LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. — Orioles farmhand Steve Wilkerson, who was expected to compete for a utility infielder spot this spring, has been suspended 50 games for a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Plan.
Wilkerson received the suspension for testing positive for an amphetamine.
Wilkerson, 25, had a breakout year this season that put him on the doorstep of the major leagues. The switch-hitting infielder batted .305/.375/.423 with 23 doubles, eight homers and 45 RBIs at High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.
Worth noting is that Wilkerson’s failed test occurred in the offseason, specifically late November, and that he passed every test he took during this past regular season and during the Arizona Fall League, according to an industry source.
The Orioles considered adding Wilkerson to the team’s 40-man roster to protect him from being selected in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft, but decided not to add him. His suspension was announced Tuesday, less than 48 hours before a draft in which he could have been picked.
Coming up through the Orioles’ farm system, Wilkerson played a majority of his games at second base and third base, but his ability to play around the infield and briefly in right field made him as candidate to replace free agent Ryan Flaherty as the team’s super-utility player.
Wilkerson, who used a strong season to break into the organization’s top prospects, had an opportunity to receive a long look during spring training because he offered value as a multi-positional defender and a switch-hitter to balance a right-handed-heavy batting order.
Wilkerson held his own from the left side of the plate last season, hitting .297/.361/.393 in 325 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. He hit .327/.409/.500 in 128 plate appearances against left-handers.