McKenna strives for role in Orioles' outfield in 2022; Media access could be limited again - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

McKenna strives for role in Orioles’ outfield in 2022; Media access could be limited again

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

When the 2021 season began, Ryan McKenna was at the Orioles’ alternate site at Bowie, getting ready for his first season at Triple-A Norfolk. McKenna was supposed to play Triple-A during 2020, but without minor league ball, he had no real games.

McKenna spent the 2020 season at the alternate site and got to take some road trips with the Orioles as part of their taxi squad and looked to be a spare part of the ’21 outfield.

When this past season began, the focus was on how manager Brandon Hyde would get playing time for Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and DJ Stewart.

Injuries to Hays and Santander and moving Mountcastle to first base and designated hitter meant that there was no longer an outfield surplus.

McKenna, who traveled with the Orioles on their first road trip to Boston and New York, was activated for the first of seven stints with the team on April 5th after Hays injured his hamstring at Fenway Park.

Instead of spending his first season at Triple-A, McKenna ended up playing 90 games with the Orioles and just 27 with the Tides.

McKenna was getting ready to return to the alternate site on April 20th after Hays had been activated, but Santander sprained his left ankle early in the Orioles’ game in Miami, and McKenna was recalled without having left.

A week later, he was sent down only to return on May 9th. His longest stints in the minors came in June when he missed 17 Oriole games and in mid-August when he didn’t play in 13.

The time at Norfolk was put to good use. McKenna, who had hit .377 in a half season at High-A Frederick in 2018 before struggling at Double-A Bowie in 2018 and 2019, hit a .307 with a 1.106 OPS.

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In those 27 games, McKenna hit 11 home runs, had 23 RBIs and stole seven bases in 10 attempts.

His numbers with the Orioles weren’t as good. McKenna, who had starts in each of the three outfield positions, hit .183 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. He did walk 24 times, and his on-base percentage was .292.

McKenna was often used as a defensive replacement and pinch-ran 17 times. He tried to steal only once and was successful.

McKenna was a useful fourth outfielder, but if Hays, Mullins, Santander and Stewart return, the Orioles would have to keep five for him to have a place.

Jorge Mateo, who is also a skilled pinch-runner, can play the outfield as well as the infield.

In 2022, the Orioles could finally promote Yusniel Diaz, a teammate of McKenna in the minors, if his health and performance permit. Kyle Stowers, who rose from High-A Aberdeen to Triple-A Norfolk in 2021, also could get a look.

Diaz or Stowers might not find a comfortable fit as a reserve or pinch-runner, but the Orioles have more invested in them than they do McKenna, who was their fourth-round pick in 2015, the same year Stewart and Mountcastle were their first two selections.

The Orioles’ outfield is their strength and, with more prospects on the way, McKenna will have to hit to secure a spot. He can back Mullins in center field, but so can Hays. He can run well, but so can Hays.

If the Orioles decide to move on from Santander or Stewart, McKenna could benefit, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Orioles pursued a veteran outfielder when the lockout ends.

A step back? After no in-person interviews during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, last year brought some sense of normalcy. Beginning in June, Hyde met with the press on the field before home games and in-person, one-on-one interviews were arranged by request to media members who were fully vaccinated.

This fall, the NFL, NBA and NHL teams didn’t open their locker rooms, but did have in-person pregame and postgame media sessions in interview rooms.

With the Omicron variant raging, games in the three leagues have been postponed and on Monday, the Ravens began conducting their press availability by Zoom.

The health and safety protocols for 2022 must be negotiated between the players and Major League Baseball, and media access in normal times is always part of the negotiation.

It was hoped that come spring training 2022, open clubhouses would return, at least for fully vaccinated media members, but that’s looking questionable if not doubtful.

There is no substitute for in-person sessions, but the combination of a testy negotiation for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and health concerns might make open clubhouses less of a priority.

Players, especially those who aren’t stars, benefit from more access. We get to know them better and more coverage can lead to post-playing careers in baseball and in the media.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Orial

    December 21, 2021 at 8:13 am

    McKenna and Stewart had a similar plate approach it seems. Came up taking pitches,a normal attribute,that lead to too many high pitch AB’s that unfortunately ended up being a strikeout. Admired their selectiveness but it comes with a fault also. Stewart gets the nod because of his power,McKenna gets the nod because of his defense but in the end—good bye to both. With the Omicron the “new norm” continues. Have patience Rich someday your job can go back to the old “old norm”.

    • gijopro

      December 21, 2021 at 8:22 am

      Sorry but he strikes out way to much and never really makes solid contact. Really looked over matched at times. Time to move away from all these 4a types of players

      • Orial

        December 21, 2021 at 10:02 am

        Actuallty that’s my whole point. McKenna tries to work the count so much that he digs himself into a hole–thus the strikeouts.

    • WhyDoIBother

      December 21, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      Dude Orial! You are so far off comparing Stewart and McKenna’s strike out rates!

      Stewart 89 Ks in 318 PA, 28%
      McKenna 74 Ks in 197 PA, 38%

      Again, it would be better if you just posted “I don’t like Stewart and think he should be cut” instead of the consistent Stewart mischaracterizations. A pox on your posts!

  2. Orioles20

    December 21, 2021 at 8:26 am

    McKenna can be a solid fourth outfielder. But he’s gotta give more with the bat. He did help us win a few games in September with his speed. Also plays good defense. Question is come opening day do they have him be that fourth outfielder. The outfield is logged jam and might only get worse. How many outfielder are they willing to keep

    • WhyDoIBother

      December 21, 2021 at 4:57 pm

      McKenna has an option remaining, good chance he starts the season at AAA

    • WhyDoIBother

      December 21, 2021 at 5:06 pm

      Would be nice to see Stewart, Santander, or McKenna establish himself as a steady 3rd outfielder for the O’s in 2022. If not, bring on Stowers or Neustrom. Might be able to get something in return for trading Santander if he doesn’t progress enough.

  3. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    December 21, 2021 at 8:50 am

    McKenna surely has speed and defensive skills. However, he strikes out nearly 44% of the time and only has a
    .266 slugging percentage. Unless he cuts down on his strike outs and makes better contact. I don’t see him getting alot playing time.

  4. Baltimore Castaway

    December 21, 2021 at 10:41 am

    – The Orioles outfield picture for 2022 is looking to start one way and look quite different towards the end of the season. As much as I personally like DJ Stewart, he is going to have to come out “guns a blazing” in Sarasota this February–he has had an ample opportunity to show MLB ability and so far it’s not working. Santander is pretty much in the same boat–holding on to a mediocre, inconsistent, injury-prone Rule 5 guy isn’t going to cut it moving forward. Having Diaz rise up would be something of a miracle. Why would Elias sign a FA OF’er? The OF of the future is coming, Stowers will usher in this beautiful occurrence later this season…

    – It is offensive to me how the local media gets treated by Orioles Management. This has been going on for quite some time. Transparency is not a thing w this Ownership and Management Crowd. Poor access is just a symptom of the underlying condition/cause. Been that way for a very long time, but especially since Angelos bought the team.

    Am still pissed that they just gave the heave-ho to Dempsey and then act like nothing happened…curious group of semi-despotic people.

    It is a good thing that their Beat Writers (including you Rich) are as gentlemanly and respectful as you are.

    – Not a clinician or scientist but it does seem to me that everyone is jacked-up about this new variant….I’m calling BS on it…

    That’s right–I said it.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 21, 2021 at 11:56 am

      BC … respectfully have to disagree when you lump Santander into DJ Stewarts class. I feel as though he’s (Santander) proven, that when healthy, he’s quite more than mediocre and inconsistent. IMO, he’s got star potential. Injury prone? OK maybe .. he’s certainly missed his share of time. But he’s also played through injury. Other than maybe Mancini and Mountcastle, he’s by far and away our best bat. And if he does stay healthy, I believe there’s a definate possibility that he’ll be better than either of those guys. Dumping him for the likes of Stowers is foolishness.

      One more thing…I’m not ready to give up on the injury prone Y. Diaz either. At least I’d like to see him play in the bigs before doing so. Remember Yaz.

      • Baltimore Castaway

        December 21, 2021 at 1:03 pm

        BRR

        I hope that I’m wrong w Santander and that he can play consistently well in 2022. Come to think of it, Austin Hays was pretty much an injury-riddled guy who finally came through. We don’t want any more Yaz examples excelling elsewhere…

        Wishing you a great Christmas season.

      • WhyDoIBother

        December 21, 2021 at 5:13 pm

        BRR – Santander and Stewart both have career 97 OPS+ but Santander does have 5x the WAR Stewart does in only 2x PA, so there’s those two wonderful stats I know you love to consider…

        BC – I agree with calling BS on the omicron variant; case increase trajectory is less than delta, hospitalization and death rates both way down. Hardly “raging” IMO…

        I love everyone today, yeah!

        • Baltimore Castaway

          December 21, 2021 at 5:24 pm

          You are the King of Truth!! –at least for today…

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          December 21, 2021 at 7:44 pm

          Dunno about those stats, I just watch a lot of games and notice that Santander mashes la pelota pretty consistently when healthy whereas Steward does not.

  5. cedar

    December 21, 2021 at 11:21 am

    McKenna has shown that he can hit iT the minor league level, abs shown that he can defend at the major league level. For all the chances Stewart has gotten, I’m okay with giving McKenna more time to develop his bat.

  6. Buzz1979

    December 21, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    Santander just needs to stay healthy, “Period”, as Raffy would say!

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 21, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      Now bend over and take this B12 needle like a man!

      • Buzz1979

        December 21, 2021 at 8:49 pm

        Tejada passes it to him!

  7. OriolesNumber1Fan

    December 21, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    Once and for all regarding the myth with Buck Showalter and analytics:
    www “dot” nypost “dot” com “forward slash” 2021 “forward slash” 12 “forward slash” 21 “forward slash” buck-showalter-addresses-analytics-concerns-during-mets-intro (all with no spaces)
    PS: I told you so but certain posers just don’t want to listen!!!
    BC – Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!!! Good to hear from you!!!

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