29 August 2018

Orioles State of Second Base: 2019-2023

Previous Columns in this Series
Catcher | Centerfield

For the Orioles, second base is very similar to other positions, but not.  Second base is a position where the club had mustered together a stalwart for the position for several years only to deal him away at the deadline.  Somehow, when Jonathan Schoop left, the Orioles managed to acquire not only a good pitching prospect and a promising young shortstop prospect, but also Jonathan Villar.  Villar, once considered a major role player in Milwaukee, frustrated that franchise.  Wanting more power in their lineup, the Brewers acquired Schoop placed him at shortstop and tossed away Villar.  As it stands, Villar has a bWAR of 0.8 for the Orioles and Schoop has scuttled to replacement level for the Brewers.

Let it be said though that Villar is only under contract through the 2020 year, which leaves the long-term future in doubt.  Villar likely will not be a part of any competitive Orioles team.  So what does the franchise depth look like now?

Second Base Table
Name Age Lev BA OBP SLG Pos Summary
Villar, Jonathan#27MAJ,AAA.274.334.4032B-99, SS-3
Beckham, Tim28MAJ,AAA,AA.213.275.3423B-42, SS-39, 2B-3, DH-2
Valera, Breyvic #26AAA,MAJ.258.332.3852B-44, SS-27, 3B-22, LF-9, CF-2, DH-2, RF-1
Sardinas, Luis#25AAA,MAJ.260.296.383SS-36, 2B-20, 3B-8, DH-3, LF-1
Wilkerson, Steve #26AAA,AA,MAJ,ROK.259.315.4312B-14, 3B-11, LF-4, SS-4, RF-1, 1B-1
Bannon, Rylan22H-A,AA.273.381.5123B-56, 2B-47, DH-13
Palmeiro, Preston*23H-A.253.311.4052B-107, 1B-20, DH-3
McCoy, Mason23L-A.265.329.375SS-88, 2B-28, DH-1
Torres, Alexis20SS,L-A,H-A.251.326.3592B-51, DH-4, SS-1
Hall, Adam19SS.304.382.392SS-54, 2B-4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/29/2018.

In the near term, Jonathan Villar is the solution.  He will likely be manning second during some dire days in Baltimore.  Beneath him in the immediate are all fringe players.  Tim Beckham became the guy the Rays said he was.  Valera and Sardinas are short term fill in kind of players.  Steve Wilkerson might be able to give you some Todd Walker style action where he may be a late bloomer, but probably fills more of a corner infield and second base role.

Once you go beyond the MLB and AAA squads, you begin to see some low ceiling though interesting prospects.  Rylan Bannon is a fairly interesting C level prospect.  He is sort of coming in from a Ryan Flaherty direction.  A player who carries some interesting offensive skills, but whose skillset may not be all that playable at the plate once he reaches the Majors.  Instead, he seems to be making great strides with his play at second base and third base.  Some scouts suggest he probably should be given a whirl at shortstop to see if he footwork and positioning holds up there.  However, the optimistic outcome is that he rises to be a solid offensive contributor at second or third.

It will not be an easy path for Bannon.  Undersized, he is not the kind of physical specimen that makes baseball organizations want to give him an abundance of opportunity.  However, if he performs at each level, those opportunities will come.  At the moment, the Orioles decided to challenge him once he came over to Baltimore by elevating him to from HiA ball to AA Bowie.  That has not gone well.  However, that is quite a jump in competition and Bannon is a tad young for the circuit.

Beyond Bannon, there are a couple players who do not seem exciting, but may grow into consideration.  Preston Palmiero is seeing time this year at second base and he genuinely has the ability to provide a passable level of play there if his bat comes forward.  While Palmiero has maintain a league average level of play as he moves up through the levels, the increase in power shown last summer did not take a step forward this year.  There is some hope he can tap further into his swing to see another increase, but that is not a foregone conclusion.

However, the real players to watch are Mason McCoy and Adam Hall.  McCoy is a bit old for Delmarva, but he showed great feel for second base.  He also held his own at the plate, but, again, he is two years older than league average.  The defensive angle is there, so you can envision a utility role.  If his bat can make each step up, he might even be able to eek out a couple years as a second division starter.  But, again, it is a long haul.

Adam Hall is a bit more interesting to watch.  He hails from Canada and is a bit raw.  He shows plus speed and an understanding of how to use it on the basepaths.  Right now, he is logging time at shortstop, but his arm will likely push him over to second base.  He exhibits good contact, can work a walk, and has a swing where doubles in the gap should start appearing more common.

Five Year Planning
The current solution is obvious in Villar and there will likely be little reason to extend him.  Second basemen tend to get beaten up a bit and decline rapidly in their early thirties, which puts Villar in a bad position to be in place for the Orioles next run.  Beyond him, you hope that someone like Bannon or Hall can emerge and take over.  That said, it is far from probable to expect either to be able to perform at the level as neither are prospects that have garnered much attention.  Regardless, there is much more optimism here than, say, catcher.

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