Hanser Alberto is an enigma for the Orioles. A good enigma, but he’s still a mystery in many ways.
Alberto, who shocked everyone by not only making the club but at one point challenging for the American League batting championship, is 27, so he’s not exactly part of the youth movement.
But he’s accrued enough service time to be eligible for arbitration. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Alberto could make $1.9 million, which is quite affordable for a player who hit .305 and .398 against left-handers. Alberto hit just .238 against right-handers.
Alberto had a .948 OPS against left-handers and just .609 when facing right-handers.
Unlike Jonathan Villar, who’s just a season away from free agency and could earn as much as $10.4 million in arbitration according to TradeRumors, Alberto isn’t a likely trade chip this winter.
But is he good enough to be a piece for when the Orioles improve?
There were certainly questions about his defense. He played second and third base, and at second often played recklessly. Alberto was lampooned by Sports Illustrated as committing what “may be the worst play in MLB history” on May 16.
With the bases loaded, Alberto fielded a grounder at second base and could have gotten an out at any base. Instead of starting a double play, he attempted to start a rundown with Francisco Lindor, the oncoming runner from first, missed the tag, flipped the ball to first baseman Chris Davis, who threw home as a run scored.
Alberto somehow wasn’t charged with an error, and the Cleveland Indians scored five runs in a sloppy inning that caused MASN broadcaster Mike Bordick to bemoan, “this is hard to watch.”
Despite the embarrasing miscue, Alberto had a .8 defensive WAR and a healthy 3.1 WAR overall.
This is the same player who was claimed on waivers by the New York Yankees last November 2, claimed by the Orioles on January 11, and then claimed by the San Francisco Giants on February 22 and reclaimed by the Orioles a week later.
Surprisingly, Alberto made the Orioles and became a major contributor. Unlike the team’s other surprise, John Means, who had an undistinguished record in the minor leagues, Alberto hit .309 in parts of four seasons with the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A Round Rock affiliate.
Alberto hit 12 home runs for the Orioles last season, his largest total in professional ball. Since home runs were so plentiful, and there was so much talk about a lively ball, Alberto’s power numbers can be unconvincing.
His offensive statistics don’t make him a fit in today’s game. Alberto walked just 16 times and had a .329 on-base percentage to go with the .305 average. Villar walked 61 times. On the other hand, 11 Orioles had more than his 50 strikeouts.
His ability to move between second and third made him valuable to manager Brandon Hyde, but if the Orioles decided to send last year’s Rule 5 pick, Richie Martin to the minors for more seasoning, Alberto hasn’t shown an ability to play shortstop.
The Orioles don’t have any middle infield prospects that are close to being major league ready, so there’s a likelihood he’ll return to the team next season.
For now, it looks like more of the same for Alberto in 2020, some second base, some third and the hope that he can duplicate his 2019 success.
If that happens, then the Orioles will have a pleasant problem and perhaps a valuable commodity to trade.
Arizona Fall League championship: The Surprise Saguaros, which is comprised of the Orioles as well as four other teams, will play for the Arizona Fall League title against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.
Seven players in the Orioles’ organization — right-handers Cody Carroll, Dean Kremer and David Lebron, left-hander Alex Wells, infielders Rylan Bannon and Mason McCoy and outfielder T.J. Nichting play for Surprise.
Kyle Moore, who managed Low-A Delmarva, is a Saguaros coach.
The game can be seen on MLB.com.