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Will the Orioles choose a starting second baseman for the postseason?

Jordan Westburg, Ramón Urías and Adam Frazier all provide something different. Will the Orioles prioritize any member of the trio when it matters most?

MLB: JUL 30 Yankees at Orioles Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Orioles’ rebuild kicked off with three starting outfielders already in place. Despite plenty of roster turnover, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander have remained constant in Baltimore. Additional players have rotated through, and the designated hitter slot provides some wiggle room, but the trio have continued to play a vital role for the first place O’s.

Baltimore prides itself on its defensive versatility, but several other players have clearly defined roles. Adley Rutschman owns home plate, and James McCann has served as an admirable backup in the second half. Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn have traded hot streaks over the course of the season, but Mountcastle holds the edge at the plate right now. Jorge Mateo possesses game-breaking speed, but nobody would confuse him with the best starting option at the plate.

With Gunnar Henderson clearly the top choice at short, second base appears to represent the biggest variable in a postseason lineup. Adam Frazier, Ramón Urías and Jordan Westburg have all played a role this season. With the season ticking down, it’s fair to wonder if a certain lineup provides Baltimore the best chance to win games this October.

Brandon Hyde and Mike Elias appear to thoroughly enjoy the ability to play matchups against pitchers and move players around the diamond. It’s also their job to know the best player for each situation. Do they know that right now? Do we?

The Birds handed Frazier $8 million to serve some type of role this season. The 31-year-old has watched his defense fall off with a -0.7 Ultimate Zone Rating at second base, but his 13 homers represent a career high. Frazier has delivered several big knocks for the O’s this season, and his 1.22 Clutch rating falls in the “Great” category over at FanGraphs.

Frazier holds the advantage in postseason experience after ripping a go-ahead double for the Mariners in the ninth inning of a Wild Card game last season. He may not inspire the same level of confidence as Henderson or Santander, but nobody should expect the veteran to crumble in a pressure situation.

Urías and Westburg have yet to make their postseason debut, but Urías has several years of experience under his belt. The former waiver claim hit .360 over 10 games with the Orioles in 2020 before slashing .279/.361/.412 in 2021. His power numbers are way down with only four home runs this year. Urías tallied 16 homers last season, but his batting average and on-base percentage have ticked up this year.

Urías provides the best defense with a 2.2 UZR at second and a 3.3 UZR at third. The Gold Glover has primarily played third this season, and only shifts to second when Mateo bumps Henderson to third. It’s difficult to imagine Baltimore providing four at bats to Mateo in playoff games, so it’s easy to see Urías at the hot corner unless both Frazier and Westburg require daily plate appearances.

Westburg has lived up to any reasonable expectations after debuting at the end of June. The 24-year-old slashed .270/.315/.411 in his first 51 games while splitting time between second and third base.

The question ultimately comes down to whether Frazier and Westburg are in a platoon or a battle. Frazier has struggled against lefties with a .193/.281/.333 line, while Westburg has slashed .283/.328/.433 in 64 plate appearances against southpaws. Frazier tallied only two of his 13 homers against left-handed pitchers.

Westburg clearly holds the advantage there, but it’s less clear against righties. Frazier boasts a .253/.303/.420 line in 335 plate appearances, while Westburg holds his own at .262/.307/.398. Westburg has only recorded two home runs in 51 games this year.

Westburg—who has doubled in four consecutive games—should have an opportunity to play his way into a true starting job over the final month of the season. If Westburg fails to claim the spot, the Orioles can easily turn to Frazier for playoff experience and power potential.

Frazier’s clutch numbers indicate an ability to deliver as a pinch hitter, but the former Pirate had only slashed .208/.321/.333 off the bench before yesterday’s game. He delivered a pinch-hit double in the ninth inning last night before scoring the tying run.

Feel free to file this one under “good problem to have.” That being said, the Orioles want to send out their best possible lineup. Fans could receive a preview of the club’s playoff mindset during a four-game series against the Rays next weekend. Second base should be fun to watch while the division title remains on the line for Hyde and the guys.