20 March 2018

Can Danny Valencia Be Steve Pearce Lite?

When the Orioles signed Danny Valencia to a minor league deal on March 3, it was a random move. Not unlike the O's, of course, just random. No one should get upset about a minor league signing, but it was a little tough to see the fit. The Orioles already have first base/DH types like Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Trey Mancini on the roster, and just a week before, the O's brought back Pedro Alvarez, another 1B/DH.

Still, while all of the O's players above have played different positions in their careers, all of them except for Mancini are primarily first basemen and/or designated hitters now. Trumbo could certainly play in the outfield some for the O's in 2018, but he shouldn't. And if first base were open for Mancini, he'd be playing there instead of left field.

All of this is to say: Valencia is a bit different than a typical depth addition at first base (like Alvarez). He's more like another Swiss Army knife the O's employed during the golden years of the Buck Showalter/Dan Duquette era. Of course, I'm talking about the great Steve Pearce.

In almost 1,000 plate appearances with the O's from 2012-2016, Pearce posted a wRC+ of 123. His masterpiece, far and away, is the 2014 season when he somehow put up a 161 wRC+ which fueled a bWAR of 5.9 and an fWAR of 4.9 in fewer than 400 plate appearances. Like many things during the Showalter/Duquette era, it was stunning and amazing.

Valencia is similar to Pearce: they're about the same age (Valencia is 33; Pearce is 34), he can hit left-handed pitching, and he can play multiple positions well enough.

Valencia: 136 wRC+ vs. LHP (career)
Pearce: 126 wRC+ vs. LHP (career)

Valencia isn't as good of a defensive first baseman as Pearce, and Valencia has rated poorly defensively at third base, but he's an OK enough corner outfielder and can fill in at second base. He also doesn't fare as well against same-handed throwers as Pearce (85 wRC+ vs. RHP vs. a 100 wRC+ for Pearce).

But having Valencia around can be useful. It's beneficial to have a player capable of handling multiple positions, and it's even better when that player mashes left-handed pitching. From 2015 to 2017, Valencia is tied for 19th best (with Edwin Encarnacion) in the majors with a 133 wRC+ against lefties (min. 400 plate appearances).

When the roster is clogged with all of Davis, Trumbo, and Mancini, it may be tough to find playing time for Valencia. But with Trumbo scheduled to start the year on the disabled list, there's room for someone with Valencia's skill-set. Now, instead of hoping for platoon at-bats in right field and some utility player work, he could receive at-bats at DH as well.

If the O's stay disciplined in using Valencia as a platoon bat and avoid giving him too much work at third base, he could be a nice depth addition. It wouldn't even be that surprising if he ended up with better overall offensive numbers than Trumbo, and it could be a bonus to have him around if Trumbo's injury lingers or Davis's elbow issues don't go away. The bar is low for a minor league signing, but Valencia's presence already seems helpful.


Anonymous said...

I always comes back to Trumbo being the clog in the drain. It's very hard to construct a roster when you have two nearly identical assets in Trumbo and Mancini. Valencia would be a good low-cost Trumbo substitute. But he just adds another RH bat which the O's have plenty of. If he were mashing 40HRs then you might be able to justify it but with him and Davis both hitting less than 30, there's not enough flexibility to find extra production somewhere else. Honestly, if Davis and Trumbo were to magically disappear and Mancini was at 1B and Hays in the OF and Valencia/Alvarez at DH (and Mountcastle coming to 3B, hopefully, next year), the O's would have a nice roster and enough money to buy some extra starting pitching.

Pip said...

I'd like to know what is the logic in carrying not one but two designated hitters? Especially with a roster as inflexible as Baltimore's, it would seem that there is no value in carrying two players who only hit from one side with little to no defensive ability.
If we must, I would vote for Valencia( A fan graphs article from a couple of seasons ago pointed out that he had changed his hitting stance and improved enough from the same side that he was no longer really a platoon hitter) but I would really rather go with nobody as designated hitter. We've got Trumbo whether we want him or not, so I guess we're stuck with one.
But we certainly do not need two, and Valencia's defense isn't really enough to warrant keeping him.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

After Trumbo comes back, I don't know what you do. You probably don't have room to carry all of Davis, Trumbo, Mancini, and Valencia, but injuries happen. The logic is that Valencia can crush lefties and fill in OK enough at other positions. But with Trumbo around, the roster is not as flexible as you'd like.

Josh said...

Guessing Danny V won't make it north, if you believe the rumors about our old buddy Flats. Buck/Brady will snap him up so quickly he'll be a mere afterimage in Philly (or wherever they've been training this spring).

With Flats presumably back, I doubt they'll find room for Danny V, especially if Gentry's a semi-lock as well.