If Freddy Galvis is at shortstop and Yolmer Sánchez is at second base for the 2021 Orioles, their up-the-middle infield defense will no doubt be very solid. And they could have some real durability. Between 2017-19, Sánchez played in 148 games per year for the Chicago White Sox. From 2015-19, Galvis averaged 156 games per season.
I had a recent conversation with a National League scout, who noted that durability in assessing what the O’s might be getting with these two players.
The Orioles recently signed Galvis as a free agent for one year at $1.5 million, per various reports, with a bonus of $250,000 if he gets traded. For the 2020 Cincinnati Reds, over 47 games, he hit .220/.308/.404 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and an OPS of .712. In the last full season of 2019, he played in 147 games between Toronto and Cincinnati and batted .260/.296/.438 with 28 doubles, a triple, 23 homers, 70 RBIs and an OPS of .734. That year, he posted career highs in homers, RBIs and OPS.
“The guy has great hands still and can still pick it,” the scout said of Galvis. “In baseball now and especially how the Orioles do it, range is less important than it was, say, in the 1980s. We don’t have turf and there is the preponderance of shifts. So the fact that as Freddy Galvis ages, his range has declined a little bit, that’s less of a factor. Sure handedness, quick hands, baseball savvy, defensive savvy, arm strength - these are things that play.
“Especially arm strength. If you are in a shift against a right-hander, that is a bigger deal. It’s a bigger deal at second base. You used to just have to have the arm strength to turn the double play. Now you have to throw guys out from short right field. Galvis has the versatility and infield actions. He’s not José Iglesias defensively, but Iglesias only played half the time last year.
“He’s been durable in his career over 162 games. I do not see him making the leap offensively that Iglesias made last year. But who saw that coming? So for half the price, the No. 1 thing you get out of Galvis historically is durability. He’s still that guy. He’s aging pretty well.”
In his first seven major league seasons, Galvis produced a combined slugging percentage of .374. But the last two seasons, that number is .431 with 30 home runs over 748 plate appearances.
“If you get him in 150 games, he’ll run into 15 or 20 home runs,” said the scout. “That used to be the exception for a defensive-minded shortstop, but the game has changed. He hit 20 homers in 2016 with the Phillies and 23 in the last full season he played. He has played most of his career in more hitter-friendly ballparks. You look at the one year in San Diego in 2018, and from a percentages standpoint, it looks like one of his lesser seasons. But in the context of Petco (Park), it’s in line with his standard season.
“Not going to draw a lot of walks and he’s gonna strike out. But he’s going to hit some balls out every once in awhile. He’s a mistake hitter. I think on a championship team, personally, he might be a more utility guy. But for a second-division team at that price point, that is a shrewd signing. With him, you know what you are going to get - he’s not a box of chocolates.”
The Orioles added Sánchez, 28, via a waiver claim on Oct. 30. We know Sánchez does not bring much offense. When he was a regular with Chicago in 2018, playing in 155 games, he hit .242/.306/.372 with an OPS+ of 87, which is 13 percent under league average. That year, he did lead the American League with 10 triples and was the White Sox winner of the Heart and Hustle Award. In 149 games in 2019, he batted .252/.318/.321 with an OPS+ of 73. A switch-hitter, he has a career OPS of .670 versus right-handed pitching and .626 versus lefties.
“We have very strong reports on Yolmer Sánchez from a makeup standpoint,” the scout said. “The bat has always been a little light in terms of power. But a good defender with excellent hands. Just hasn’t hit enough to keep an everyday job. That has really been the whole key to Yolmer Sánchez. He doesn’t have the speed you like to see in a bench player. He played every day in Chicago - that’s an offensive ballpark - and in three years as a regular, he hit 22 home runs combined. He told us who he is - not a power guy, but he did win a Gold Glove in 2019.
“If you compare him to Hanser Alberto, I think he has a chance to be better by a wide margin defensively. But he won’t have the average that Alberto does and a similar power deficit. So, if Yolmer Sánchez turns into a positive player, it will likely be because of his defensive contribution. Anything you get out of him on offense is kind of gravy.”
In 2018, Sánchez was the regular third baseman for the White Sox; then, in 2019, he won a Gold Glove at second base, beating out the other finalists in New York’s DJ LeMahieu and Houston’s Jose Altuve. His .987 fielding percentage that year ranked second among AL second baseman and tied for fifth in the majors. His 11 Defensive Runs Saved were first in the AL and second among his position in the majors.
“He was a 3 WAR player in 2017, but most of that value came from his defense. And he was passable offensively,” the scout added. “That is what you are hoping for. If he can be kind of league average offensively and then he provides you with his customary defense, you’re in business. You’ve got a good player. If he doesn’t hit enough, you could be looking for someone else or he is keeping the seat warm for someone else.”