Paulo Orlando was a feel-good story in 2015, a kid who picked up baseball in Brazil almost by accident, and was a late-bloomer who debuted in the big leagues at age 29. He got off to a hot start in his rookie season, with an exciting walk-off grand slam in July, but a summer swoon and a lack of walks left him with one of the worst on-base percentages in the league that year. It seemed as though he might be a lucky flash-in-the-pan that we probably would not hear much from again.
But we did. Orlando returned in 2016 and had a ridiculously hot stretch where he hit .374/.403/.504 from May 14 to June 26. He ended the year hitting over .300, and was around a 2 Wins Above Replacement player (WAR) due to his speed and defense.
Paulo seemed like he might have some promising power potential in 2015, when he had a .195 ISO, but that fell to just .103 in 2016, while he posted fewer home runs in almost twice the plate appearances as he did last year. He did show a lot more speed, swiping 14 bases in 17 attempts, although he did have some miscues and had just 0.8 Baserunning Runs.
One thing Paulo Orlando does NOT do is draw walks. Since 2015, Paulo Orlando has the lowest walk rate in baseball for all hitters with at least 700 plate appearances. He also has had the 19th-highest batting average on balls in play, suggesting perhaps he has been a bit lucky.
Can a player continue to succeed with a poor walk rate and modest power but a high batting average? I took a look at players since 1994 who had a season with at least 300 plate appearances, while hitting .300 with ten or fewer home runs, and a walk rate of less than 4% in a season.
|Player||Tm||Year||BA||OBP||SLG||PA||HR||BB||SO||BB rate||K rate|
There a few flash-in-the-pans like Aaron Ledesma, Alex Sanchez, and Mike Caruso, but many of these players had decent careers, sticking around as useful players. One major red flag, however, is Paulo Orlando's high strikeout rate compared to the other players on this list. While it is true that Orlando is playing in a high-strikeout era, it would seem that to succeed without drawing many walks would require a hitter to put the ball in play quite a bit, which Orlando struggled at last year.
Orlando still seems like a bit of a raw player, but at age 31, he may find his speed beginning to decline. Orlando has put up 3.3 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference, in just 214 career big league games, so it is becoming clear he is a useful outfielder, although it may be as more of a reserve role than as an everyday starter. Producing cheap, above-replacement level players from the farm system is essential for a smaller market club like the Royals, so Royals fans should welcome Orlando's contributions, even if he has trouble drawing a free pass.