in hell Elias brings anyone up, even if they’re qualified because he would lose control of them too early…go O’s…

      • WorldlyView

        January 19, 2021 at 7:36 pm

        CP: Would you accept 2027 as the time for the return of O’s glory?

        • BirdsCaps

          January 19, 2021 at 8:13 pm

          No, if the rays and blue jays can be competitive every few yrs, the birds should also be able to be competitive every few yrs,.

    • CalsPals

      January 19, 2021 at 8:38 pm

      I wouldn’t mind seeing them successful in 2024, I was just commenting it wouldn’t be with the 16/17 yr olds they just signed…contrary to everything Mikey has done/said philosophically…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        January 19, 2021 at 9:55 pm

        Honestly, I think they can be competitive THIS year. And I’m talking about being over .500.

        But that’s only IF Mikey allows it.

    • BarstoolSleeper

      January 19, 2021 at 10:24 pm

      BRR I also think the birds can hover around .500. I think we have a solid young pitching staff that can continue to move forward. If they can pitch like they did last year and we get 1 or 2 more innings eaters, this team will win some games. I’m not looking for a playoff push or drinking the orange koolaid but somewhere in the 72-80 win range isn’t an unreasonable expectation for this team.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        January 19, 2021 at 11:22 pm

        Keep the faith baby!

  6. CalsPals

    January 20, 2021 at 8:13 am

    Sad to see everyone (almost) in the east spending $ on real FA, think we’ll be fine n to watch, maybe win 70-75 games, will probably just be a spoiler in the division…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      January 20, 2021 at 10:40 am

      Fun to watch…go O’s…

    • WorldlyView

      January 20, 2021 at 1:23 pm

      Gee guys, so much optimism about the new season. Hope you are right. But I still reside lonely and rebuffed in PessimismTown on a street called PitchingIsEverything.

  7. Bmore

    January 20, 2021 at 6:10 pm

    Hey Rich out of the five top 100 prospects who do you predict to make the biggest impact with the Orioles

  8. Raveonjo

    January 21, 2021 at 1:27 am

    Until there is a salary cap, the Dodgers and Yankees should play a best of onehundredsixtytwo World Series while the rest of us play competitive baseball on a level playing field.q

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