Image credit: Jonathan Villar (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
The Orioles raised eyebrows—and drew scorn—across baseball last week when they announced they had placed second baseman Jonathan Villar on waivers. Villar, one of baseball’s most productive second baseman, was due a sizable raise in arbitration, and the rebuilding O’s opted to place him on waivers rather than pay him to produce for a team likely going nowhere in 2020.
The Marlins took advantage on Monday, trading lefthanded pitching prospect Easton Lucas to the Orioles in exchange for Villar. Marlins second basemen combined to hit .249/.291/.407 last year, numbers Villar bested by at least 45 points across the board.
Easton Lucas, LHP
A 14th-round pick out of Pepperdine this year, Lucas long intrigued with his stuff but often played down to his competition and left scouts disappointed. A long, angular lefty, Lucas looks the part of a starter. He has an 88-92 mph fastball, an above-average slider and a curveball and changeup that each flash average, and he throws them all for strikes with a clean arm action and delivery. Lucas often looked great in warmups but struggled in games against mid-level college competition, with evaluators noting he’s a tentative competitor. He looked better in pro ball with a 3.98 ERA over 12 appearances (nine starts) at short-season Batavia with 40 strikeouts and nine walks in 31.2 innings. Lucas will open next season at the Class A levels. His body and four-pitch mix from the left side give him a foundation to work with.
Jonathan Villar, 2B
Villar quietly was one of baseball’s best second basemen last year, batting .274 with 24 home runs, 73 RBI and 40 stolen bases for the tanking Orioles. He finished fifth in the American League in runs scored (111) and ninth in hits (176). Villar is prone to strikeouts and his defense is average at best, but his hitting ability, power and speed more than make up for it. Villar has hit at least .240 with double-digit home runs and at least 20 stolen bases each of the last four years, and provides a significant upgrade to the Marlins middle infield at a low cost.