By Luke Siler
Maybe you think Pablo Reyes is a bit too raw and you’d rather have a utility player who is ready to hit in the majors. Maybe you don’t need your utility guy to play SS on a roster with Machado, Schoop, and Beckham. Well, Nate Orf might just be your guy.
So before I breakdown what I saw from Orf in the video I watched, let’s talk stats. When I was looking through the unprotected rule 5 eligible players, Orf’s name looked familar, so I searched it and realized I’d seen it in a Fangraphs article (here’s the link). It was about finding players with the characteristics of Matt Carpenter (a guy who was never a touted prospect who became a very good MLB hitter). There were only 3 guys in AAA (2 with >300 PA) who displayed the fairly unique set of skills of groundball avoidance and very little swing and miss that Carpenter displays. Those 2 players (with >300 PA) were Rhys Hoskins (who crushed the ball after his promotion to the show) and our Nate Orf.
So I thought I’d take it a bit further, what players in the majors (with >300 PA in 2017) who had <35% GB (Orf had 34.1%) and <7% swinging strikes (Orf had 6.5%) and these are the only players that met the criteria.
So not a bad group to be a part of, outside of Granderson (who managed to strike out 23% of the time while having a low swinging strike % somehow) they all had good seasons. There are also a number of guys on that list who were late bloomers who started having success (or more success) after changing their swings to increase launch angle. This is important because it appears that Orf did the same thing between last season and this season. He saw his GB% drop by almost 10% while still limiting the swing and miss in his game. The results were his best season, more doubles than before, more triples, more home runs than the rest of his 4-year minor league career combined. Note: he plays in the PCL but he hits better at home and his home stadium actually suppresses HRs and is a fairly neutral run environment overall.
Nate Orf – Utility
Orf is small (5’9″) but well built. Athletic, but not particularly quick twitch. He’s a finished product physically at 27 going on 28 years old.
Undrafted out of college, Orf started in the minors at 23 so he’s alway been old for the level, but never the less, his solid defense and hit tool got him on the Brewers top 20 list before the 2016 season.
At the plate
Nothing spectacular here, Orf uses a clean uppercut swing with average bat speed that plays up due to his advanced approach at the plate. He’s a gamer who approaches each AB with a plan. He hits the ball hard and while he doesn’t have even average power, the ball will carry out from time to time. The way home runs have been up around MLB, but not in MiLB, he’s a guy who could really see a huge benefit if there is something different with the MLB balls as many have speculated.
On the bases
Not a burner, but he hustles and has at least average speed.
In the field
He has the arm for the left side of the infield but lacks the range for SS. He does have a good first step though and does a good job of driving for balls and coming up making strong accurate throws. I’d say he’s above average at 2B (his primary position). He played 3B, LF, and RF as well in 2017 and has literally played every position on the diamond in his minor league career.
Why he was unprotected
He’s a 27-year-old with grade 40 power (maybe ticked up to 45). He doesn’t have flashy tools. He’s undersized.
Why the Orioles should select him
He’s a finished product, he plays solid defense, is versatile, a grind it out type player, and can handle the bat. He fits the profile of the type of guy who might have some late blooming upside, and even if he doesn’t break out, he’s not going to hurt you.