Can a player with 399 major league at-bats, a career .221 average and has never been a big league regular player be the Orioles starting second baseman this year?
He could, and Ryan Flaherty seems to be the leading candidate to emerge from spring training as the starter at the position.
On the plus side, Flaherty has some pop, plays solid defense and already has big league time under his belt. But he’s never been a regular at the major league level and has struggled to hit to all fields and to hit offspeed pitches.
Over the last two years, with the O’s in those 399 at-bats, he has hit .221 with 16 homers and 46 RBIs. He has a .279 OBP, .378 slugging percentage and OPS of .658.
Flaherty put together some decent at-bats after the All-Star break last year. Granted it was just 66 at-bats after the break, but he hit .242 with four homers and 10 RBIs along with a .500 slugging percentage and .833 OPS.
If he does play every day, Flaherty could hit 20 homers. He hit 10 in 246 at-bats in 2013, averaging a homer every 24.6 at-bats. By comparison, J.J. Hardy hit one every 24.0 at-bats, Matt Wieters every 23.7 and Manny Machado hit one every 47.6 at-bats. Flaherty does have pop. The O’s are not lacking for homers, but I guess you can never have enough. That short porch in right could be inviting to him.
Being taken as a Rule 5 pick can sometimes hinder a player’s development. Flaherty spent 2012 in the major leagues during a season where he probably would have spent most of the year at Triple-A. In fact he has played in just 49 Triple-A games in his career compared to 162 in the majors.
In 471 career minor league games, Flaherty has hit .278 with a .345 OBP, a .464 slugging and .809 OPS.
Flaherty is far from the club’s only internal option for the position. There is also Jemile Weeks, Jonathan Schoop, Alexi Casilla and others on minor league deals like Ivan De Jesus. But it appears to be his job to lose, as they say.
I see Flaherty as a bit above average on defense with a strong arm and quicker than you might think footwork around the bag. And that comes from watching him play and not a stat sheet with the standard stats or advanced metrics.
The Orioles did not acquire a second baseman - at least one that would be the obvious starter - and with Flaherty here and Schoop on the horizon, that may well have been the best move for 2014 and the future.