Beginning Monday, the Orioles will start making changes to their 40-man roster. Kelvin Gutiérrez hopes he’s convinced the decision-makers that he deserves to be on it for 2022.
Gutiérrez was considered simply another third baseman who could play in place of the injured Maikel Franco when he was acquired in early July from Kansas City. But after Franco’s season-long struggles continued — a .210 average with a .609 OPS and poor play at third — he was cut in late August.
At the time, Gutiérrez was one of several infield candidates, but with season-ending injuries to Ramón Urias, and Jorge Mateo, Gutiérrez has had no competition for playing time at third. Lately, he has been making the most of his opportunity.
Before Saturday, when he was hitless in three at-bats in the Orioles’ 10-1 loss to Toronto, Gutiérrez had hit safely in his previous nine games. Gutiérrez is hitting .225 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 45 games with the Orioles. He has stepped up his defense, too.
“Gutiérrez got an opportunity to play when we let Franco go,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s done a good job defensively and, as of late, has swung the bat much better. He’s become interesting, a guy that’s got a lot of tools. Showed you the power [last Saturday] night. He hit one the other way. Now he pulled one [Friday] night and played extremely solid defensively.”
The Orioles wanted to look at Rylan Bannon, but entering Saturday night’s game Bannon was hitting just .180 at Triple-A Norfolk. While Bannon remains on the 40-man roster, Gutiérrez could enter spring training as the favorite to start the season at third.
Besides Bannon, the Orioles have two recent high draft choices, one of whom could wind up at third — Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg. Both began the season at Low-A Delmarva and were promoted to both High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie.
It’s possible that one or both could play third for the Orioles by the end of the 2022 season, but Gutiérrez — like Urías and Mateo before they got hurt — have given the Orioles more to think about. If nothing else, it buys them time to develop their prospects.
Another intriguing figure is reliever Joey Krehbiel, who was claimed on waivers from Tampa Bay on September 21st and in 5 1/3 innings, has allowed one run on two hits.
With Jorge López, Tanner Scott and Tyler Wells on the injured list, there are opportunities for pitchers like Krehbiel to prove themselves. Hyde wants to see more of Krehbiel and Brooks Kriske, who was claimed on waivers from the New York Yankees on September 16th. Kriske is 1-0 with a 12.27 ERA in four games.
“Krehbiel’s just got here,” Hyde said. “Kriske, we haven’t seen a ton of. I think at the end of the year, we’ll sit down. We have 40-man roster decisions to make. [General manager Mike Elias] and the front office group with go through that and evaluate every single guy. I think we’re just going to continue to evaluate and see what the 40-man looks like at the end of the year and going into the offseason.”
Campaigning for Mountcastle: There are a number of strong candidates for the American League Rookie of the Year. Ballots by voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America are due before postseason play begins on Tuesday.
The Orioles haven’t had a Rookie of the Year since reliever Gregg Olson in 1989. Hyde thinks Mountcastle deserves it.
“Could we start talking about him a little bit more as Rookie of the Year, please?” Hyde said. “It’s 33 homers and 90 RBIs on a team that hasn’t scored a ton of runs this year. It’s incredibly impressive.”
Hyde was asked why he thinks Mountcastle hasn’t been getting attention.
“I think he’s been lost because of our record,” Hyde said. “Maybe we’re not on national TV as much. I don’t know what the answer is. I do think he should be heavily considered for that award for what he’s done, and he has my vote.”
Call for questions: Next week, we’ll have our first monthly offseason mailbag. Place your questions in the comments box below or email them to: [email protected].
Thank you, readers: As a disappointing season for the Orioles ends, on behalf of our publisher, Steve Cockey, and our editor, Jack Gibbons, I’d like to thank our readers. While attendance at the ballpark has been down, the number of people reading our site is at an all-time high.
Clearly, there’s interest in and passion for the Orioles. This season, we found that you especially enjoyed our minor league coverage and stories about the draft. In 2022, we’ll continue to spotlight the up-and-comers. The reader mailbags have been especially well received, and those will continue each month throughout the offseason.
We’ll be providing the latest news on the Orioles throughout the offseason, and we hope you’ll be reading. Thank you for your loyalty to BaltimoreBaseball.com. We can’t guarantee a substantially better team, but we can promise substantial coverage, and as they say in baseball:
Have a good winter!