Santander named Most Valuable Oriole

September 25th, 2020

One of the American League’s breakout stars before suffering a season-ending oblique injury, has earned hardware for his productive 2020 campaign. The slugging right fielder was named Friday this year’s Most Valuable Oriole, as voted on by members of the local media.

“I love watching him play,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s well deserved for the award because he was having a Silver Slugger, All-Star type of season. I am looking forward to him getting healthy and being with us next spring.”

Named in honor of late Baltimore Sun sportswriter Lou Hatter, the Most Valuable Oriole honor is awarded annually. Trey Mancini was the landslide winner in 2019. This year, Santander replaced Mancini (colon cancer) as Baltimore’s everyday right fielder and stood out in a crowded voting field. He was one of 10 players to receive votes for MVO.

Complicating the vote was the fact that none of the three leading candidates -- Santander, and -- will finish the season with more than 40 games played. Santander appeared in 37 games before being shut down Sept. 4; Iglesias played in 37 of the O’s first 57 games and Mountcastle wasn’t promoted until Aug. 21.

But there was no arguing Santander’s production when active. Coming off a year in which he broke out with 20 homers, the switch-hitting former Rule 5 pick hit 11 more and drove in 32 runs, placing third among AL hitters in RBIs at the time of his injury. He could finish as the Orioles’ leader in RBIs, extra-base hits, slugging and isolated slugging despite missing the season’s final 23 games.

“It’s definitely been a long road,” Santander said. “It’s been a long journey. I’m very thankful for this opportunity. I’m very happy for this award. It’s amazing to be here and to really know the results that I’ve been getting after so much work, after so many sacrifices, it’s been all worth it. It’s all thanks to the opportunity and hard work.”

Most of his production this season came during an 18-game hitting streak from Aug. 5-23, the longest by an Orioles player since Nick Markakis in 2014. Santander also showed improved defense in right field, per Statcast and Orioles evaluators, and led the team with four assists.

All told, Santander hit .261/.315/.575 with 25 extra-base hits, 138 OPS+ and 1.5 WAR.

The Orioles were 16-21 with Santander in the lineup, and 8-12 without, but averaged 6.75 runs per game in the wins he was a part of. The O’s were averaging 4.75 runs per game total on the year entering Friday.

“It was a big void, him not being in the lineup, because of what he was for us offensively,” Hyde said. “He means a lot to us.”