13 May 2013

Finding a Second Baseman

This season, the Orioles have so far gotten nothing out of their second basemen as a whole.  For a team tied for the American League East, it is an area where an upgrade can make a major difference.  Here is what the team has had so far:

Name PA wOBA wRC+ Fld BsR WAR
Brian Roberts 12 .400 152 0.4 0.2 0.2
Alexi Casilla 41 .252 51 1.2 0.9 0.1
Ryan Flaherty 92 .186 6 3.2 0.5 -0.3

Brian Roberts is still injury-prone and his three games may not be truly indicative of his actual level of ability.  In the Spring, his legs looked a step and a half too slow at second.  He has always had good hands and an arm strong enough to be a fringe shortstop, but his reaction time has lengthened.  It was a noticeable issue even before his string of injuries occurred, so I doubt it is something he will be able to correct.  His remarkable batting line in 12 plate appearances is also a bit of mirage as randomness smiled on him.  His batted balls just dropped in where no one was.  A few were hit very hard, but nothing looked beyond below average gap power.

Alexi Casilla has proven himself to be adequate with the glove and less than adequate with the bat.  His true role on a team should be as a veteran backup middle infielder who will sub in as a pinch runner at times.  He can play second or short, neither incredibly well…about average.  When it is all said and done, he is a replacement level player whose speed you can occasionally leverage.
Ryan Flaherty still cannot hit.  Oh, if it is a fastball and he knows it is a fastball…he can launch it a country mile, so teams are throwing him few of those.  His fielding though looks awful, but actually rates well.  He reacts quickly, which makes up for his lack of speed.  He also showcases a pretty good arm for a second baseman.  When you include last year with this year, you start to make a solid argument that he actually has an above average glove out there.  No one would have ever thought that would turn out to be the case a year ago.  Unfortunately, what people thought he would be (an offensive second baseman with no defensive ability) is doubly wrong.  The bat looks completely lost and he may never be able to figure it all out.

As group, the Orioles have a collection of players whose gloves negate the negative value in their bats and they wind up with a net zero fWAR at second base.  In other words, they are playing on level with AAA talent.  So who is available?

Currently, I project four second basemen as being available.  Chase Utley, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jamey Carroll, and Brendan Ryan.  Betancourt’s horrific defense concerns me too much while I do not believe Ryan’s gold glove improves the team much.  Utley would be a good addition, but might be costly and is a perennial injury concern.  Carroll is cheap with an option and has been in the recent past an on base machine.  However, he is long in the tooth and may have finally collapsed.

I do not believe the Orioles current situation is tenable while having playoff aspirations and would lean toward acquiring Utley or Carroll while sending Flaherty to AAA.

Contract Team Prorate fWAR Trade
Chase Utley
Phillies 6.8 High
Yuniesky Betancourt
Brewers 2.7 High
Jamey Carroll Option Twins 0.0 High
Brendan Ryan
Mariners -2.3 Medium
Robinson Cano
Yankees 3.6 Low
Mark Ellis Option Dodgers 4.1 Low
Mike Fontenot
Rays Minors Low
Omar Infante
Tigers -0.9 Low
Nick Punto
Dodgers 5.0 Low
Ryan Raburn
Indians 0.0 Low
Ramon Santiago
Tigers -0.5 Low
Alfredo Amezega
Dodgers Minors Low
Clint Barmes
Pirates -0.5 Low
Stephen Drew
Red Sox 3.2 Low
Cesar Izturis
Reds -0.9 Low
John McDonald
Pirates -1.8 Low
Jhonny Peralta
Tigers 5.0 Low

Trade likelihood is done in a rather simplified manner and can be easily argued against.  I considered a high likelihood when Baseball Prospectus projected the team as having less than a 10% chance of making the playoffs.  Medium was a 10-20% chance.  Low was >20%.

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