The Orioles announced another series of roster moves Thursday, selecting the contract of first baseman Jesus Aguilar (whom they signed to a minor league deal yesterday), recalling top pitching prospect DL Hall from Triple-A Norfolk and designating infielder Richie Martin for assignment.
An All-Star when he hit 35 home runs for the 2018 Brewers, the now-32-year-old Aguilar was with the Marlins from 2020 up until a couple weeks ago, when Miami designated him for assignment and released him. Aguilar was a solid middle-of-the-order bat for the Fish in 2020-21 but has stumbled to a .236/.286/.388 batting line through 456 plate appearances this season — including a dismal .188/.246/.347 output since the All-Star break.
Ugly as those numbers are, Aguilar hit a combined .262/.338/.476 in just shy of 2000 plate appearances from 2017-21, so there’s a track record of solid productivity in his bat. The O’s will hope that he can return to form and provide a boost to a lineup that has struggled to score runs of late. If Aguilar can indeed recapture that form, he’ll help to replace the production of Trey Mancini, whom the Orioles shipped to Houston at the trade deadline despite being within striking distance of a Wild Card berth. Mancini hit .268/.347/.404 in 401 plate appearances this year prior to being traded.
Hall, the No. 21 overall pick back in 2017, made his big league debut earlier in 2022 but was tagged for five runs in 3 2/3 innings that day. He’s had an uneven season in the minors this year, pitching to a combined 4.48 ERA with a huge 36.6% strikeout rate but an ugly 13.4% walk rate in 84 1/3 innings between one start in High-A, one in Double-A and another 22 appearances (18 starts) in Triple-A.
Those shaky numbers notwithstanding, Hall still ranks among the game’s top 100 prospects due to a fastball that reaches triple digits and a collection of offspeed pitches that all have the potential to be plus offerings. This year’s 13.4% walk rate is an exact match with his career mark in the minors, however, which underscores the ongoing location issues he’s battled throughout his time as a professional.
Martin, 27, was the top pick in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft. A former first-rounder of the Athletics, Baltimore pounced on the opportunity to add him to the organization and hoped he could eventually carve out a role on the big league club. That hasn’t happened yet, however, as Martin floundered through a rookie season in which he couldn’t be optioned due to his Rule 5 status, hitting .208/.260/.322 in 2019. He’s only had 138 Major League plate appearances during that time, due in no small part to a fluke pair of broken wrists — both his left and his right — which obviously led to considerable time on the injured list.
Overall, Martin is a .212/.261/.311 hitter in 447 Major League plate appearances, and his .234/.333/.349 slash in 390 trips to the plate at the Triple-A level aren’t all that much better. It’s fair to wonder whether his development would’ve turned out differently were it not for that pair of fractures, but as a 27-year-old former prospect on a team that’s looking to turn the corner and emerge from a years-long rebuilding effort, Martin’s place on the 40-man roster has increasingly looked to be on shaky ground. He’ll be placed on outright waivers or released within a week’s time, as he’s ineligible to be traded at this point in the season.