Baltimore Orioles: Exploring options at second base
At the winter meetings on Tuesday, Baltimore Orioles GM Mike Elias referred to Jonathan Villar as the team’s primary shortstop, potentially creating an opening at second base
We all watched the Baltimore Orioles suffer through the 2018 season, but one of the lone bright spots came after the trade deadline, when the Orioles got Jonathan Villar from Milwaukee in return for Jonathan Schoop.
In 54 games with the Orioles last year, Villar hit .258/.336/.392 with an 86 DRC+, which is slightly below average, but he stood out as a defensive second baseman.
Villar was primarily a shortstop in his days in Houston and Milwaukee, but he’s posted below average defensive numbers at the position throughout his career; in 2,417 innings as a shortstop, Villar has a -4 DRS, compared to 7 DRS in 1,702.2 innings at second.
Villar is a better second baseman than he is a shortstop, but nonetheless, Mike Elias is considering him the primary shortstop going forward, leaving a hole at second. To be fair, filling the need at second will be easier, and potentially cheaper, than filling one at short. Plus, it can potentially be done with in-house options including Steve Wilkerson and Breyvic Valera.
Wilkerson has posted average-to-above defensive numbers at second and third in the minor leagues, and the bat has been close to average throughout his career. Wilkerson was ineffective at the plate in Baltimore in 2018, posting a .463 OPS in 16 games and we’re not sure if his bat will eventually translate, but best case for Wilkerson is likely him serving in a utility role in Baltimore next year.
Valera is much of the same; he’s a serviceable defender with a bat that hasn’t translated to the major leagues yet. He posted a respectable 94 DRC+ in 41 plate appearances with the Orioles last year, but there’s no power and limited speed. He’s a nice bench piece, but using him in an every day role isn’t the best option.
Both Wilkerson and Valera switch hit and can play multiple positions, so you can see the upside with them. But using them full-time likely wouldn’t have an ideal impact on the Orioles younger pitchers.
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There are a couple interesting second basemen in the free agent market, but they’re all likely out of the Orioles price range. We can count out Murphy, LeMahieu, Dozier, Lowrie and Kinsler, both for monetary reasons, and competitive ones.
That leaves a handful of names that might make you sick, including Daniel Descalso, Andrew Romine, and Eric Sogard. Seriously, take a look.
I’m not going to try to sell you on the benefits of Logan Forsythe. There’s real upside to buying someone like Adeiny Hechavarria or Jose Iglesias and running them out there every day, even if they’re sink-holes at the plate.
But I’m struggling to see the benefit of the Orioles adding one of those free agent second baseman, considering the Orioles have a plus defensive second baseman in Villar already in-house.
There’s been much discussion in Birdland over the past two months about the need for the Orioles to improve on the defensive side, in order to help their younger pitchers, especially with their confidence.
Do Elias and the Orioles have a particular Rule 5 pick in mind? Could they draft Kean Wong with the intent to immediately slot him into the lineup? We’re not doubting Elias here, we’re just curious about how this benefits the Orioles.