Orioles Sign Matt Antonelli

The Orioles have singed infielder Matt Antonelli to a contract, presumably for the minimum as it’s a major league deal. If that’s the case, I like the move. The former top prospect no longer has the ceiling he once did at age 26, but with Brian Roberts potentially not being able to play it’s nice to have some decent depth (gives the team extra flexibility with Robert Andino and Ryan Adams around as well). And Antonelli brings some needed on-base to the club. He hit .297/.393/.460 for the National’s Triple-A affiliate last year. His career numbers at that level are .237/.347/.369. The average is low largely due to relatively few home runs (19 in 273 games) to go along with a BABIP of just around .275. He didn’t strike out all that much (around 16% of the time), and managed to keep his OBP up by walking over 13% of the time.

Antonelli’s only gotten 65 career plate appearances in the big leagues – batting .191/.292/.281 – and that came back in 2008. He’s probably not going to hit for a high average or show much pop (he’ll get some doubles and triples and could maybe crack double digits in homers if he started every day), but if he’s able to draw some free passes and play OK defense (his minor league Total Zone numbers aren’t great; -8 runs per 150 games at second and -3 run at third in a much lower sample size) then he could provide above replacement level production (probably topping out at around 1 WAR). The report that Antonelli is expected to compete for the third-base job seems a touch off, but he’s really not that different from Chris Davis* there in overall value (or Mark Reynolds, if he brings the -30 run defense again). Guess we’ll see how that plays out.

* This shows why the Koji Uehara trade bothered me. A similarly valuable play – trading SLG for OBP – was picked up so easily in the off-season. Why actually trade a valuable asset for Davis instead of getting some pitching prospects?