As the Orioles prepare to welcome back Jorge Mateo from his concussion, there’s a different feeling about the player who returns: He’s now an integral part of what they do. He’s always been a regular, but he’s not always hit. What he had done since the start of 2022 was spend one-fifth of the time hitting incredibly well and four-fifths doing the exact opposite of that, and before his concussion, he was essentially at the midpoint of those two poles.

Here’s what I’m wondering: Was I wrong to doubt a player who was the worst in baseball at the plate for the final five months of last season and only hit well for six weeks the season before, no matter how impactful his speed and defense were? Or conversely, how could anyone who believed Mateo would consistently start hitting in his age-29 season, given that track record and based on the evidence we’d been given, feel like they were right?

Quite an elaborate way to avoid just putting my hand up and saying I got it wrong, isn’t it? As a longtime Mateo skeptic, my begrudging recognition of his hot streaks has served to call a stop to each of them. A simple acknowledgment coincided with them being over, so there’s extra reticence on this one. There’s no rooting against anyone here, and as a rule, I’ll enjoy watching anyone play well on a baseball field.

Here’s one way to explain my view: If Mateo returns from the IL and continues to be the player he’s been offensively, doing so will make it the longest sustained period of success he’s had in an Orioles uniform.

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Through 42 games (128 plate appearances) this year, Mateo is batting .246 with a .741 OPS and a 109 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus, where the league average is 100). That’s about in line with what he did in 2021 after coming over from the Padres as a waiver claim, in about the same amount of playing time.

What followed that was as boom-or-bust as it gets. Mateo was the team’s everyday shortstop for his speed and defense to begin 2023, but was hitting .192 with a .565 OPS when he made an adjustment in early July and went on a tear: a .323 average and .964 OPS in 131 plate appearances from July 10-Aug. 26. For the rest of the season, he hit .174 with a .483 OPS.

Mateo began 2023 with another hot streak, at times single-handedly carrying the offense. He had a 1.062 OPS and six home runs in 83 April plate appearances. Then, from May 1 on, he was the worst-qualified hitter in baseball with a .179 average and .472 OPS.

There hadn’t really been a midpoint, and given a choice between the two — especially given the time frame samples — I chose to expect the below-average offensive production instead of the well-above-average version.

But this year, something changed.

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He has been, basically, at the midpoint, which has come out to a bit above average. The Orioles have needed it, too, considering Jackson Holliday didn’t stick in his second base cameo in April, and Ramón Urías basically only started hitting this month.

It seems Mateo has done more damage on fastballs this year than in years past and is whiffing on fewer same-side breaking balls, which is a recipe for success for any player. Mateo remains extremely fast and is playing a good second base after Gunnar Henderson took over at shortstop. He may ultimately regress and end the season in the super-utility role that he was meant to start 2024 in. But for now, he’s a player the Orioles will be thrilled to get back, even if that means optioning prospect Connor Norby, which I said last week wouldn’t nearly be as detrimental as such demotions are often made out to be.

The club made a $2.7 million bet that Mateo would prove this useful in an offseason when they knew that Holliday, Norby, and Coby Mayo could all potentially debut and make an impact at some point in 2024. It’s a credit to him that we’re nearing the midpoint in the season and he’s been as consistent as he has, ensuring his impact is the one the club has relied on more than any of those up-and-comers.

Ballpark chatter

“I think Johnson might be No. 1.″

Anonymous scout

– Anonymous scout

I was leaving Bowie on Tuesday after watching Seth Johnson strike out eight with 17 swinging strikes in four shutout innings, and told an evaluator I’m friendly with that I was trying to line up a ranking of the Orioles’ pitching prospects as the game progressed. Johnson’s performance that night was worthy of such praise.

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He was up to 97 mph with his fastball and missed a ton of bats with it when it was in the zone. He got whiffs with his slider, which is much better than it was when I saw him last year, and his curveball, which is a solid third pitch. His lack of experience on the mound means the Orioles will be tempted to be deliberate in his development. This kind of stuff and results might challenge that approach.


Jackson Baumeister, the 63rd pick in last year’s draft, is the highest-drafted pitcher the Orioles have taken in the Mike Elias era. Their pitching program in these last five years has evolved significantly, and Cade Povich’s debut signals the next phase of that: bringing these promising young pitchers to the majors.

Baumeister’s success shows that high picks can be a part of this new process, too. He struck out six in five innings Saturday at Brooklyn, allowing one earned run. The 21-year-old righty has a 1.88 ERA and 1.326 WHIP with 53 strikeouts in 43 innings (11.1 per nine), and has gradually lowered his walk rate while still being effective in the zone in the last month-plus. He was the subject of a recent Arms on the Farm, which is loaded with more information on his stuff and development.



That’s how many home runs Anthony Santander has in his last 17 games (since May 23), during which he has a .972 OPS. Brandon Hyde gave him off on May 19 and May 21, and as is typically the case after Santander gets a day or two on the bench, he’s heated up. His heaters are what makes him the kind of hitter he is. In the midst of last August’s, I broke them all down.

He’s had more prolific shorter spurts, but this one is among his longest. He had seven home runs on May 22 and has seven since. His OPS has climbed from .695 to .772 in that span. More consistency would be nice — can’t ask for it from Mateo without asking for it from Santander — but these stretches are where his value comes from.

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What I’m reading

This is a fascinating breakdown from Baseball America on the hitting environments at various minor league parks. There’s been a perception of late that Aberdeen is an exceedingly difficult place to hit, but that’s not as drastic as one would have thought. There are plenty of other worthy nuggets within. (Baseball America)

Andy Kostka had a neat story about the whirlwind week (but really whirlwind Sunday) of Norby and his brother, Ethan. Hard to think of a more exciting couple of hours for Norby’s family. (The Baltimore Banner)