In 2011, Vladimir Guerrero was the Orioles’ designated hitter. While he produced decently, manager Buck Showalter felt somewhat hamstrung. He didn’t like having a DH who couldn’t play the field.
Last year, he had Wilson Betemit, Chris Davis, Nick Johnson and Jim Thome as well as occasionally resting a regular.
In 2013, Showalter used 16 different designated hitters, and not one started even 40 games there. That’s likely to change for 2014.
Danny Valencia, who spent much of the season in the minors, could be a DH, especially against left-handers. Valencia batted .371 against left-handers and .203 versus righties.
Valencia likely will have to play some third base, at least early in the season until Manny Machado returns, but his ability to hit lefties late in the season was very impressive.
Nolan Reimold started as the DH 27 times, but if he’s back, it will probably be more as an extra outfielder. He and Valencia are both right-handed hitters.
The Orioles hoped Henry Urrutia, who’s playing in the Arizona Fall League could be the DH. So far, he’s shown no power. With the Orioles, Urrutia had just one extra-base hit and batted .276 in 58 games. In the AFL, Urrutia is 5-for-13. His five hits are all singles.
The left-handed hitting Urrutia will be given a chance to compete next spring, but he’ll have to show more power.
Steve Pearce (18 games) and Chris Dickerson (14 games) also spent some time at DH, but it’s questionable if either or both return. The right-handed Pearce and the left-handed Dickerson are both injury prone.
If Brian Roberts is back, he may also spend some time at DH. He started there 13 times this season.
The Orioles may be looking for help there, and will probably try to remake their bench.
Machado’s injury and the likelihood he’ll miss some time early in the season could complicate the bench question.
The Orioles’ 40-man roster has one opening, and there are likely to be some changes to it in the coming days. Reimold, who is on the 60-day disabled list, will likely be added. Machado, who is also on the 60-day DL, doesn’t have to be added until Thanksgiving.
The team’s machinations with the 40-man will give us some idea of who is and isn’t a candidate for the roster next year. If the team carries 12 pitchers, there will be four extra players—a catcher and three others.
Let’s assume Valencia makes the team and Nate McLouth is back in left field, which is hardly a given, and Ryan Flaherty is back, too, that probably means there are three spots. One will go to a backup catcher. Reimold could compete for a spot, and so could Jonathan Schoop---especially if Roberts isn’t back.
The roster spots of Dickerson and Pearce are in jeopardy. Dan Johnson and Jason Pridie were last minute additions. Michael Morse is unlikely to return, and two extra catchers, Steve Clevenger and Chris Snyder are currently on the 40-man. If the Orioles don’t pick up Alexi Casilla’s $3 million option, he’s off the 40-man, too.
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will be busy, sifting through the waiver wires and making some trades to add to his bench.
There will be lots of DH/outfielder candidates over the winter, and the Orioles haven’t really started to look.
NOTES: In other AFL news, Jonathan Schoop is 1-for-17 in four games. Eduardo Rodriguez has allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings in two appearances for Surprise.