Danny Valencia wasn't in the lineup for the Orioles June 10 due to an illness, and that wasn't good news for the offensively-challenged Orioles.
The third baseman has been one of the team's few offensive success stories, and Valencia’s story has an interesting twist.
When he signed a minor league contract with the team March 3, it was Valencia’s ability to hit left-handers that stood out. Valencia is .309 hitter against lefties and has a .249 average against right-handers throughout his career.
But in this topsy-turvy Orioles season where little seems to make sense, the 33-year-old has hit far better against right-handers (.313) than left-handers (.258).
Valencia has played for seven different teams in nine seasons, all in the American League: Minnesota, Boston, Kansas City, Toronto, Oakland, Seattle and Orioles. He's in his second stint in Baltimore. He hit .304 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs during 52 games in 2013. He's hitting .286 with six homers and 15 RBIs in 40 games this year.
For years, the Orioles have tried to look for players to help boost their on-base percentage, and quietly Valencia has done that. He has a .348 OBP, trailing only shortstop Manny Machado. He’s struck out just 13 times and walked 24 times in those 40 games.
Valencia was hardly a coveted free agent. Like many veterans, he had to settle for far less than he wanted. A year ago, Valencia made $5.5 million with the Mariners. This year, his contract had a base salary of just $1.2 million, though he could earn up to $3 million in performance bonuses.
He's certainly been well-traveled. Valencia hasn't played two complete seasons with the same team since his first two seasons in the majors with the Twins.
Valencia's playing time increased when Tim Beckham went on the disabled list on April 24, and he's played third base against both lefties and righties recently. The left-handed hitting Jace Peterson started against Toronto June 10.
Beckham, who had core muscle surgery, should be back later this month, and he's under club control though the 2020 season. Assuming the Orioles trade Machado ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline and don’t receive a major league ready shortstop in return, it's possible that Beckham could return to shortstop, his original position, and Valencia could remain at third.
With Machado and Beckham both healthy, Valencia could play some right field. For a team that hasn't scored many runs, Valencia has been quietly effective.
While the season has been a grind for the Orioles and Valencia, he had some good news during the last homestand when his wife gave birth to the couple's first son, Oliver.
In the six games since Oliver’s birth, Valencia has had three multi-hit games.
When Valencia signed in March, there didn’t seem to be an obvious place on the team for him. While the Orioles have the worst record in baseball, they're still allowed to have some bright spots, and Valencia’s offensive performance is one of them.
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