One of the key forces driving the Orioles' surprising run toward a playoff spot has been the emergence of 25-year-old switch-hitting outfielder Anthony Santander.
Through 30 games in 2020, Santander sports a .279/.328/.631 slash line with 10 home runs, 28 RBI and 11 doubles. He trails the American League lead in home runs by just two and had an 18-game hitting streak end on Tuesday.
Santander can be considered a late-bloomer for the Orioles. Before showing flashes in 2019, he was relatively unproductive through his first two seasons in the majors. MLB Network Analyst Bill Ripken is a big fan of the O's right fielder and explained why it's okay for a player not to break out as a star right away.
"When you talk about the young talent, [Ronald] Acuna, [Fernando] Tatis Jr., [Juan] Soto, 21 years old these guys get it real early," Ripken said. "Not everybody's like that, in fact they're the outlier. Someone like Santander who's a Rule 5 [draft] guy, he wasn't out of A-ball when he was a Rule 5 [pick] by Baltimore several years ago.
"So when you see a guy like that, you see his tools, you see his projection moving forward but not everybody gets it right away and just because he's gotten it a little later in his career, it's just a testament to him, his work and how he goes about his business," he said. "So it's fun to watch a guy like that, not be that young can't-miss guy and all the sudden you're looking in the lineup and saying, 'Okay, we need that guy.'"
There's a reason why players like Acuna, Soto and Tatis Jr. are who they are. They're phenoms, superstars, future Hall of Famers if everything goes according to plan. But teams don't have nine Juan Soto's in the lineup. Some players need time to develop their tools and if teams are too quick to give up on them, they could miss out on an extremely productive player.
As Santander continues to produce for the Orioles, he serves as a lesson for fans, and executives alike that sometimes, all a player needs to help his team win is time and opportunity.