Who's got the edge to back up in the outfield?

Who's got the edge to back up in the outfield?
January 10, 2014, 12:30 pm
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Hall of Fame voter Mark Zuckerman on the 2014 class

Nick Markakis will start in right field. Adam Jones in center, and David Lough will probably be the left fielder.

Lough is considered the replacement for Nate McLouth, who moved on to the Nationals. If Nolan Reimold is healthy and productive in spring training, he could get a spot.

Reimold’s health is no sure thing. He’s played just 286 major league games—less than two full seasons—since debuting in 2009.

He’s played in just 56 games the last two years, but it’s the potential that stands out.

In the years that he’s played most, Reimold has done well. In 2009, Reimold excited everyone by hitting .279 with 15 home runs in 104 games. He also had a healthy .365 on-base percentage. In 2011, it was a .247 average and 13 home runs in 87 games.

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There have been too many injuries for the Orioles to depend on Reimold, who could conceivably platoon with Lough or help out at designated hitter.

The Orioles have assembled lots of other candidates for the outfield.
Take Steve Pearce.

At 30, Pearce, who’s also had a lot of injuries, nearly completed a full season on a major league roster for the first time, but he got hurt. He played four games on a rehab assignment before the Orioles recalled him.

Pearce has a .238 lifetime average, but a .318 on-base percentage. Like Reimold, he’s a right-handed hitter. It might be hard for the Orioles to keep both Reimold and Pearce this time.

If Henry Urrutia is to make the club, it will probably be as a designated hitter, not an outfielder.

That leaves Francisco Peguero as the only other outfielder on the 40-man roster. Peguero is another right-handed hitter, and while he’s had an impressive minor league record, has had just 45 major league at-bats in the past two years.

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Including Lough, the Orioles have added four left-handed hitting outfielders in the last month.

They drafted Julio Borbon in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. An unusual pick for the Rule 5, Borbon hasn’t even been given a formal invitation to spring training.

In 72 games with the Chicago Cubs last year, Borbon hit just .202. In 2009 and 2010 with Texas, he batted .312 and .276, and played in two World Series games in 2010.

Xavier Paul was signed last month after Cincinnati did not offer him a contract. Paul has some power, with seven home runs in 97 games, a good eye, but just a .254 lifetime batting average.

It seems that the best shot of sticking belongs to Quintin Berry, who the Orioles signed last week. A high school teammate of Adam Jones, Berry is a base stealing savant. He’s stolen 29 bases in the majors without being thrown out.

Berry has a .277 average against right-handers, and may be able to add an ingredient to the Orioles they haven’t had in recent years, a late-inning stolen base threat.

The skirmish for the backup outfielder’s job won’t be the most fascinating one in spring training, but it could at least add some intrigue.