All it took was a triple. And another. And another. Then, a couple of games later, one more for good measure.
Paulo Orlando’s first four games in the major leagues were highlighted by four triples. He was running wild on the bases, resurrecting memories of those Running Royals of the 1970’s. It was as if Orlando single-handedly brought back Astroturf and polyester uniforms to The K.
The triples dried up (he hit just two more in 82 games), and Orlando slumped to the finish line in his first full season in the majors. After that torrid start, his OBP dropped below .300 on May 2 and – save for one day later in the month – remained there for the rest of the season. He finished his rookie campaign with a .254 TAv, but was worth 0.5 WARP thanks to his superior defense.
Injuries and the absence of a better right field option meant Orlando saw an increase in his playing time in 2016. He didn’t hit his first triple until mid-May, but was able to maintain a longer stretch of productive offensive baseball. From May 1 to July 31, in a stretch of 242 plate appearances, Orlando hit .323/.350/.428. Like so many of his teammates, he eschews the walk in favor of contact. So for his numbers to be inflated like that meant his BABIP had to be off the charts. It was. In that three month stretch in 2016, Orlando had a .398 BABIP. That’s some serious helium.
The numbers dipped a bit over the last couple of months, but the overall line of .302/.329/.405 with a .257 TAv was impressive. The defense wasn’t as strong as the previous season, but he was still worth 0.7 WARP.
After a semi-successful first couple of seasons, the wheels came off in spectacular fashion in 2017. Like just about everyone with a bat, Orlando struggled from the first pitch of the season. He wasn’t expected to be a starter, but was in the lineup from Opening Day due to an injury to Jorge Soler. As the everyday right fielder, he hit just .149/.184/.149 over his first 50 plate appearances before he was exiled to Triple-A. He appeared in a handful of games for the Storm Chasers before a fractured shin saw him hit the 60 day DL.
He returned to Kansas City in September and hit .256/.275/.487 in limited action. It was a forgettable year for Orlando, with a meagre .185 TAv and -0.6 WARP.
Going forward, the Royals seem content to open the season with Orlando as their regular center fielder. After his demotion to Omaha last year, he does have one option remaining, so the Royals have flexibility. If they find a better option, they don’t have to keep Orlando on their 25 man roster.
As noted above, Orlando simply abhors the free pass. In 825 major league plate appearances, he’s accepted a walk only 2.3 percent of the time. Among the 285 hitters with at least 800 plate appearances over the last three sesaons, Orlando’s walk rate is dead last. Dead. Last.
For your consideration, the bottom five in walk rate from 2015 to 2017 with a minimum of 800 plate appearances.
That’s a table that takes your breath away.
Back to Orlando, he comes by that walk rate honestly, swinging at just about anything thrown his direction. For his career, he owns a swing rate on balls out of the strike zone of 39 percent. That’s almost 10 percent above league average. His overall swing rate is 58 percent, which is the 10th highest among our cohorts referenced above.
This hacktastic approach makes his offensive production heavily dependent upon his batting average on balls in play. Frankly, he’s been all over the place in his time in the big leagues.
Two years below .300, but a career average above because the his lone season above that mark was the season with his most plate appearances. It’s anyone’s guess where Orlando’s BABIP will settle with more playing time. The guess here is that with his consistent expansion of the strike zone he won’t make good enough contact on a regular basis to keep his BABIP above the .300 mark.
The strength of Orlando is with the glove. Over his career, he’s been worth seven defensive runs saved in center and nine defensive runs saved in right. In 2016, he was worth eight outs above average according to Statcast. Extrapolate the innings and you’re talking about a right fielder a notch below Jason Heyward and Yasiel Puig in the defensive spectrum. The glove most definitely plays.
However, Orlando is miscast as a regular outfielder. With his speed and superior defense, he certainly has a role, but it should be limited. It’s easy to see him as a late inning defensive replacement for someone like Jorge Soler or Jorge Bonifacio, or as a pinch runner should the situation call for one. These are two areas where Ned Yost is comfortable utilizing his bench, so there would be plenty of opportunity to get Orlando playing time. His career splits against left-handed pitching also suggest he would do well in a platoon role, should the opportunity arise.
With Orlando penciled in as the everyday center fielder, it’s a grim reminder at how much the Royals have lost with the departure of Lorenzo Cain.