The Orioles may have lost their most productive infielder last season in Jonathan Villar, but the majority of last year’s infield will return.
Chris Davis, Hanser Alberto, Jose Iglesias and Rio Ruiz are set to patrol the infield with Iglesias as the only newcomer. Iglesias, on his third team in three years and fourth team overall, slashed .288/.318/.407 last season with an OPS of .724. He also hit 11 home runs last season.
Villar was traded to Miami for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas in early December which left a hole at shortstop, which Iglesias is expected to fill.
Richard Urena Jr. figures to be a utility infielder, capable of playing shortstop, second base or third base. He spent the last three seasons in Toronto and slashed a combined .253/.300/.336 and had a .972 fielding percentage with seven errors in 624 ⅔ innings.
Where the infield gets interesting, however, is at first base.
Davis returns with three years left on his 161 million dollar contract and a bevy of questions about how productive he can be after his fourth season in a row where he batting average didn’t eclipse .221. Last season, he slashed .179/.276/.326 and had an OPS of .601. While that was an improvement from 2018, his future remains uncertain in Baltimore.
Davis, who will be 34 when the season begins in late March, has not posted a positive WAR (wins above replacement) season since 2016. His highest mark in the last season was 0.0, and in the last two seasons he posted a negative number.
He’ll start the season at first base, but Ryan Mountcastle figures to be right behind him.
The 36th overall pick in 2015, Mountcastle is on the top 100 prospects list according to mlb.com. And last season in Triple-A Norfolk, he earned International League Most Valuable Player after a season where he slashed .312/.344/.527 and had 25 home runs and an .871 OPS.
Mountcastle, who has risen through each step of the Orioles farm system since 2015, appears ready to break into the lineup at some point in 2020. At that point, the Orioles will have to find some room for Mountcastle to see if he’s able to become a regular big league contributor.
Should the Orioles need it, Trey Mancini is an option to play at first base should Davis or Mountcastle not be available.
As for bench roles, Richie Martin and Renato Nunez could fill bench roles and solidify the middle infield. Ruiz, who started 89 games at third base, is also an option to fill a role as designated hitter.
And when it comes to prospects on the rise, there’s not much immediately available for the Orioles to pick from.
Gunnar Henderson, a shortstop who was selected in the second round of last year’s MLB Draft, is still just 18 years old, is a few years away from reaching the major leagues.
There are options available for utility sake, but as for the rebuild, there’s still a ways to go before some of the younger talent reaches the major league.
Richard Urena Jr.
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