11 May 2013

Other Second-Base Options at Norfolk

Since last week's report on Jonathan Schoop, several things have happened. First, the Tides have played a week's worth of games against teams good (Buffalo) and bad (Syracuse). Second, the Orioles have continued their winning ways. Third, the Orioles' second basemen have continued to play poorly (it's probably not a good sign when your team's television commentators praise you for getting a bloop single, as the Orioles' did for Ryan Flaherty.) Because the Orioles are playing well, upgrading second base isn't urgent. But it's certainly possible that the lack of production at second base will start to cost the Orioles, and they'll look to Norfolk for a replacement.

As I wrote last week, it would probably be in the Orioles' best long-term interest to keep Jonathan Schoop at Norfolk for all of 2013. On the other hand, if the Orioles need a second baseman, and Schoop is the only option, then they'll have to bite the bullet, promote Schoop, and hope that he can pull a Manny Machado. There are two other options at Norfolk, both of whom are currently playing well and who are on the forty-man roster.

Danny Valencia has been the Tides' regular third baseman. He's been hitting very well, .288/.323/.508 through May 9. He's a better defensive third baseman than his numbers look; two of the errors he's been charged with were very borderline calls (the official scorer has admitted that he'd have changed one call if he'd been asked to.) He'll never walk a lot, but he's made consistent hard contact and four of his strikeouts were in the first three games of the season. If the Orioles get desperate at second base, the Orioles could recall Valencia to play third, and either move Manny Machado to second or Machado to short and J.J. Hardy to second.

I wouldn't do it, not because Valencia wouldn't be an improvement over the Orioles' second basemen but because the other moves cause problems. If you move Machado to second, you'll be teaching him a third position in two seasons. Second base is perhaps the hardest position to learn from a technical standpoint. I believe Machado's future is at shortstop; if you move him to second base, it'll be harder to move him back to short later. Moving both Hardy and Machado has the disadvantage of having two players learning new positions in the middle of the season. Recalling Valencia would be an absolute desperation move.

Yamaico Navarro has mostly been playing shortstop, and he's also seen time at second base. He's hitting .317/.405/.462, which is substantially better than he has hit in the past. Since Jonathan Schoop moved to second base, Navarro has been playing shortstop, and his throwing arm is amazing -- in the sense that almost every throw is a line drive to the first baseman's chest. Although he hasn't played a lot of second base in his career, he has played there some and would be better defensively than Jonathan Schoop. Interestingly, in the games I've seen he has neither walked nor struck out a lot; but that goes against his overall season numbers in which he's walked and struck out 15-20% of the time.

 If the Orioles did decide to promote either Valencia or Navarro to replace their second baseman, they'd be taking a risk. Both Valencia and Navarro are playing well, and are likely to regress to their average performance. On the other hand, their current second basemen are likely to progress to their average performance. Until the Orioles stop playing well, their best plan is probably to continue as they are and wait the expected improvement.


Anonymous said...

LJ Hoes anyone?

Jon Shepherd said...

No. That ship sailed long ago for him to play second.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure what's happened to L.J. Hoes this season, defensively. I may look more closely at my records. He's misplayed at least three singles in the outfield -- one into an out, when a batter/runner was thrown out trying to advance; and the other two into singles + errors. In all three he overran the ball presumably because he brought his glove up too quickly. If he's having trouble fielding ground balls in the outfield, he's not a candidate to move to the infield.