Anyone who knows me knows I have been a big fan of Robert Andino for a while now. But despite his general awesomeness, what real value does he hold as a baseball player? The answer to that question changes depending on his role with the team, last year he was basically an everyday player but in the future he will probably be more of a bench player. There has also been occasional talk about using him as a trade chip. Is he valuable in that situation or is he more valuable in the O's lineup?
Robert Andino is currently 27 years old, although he turns 28 in April, he has a wink over three years of MLB service time and he is under the control of the Baltimore Orioles until 2015. Andino, or Dino for short, was drafted out of high school in Miami by his hometown Marlins back in 2002 and on April 1, 2009 he became an Oriole through a trade which sent one time Orioles pitching prospect Hayden Penn to Florida. Penn, who was taken in the 5th round of that same 2002 draft would flounder in Florida, then go on to the Pirates where he struggled. In 2010, Penn went to Japan where he has struggled with injury problems. Andino meanwhile has garnered about 800 at-bats over three years with the Baltimore Orioles. He also received national attention for his game winning hit to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs on the last play of the regular season in 2011 and he picked up the respect of Orioles fans for his performance against the Red Sox throughout the month of September.
Last year filling in for the injuried Brian Roberts he posted a .670 OPS, a .327 OBP, and an 84 OPS+, all in 511 plate appearances which was a career high for him. He had an 8% walk rate which ranked 5th amongst Orioles who appeared in over 80 games, 4th amongst those who played in over 100 games. He was also 4th on the team in OBP, 3rd if you don't include Nolan Riemold who only played in 87 games. His team rank in regards to wOBA however was less impressive, 7th amongst regulars, at .305. Wieghted On-Base Average, or wOBA, weights every on base event differently and .302 is well below the league average, his park adjusted wOBA is slightly higher at .312 which is still below both the team and the league average. By looking at these statistics we can start to break down the strengths and weaknesses of Andino. Examining wOBA weighting and comparing it to regular OBP we can see start to see why Andino ranks so highly with one and so poorly with the other(.327 OBP is right around the league average). What's the answer? Simple. Robert Andino doesn't hit for any power. Also, that 8% walk rate which ranked so highly amongst fellow O's, well that simply shows us that the Orioles don't walk enough, which is more or less common knowledge around here. 8% ranks 432nd amongst 730 players with over 500 at-bats or as we can see from this graphic, he is right around the league average for walks.
This leads us to our conclusion about the year Dino had in 2011. He possessed an average walk ratio and a low extra base hit rate. All in all, Dino was a singles and doubles guy who reached base in that fashion at a slightly below average rate. So what does this mean for his future? Well, Bill James predicts that Andino won't see the 300 at-bat mark this upcoming year. This however I take issue with. Assuming Roberts doesn't return to play in 2012 or does so in a very limited capacity, Robert Andino could see upward of 400 at-bats once again. Zips has Andino at 433 at-bats which I view as a more reasonable number.
But can Andino produce as a 300 to 400 at bat hitter? The answer appears to be, eh, yes and no. On one hand he can hover around the league average in terms of walks and OBP on the other hand his reliance on being a singles hitter increases his variability. Last year he was around the league average with fly ball ratio, line drive ratio, and ground ball ratio and his BABIP was a slim notch above the league average. This is what we should continue to expect from a player with his lack of power. It is safe to presume that Andino is a league average hitter who could just as easily deviate above the mean as he could below it. He doesn't swing and miss often but his hitting approach could be helped by taking a few more pitches at the plate, approach can be learned, power on the other hand cannot be. Considering his age, the sample size of last year, and time in baseball I think we can view 2011 as a year which showed his true talent.
When building a championship team you have to make sure all 25 pieces are, shall we say, nuggets. So is Andino, a single and doubles guy, a nugget? That question brings us to his defense. There are two important points in defense, the first is versatility, can a player move around to multiple spots on the field? And second, can he play those spots well?
First, versatility. When building a 25 man roster most teams choose to keep either 3 to 5 bench players depending on team health and other factors, usually 4 though. The Orioles went with 4 on opening day of 2011; Fox, Andino, Izturis, and Pie. Each team will normally keep a catcher, an outfielder, a corner infielder, and a middle infielder. However, it benefits a team to have a player who can carry multiple duties, they tried that with Fox who could catch, play first, and play the outfield, but it didn't work out. Last year Andino played 20 or more games at 3 different spots and played 3 games in LF. His ability to play all those positions came in handy considering: A) the health of JJ Hardy and B) the horrible defense of Mark Reynolds. So he has the versatility, but does he play these positions well? Once again it saddens me to report, he is average. His UZR at 3rd is slightly above average, but at 2nd and SS it is even closer to the league average, at SS it is actually a little below. There is no problem with average fielding though. A player who makes the plays he needs to make, but can make them at any spot on the diamond is extremely useful. As someone who has played all over the infield myself, I know that fielding is a very teachable talent, one which can improve, albeit depending on the player and coaching staff, more readily than hitting. I think that the fact that Andino doesn't have any glaring troubles with the glove bodes well that he might actually improve in the field.Even as the season progressed last year it was visible that he was improving as a fielder.
So, average hitter, versatile but average fielder. But does he possibly carry more value than we give him credit for? Keep in mind, no one is saying he should be a 600 AB player. But I believe he holds a lot of value as a 300 to 400 at-bat bench player who can play 3 to 4 positions on the field. To see if his value as a high use utility player might be higher, I decided to compile a list of similar type players, medium OBP guys who play the infield and don't hit for a lot of power. I came up with 27 players including Andino and took their OBP at age 27, if they haven't reached 27 I used 25 or 26, I didn't use anyone younger. The statistical method isn't exactly kosher, but the results suggest that Andino is a middle of the road utility infielder at the plate
Considering the talent level of the Orioles, Andino fits right into the lineup. He can be a 400 at bat player on this team and because he can move around the field he will continue to get at-bats. He is one of the few Orioles who will work a walk on a regular basis as well. However, he has very little value as a trade asset, which means unless he is outplayed by someone, he may stay with the O's for a while since I don't think any team out there will give up anything of higher value for him. He actually had a WAR of 2.0 last year, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that number slip ever so slightly. But I still believe that Andino has some value to this team in it's current state despite his short comings as a hitter. In addition to that fact, when looking through the 27 similar players it struck me, although I don't have numbers to prove it, that utility players who fit the Andino mold tend to not lose rapid value as they age, which could mean that come 2015 Andino still would have value as a utility player on a possibly competitive Orioles squad. So, my message to Dan Duqette? Don't trade Robert Andino, you won't get anything for him and he could be a bench nugget in the future.