Just when you thought it was safe to visit Royals Authority, I come back. I have been busy, lazy, working, traveling…hell, I even spent a week playing baseball in Arizona. Basically, I haven’t written in a while and certainly did not need to as Craig has been more than capably running the ship.
Of course, once one returns, one certainly wants to make a splash. Hence, let’s profile Paulo Orlando.
There was a time when I spent as much time following prospects and ‘maybe they might become prospects’ as I did the major league Royals. Even before the great run of last fall, I had become far less interested in who was coming up and far more interested in how was already up. The Royals had become relevant, or at least somewhat relevant, and featured players in the majors who had actual potential as opposed to say, Terrance Long. While I fear disappointment this season, the situation is far better now than back when I was trying to squint hard enough to Paulo Orlando the next Willie Wilson.
Orlando is now twenty-nine years old and has yet to log an inning in the majors, or even sit the bench for a week or two in September. He has spent six and one-half of his nine professional seasons in the Royals organization and is coming off his second full year in AAA. As far as Brazilian baseball players go, Paulo is one of the best. Sadly, Brazil is no Dominican Republic.
The long and lean outfielder enjoyed his best seasons in back to back years at Northwest Arkansas. He batted .305 at AA in both 2010 and 2011, got on base at a clip north of .360 and showed power and speed. In between his fine AA performances those two years, however, was a flameout in 58 games at the AAA level in 2011. Which buried him back in AA for all of 2012. That season, Orlando’s power disappeared and took the rest of his offensive game with it.
For lack of anything else to do with him, the Royals moved Orlando to Omaha again in 2013 where he was marginally okay and improved, in 2014, to at least decently league average in a hitter’s league. If you squint right, maybe you can see him as a fourth outfielder or platoon partner in the majors, but I quit squinting when Sal Perez and Eric Hosmer came up.
What I see now is a 29 year old outfielder who can play good defense at all three positions (Orlando has played more than half his games in center, most of the rest in right, but enough in left that it is not uncharted territory). He can run and steal a base, although he is not in the class of Gore or Dyson…or Escobar and Cain for that matter. If you think getting hit by a pitch is a skill, than Orlando has that in his tool chest and he can bunt a little, too.
Let’s face it, kids, if Paulo Orlando was born ten years earlier, he would have played in the majors for Kansas City: taking a spot alongside Ruben Mateo and Abraham Nunez (not that one, the other one). Those are times thankfully long gone. The Royals’ fourth outfielder is Jarrod Dyson, who is a pretty decent ballplayer if used correctly (and okay even when not). Guys like Paulo Orlando actually have to earn it these days.
To be fair, Orlando was a raw, raw player when he became a professional. He has gone from striking out 28% of the time and walking just 3% of the time to a guy who struck out an acceptable 15.5% last season and walked at a 7% clip. He boasts a good BABIP throughout his career – no long enough to make you think it can’t all be luck, even in the minors.
Still, this is a right-handed hitting outfielder with good (really good) defense, good (not great) speed, some ability to do a smattering of the ‘little things’. However, he is twenty-nine with vanishing power and is three years removed from his last ‘look at me’ minor league campaign.
Stranger things have happened in baseball than for Paulo Orlando to enjoy major league success. Frankly, Mike Aviles was similarly stuck in the system and not really popping anyone’s eyes and had one great plus one decent season for the Royals. While I will take a shot or two or nine at the Royals’ organization, the fact that Orlando was given a 40 man roster spot at least indicates they see something of worth.
It is not outside the realm of impossibility. An injury (or just plain disinterest – call it pulling a Juan Gone) to Rios could give Orlando a chance as a platoon partner for Jarrod Dyson. Who knows? He might hit. There’s part of me that would like to see that.
Way back when I thought I knew prospects, back when Chip Ambres was infesting the outfield of my favorite major league team, I envisioned Paulo Orlando as a guy who could make the major league team better. Chances are that ship has sailed.
When Paulo reports for camp, his locker will likely be on the opposite side of the room from that of Alex Gordon. The side where they put the guys who are not expected to make the big league club, where the guys with the offensive linemen numbers hang out. After nine professional seasons and zero big league at-bats, that is where Paulo Orlando finds himself.