A good moment or two from the 2019 season is not enough to get the Orioles to want a player to stick around. This has been shown twice in the last two days. Yesterday, Marylander Branden Kline was designated for assignment to clear space for a waiver claim. Today, the Orioles struck again, sending Stevie “Dr. Poo Poo” Wilkerson to the great DFA in the sky to make room for another waiver claim on the 40-man roster.
In ordinary circumstances, a player who is 28, who has no real positional home, and who just batted .225/.286/.383 would not occasion much comment if he was DFA’d. Those are the kinds of players who get released, even from a team that just lost 108 games. There is no surprise about that.
Wilkerson was rather famously involved in two of last season’s few great moments. On July 25, he made history with a one-inning pitching stint against the Angels, where despite throwing fastballs at about the 55mph speed limit of 695, he was able to become the first-ever position player to record a save in MLB history.
This feat earned him the nickname “Dr. Poo Poo” from manager Brandon Hyde. The fact that it happened in the wee hours of the morning back in Baltimore since it took place during the 16th inning of a west coast game just makes it all the more legendary. The Hall of Fame even collected Wilkerson’s cap and the ball from the final out of the game. Not many other recent Orioles will be able to say they made it into Cooperstown.
Dr. Poo Poo got in one more moment of glory before the season ended, when, stuck in right field for the final game of the season at Fenway Park, he pulled off one of the most impressive-looking home run robberies you’re ever going to see.
These two plays make it more fun to think back on the woeful 2019 team. That kind of sentiment apparently isn’t enough to guarantee anyone a roster spot headed into the 2020 season, or even headed into spring training. Look again at that batting line and it’s like, of course they’re not keeping him. But for me it’s still kind of a bummer. I wanted to see what else Wilkerson might do.
Maybe he’ll be back. This isn’t even the first time the Orioles have designated Wilkerson for assignment. He was chopped from the roster towards the end of spring training last year when the O’s brought in catcher Pedro Severino. He was still able to find his way back to the big leagues with the O’s by the end of April and ended up playing in 117 games.
More than half of these saw him play in center field, a position Wilkerson had never played professionally before last year. He wasn’t good at it, mind you, but that doomed struggle made him a sympathetic figure - at least for me.
The pitcher the Orioles claimed on Friday, Travis Lakins, is a righty reliever who found his way into 16 MLB games for the Red Sox last year. The O’s actually claimed him from the Cubs, who acquired Lakins just ten days ago. That trade was only for cash considerations, so it’s clear the Cubs didn’t want him too badly.
In Lakins’s limited MLB action, he struck out 18 batters and issued 10 walks over 23.1 innings. The 25-year-old, originally a sixth round pick in the 2015 draft, only allowed one home run out of 102 batters faced. That’s probably a small sample size, but maybe it’s something that interested the Orioles.
The low home run rate was also present in his Triple-A stats in 2019. Pitching for the Sox Triple-A affiliate, Lakins gave up just four home runs in 45 innings. Yes, it is allowed to have a home run rate so low, even with the juiced balls. Command was a bit of a problem as he walked 23 guys in those same innings.
According to Fangraphs, Lakins has two minor league option years remaining, so if the O’s do want him to work on something in Norfolk, they have the choice of doing so.