31 August 2018

Orioles State of First Base: 2019-2023

As 2015 wound down, Peter Angelos spoke openly to local reporters.  He noted how important it was to the Orioles to be able to retain their first baseman, Chris Davis.  At that point in time, Davis was coming off his second best season of his career.  It was the second year that put him in the discussion as being the Most Valuable Player.  He certainly provided a great deal of production that the 2016 Orioles would need to account for and the comfortable way to think you are doing that is simply to re-sign those that performed the year before.

However, at the Depot there was concern.  There was also hope as the Tigers were becoming more and more engaged with Davis.  Dan Duquette tried to cover the gap by trading for Mark Trumbo with plans to play him at first base and to seek either a starting pitcher or a corner outfielder.  While Davis was fairly exceptional in 2013 and 2015, his other seasons and 2014 were of concern.  His profile was unique in MLB history as his contact rate appeared to be barely adequate to maintain his value and his body type looked like one whose athleticism would leave in a hurry.

As you know, fate drifted Davis back to the Orioles on what was considered conventionally a great deal with significant deferred money.  Again, at the Depot and elsewhere there was more concern than celebration.  What then transpired was worse than what we imagined.  Davis, now with four years to go, is seemingly entrenched at first base and utterly terrible.

So what does it look like?

First Base Table
Name Age Lev BA OBP SLG Pos Summary
Davis, Chris*32MAJ.163.241.3061B-102, DH-4
Trey Mancini26MAJ.235.299.386LF-96, DH-3, 1B-26
Rodriguez, Aderlin26AA.280.328.4681B-102, 3B-11, DH-2, LF-2
Garcia, Wilson#24H-A.304.334.5331B-54, DH-46, C-3
Woody, Collin23H-A.226.332.4391B-48, 3B-16, LF-6, DH-2, P-1
Curran, Seamus*20L-A,SS.243.314.4271B-65, DH-25
Escarra, J.C.*23SS,H-A.308.399.4831B-44, DH-4
Zoellner, Jack*23ROK.236.364.4221B-41, DH-6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/23/2018.

Absent from the list above is Mark Trumbo.  We have spoke at length about him here at the Depot, but the organization seems hell bent to provide Trey Mancini experience there when Davis takes a blow.  We think this has been a mistake as Trumbo repeatedly shows that he needs to be in the field to hit and that he is a hard negative in a corner outfield position, but it is what it is.

Mancini looks like a fringe first baseman, a fringe left fielder.  Left field is doubly fringe as his athleticism continues to leave him, making his defense a lingering issue.  Last year, we took a look at what could be expected of Mancini moving forward.  He did not meet expectations this year which does only to decrease expectations moving forward.  Those expectations were that of a fringe second division starter.  Mancini does not look like a true answer to first base if Davis is ever dislodged.

Once you step into the minors, the answers find themselves difficult to find.  On the surface, players like Aderlin Rodriguez, Wilson Garcia, and JC Escarra have performed well, but have done so at an advanced age.  Seamus Curran and Collin Woody have done well to hold their own, but have struggled with contact.  The margin of error for a first basemen is fairly small, so there are certainly doubts at their outcome.  A couple years younger and those performances would look different.

Finally, the newest first baseman in the system is Jack Zoellner.  Zoellner was a 10k senior sign in the ninth round by the Phillies a couple years ago.  Zoellner was an analytics pick, someone who the Phillies developmental staff to play with.  Apparently, the Phillies liked the launch angle and velocity his batted balls produced.  He has yet to escape a rookie league.  The Orioles now are taking on this 23 year old who has plenty of levels to move up.

Five Year Plan
The five year plan for first base appears largely to be crossing your fingers and hoping there is something left for Chris Davis to do.  Mancini could be a fringe solution, but not exactly a player who could overwhelmingly dispatch Chris Davis.  Beyond them, nothing is clear.

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