It's hard to believe that we are at the home stretch of our Baltimore Orioles Spring Training preview as we arrive at part eight, the outfielders. There are no surprises for two-thirds of the outfield, but that final third will be quite an event to watch.
The Orioles outfield is really Adam Jones in center and Nick Markakis in right, then a handful of guys looking to secure playing time in left field.
Jones is coming off of a career year that saw him hit .285 with 33 homers, 108 RBI and 35 doubles as well as winning another Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, an All Star berth and a 13th place finish in the AL MVP race. Jones is the anchor in the outfield and will be looking to at least repeat his 2013 performance this season with an improved on base percentage.
Markakis should be a candidate for comeback player of the year this season as he is coming off of a career low season on multiple accounts. Coming off of his only injury ridden season in 2012, Markakis did not look like himself in 2013 and his numbers showed it. He hit a career low .271 with a career low 10 homers, career low .329 on base percentage and a career low 24 doubles. He would never admit it, but we believe Markakis' wrist was not 100% in 2013 and after a full winter to workout, we expect 2014 to be a huge bounce back season for Nick.
Now left field is where the fun starts.
For the most part, the Orioles lost their everyday left fielder, Nate McLouth to free agency this winter, and knew it was going to be a hole that needed to be filled. Unfortunately, much like every other hole in the roster, that need did not get filled and Baltimore was left to try and solve it another way than free agency. The current front runner for the job, David Lough was acquired via trade from the Kansas City Royals, but it still unproven at the Major League level as he has just 116 career games in the big leagues, but does hold a .278 average with five homers, 19 doubles, five triples and 35 RBI in those games. He does boast a career .297 average in the minor leagues with a .349 on base percentage. In 2013, he hit .286 with five homers, 17 doubles, four triples, and 33 RBI in 335 plate appearances for the Royals and finished eighth in AL Rookie of the Year voting. His biggest draw is the fact that he can hit both right handers and left handers well, which bodes well for him earning the everyday left field spot.
After Lough, it get's really interesting. Baltimore acquired the once highly touted prospect Francisco Peguero this offseason, but he has yet to have his Minor League success translate into the big leagues, although he really hasn't had many opportunities as he has just 35 games of experience in the Majors. Many feel that Peguero could find himself earning the fourth outfielder spot, but he will have some tough competition for that. Peguero has a career .306 average in the Minors, and a .200 average in the big leagues in 45 at bats.
Another name in the conversation is a familiar one here in Baltimore in Nolan Reimold. The often injured right hander simply hasn't been able to stay healthy, which keeps the all to often over hyped word of "potential" attached to him. We all know why the Orioles love him so much, he has shown promise at the big league level as we are all to familiar with the hot start he got off to in 2012 when he hit .313 with five homers, six doubles, and ten RBI in 16 games before an injury ended his season. The big question with Reimold is if he can stay healthy, after all he is coming off of two spinal fusion surgeries. He says he feels the best he has felt physically in years, but what else would you expect him to say?
Henry Urrutia is another candidate in the outfield, although many feel that he is looking at strictly being the left handed DH for the Orioles in 2014. Urrutia showed improved fundamentals defensively in the Arizona Fall League in 2013 and if he is able to play an average left field, that could bode extremely well for the Orioles. Offensively, Urrutia must show some more power in his bat, which he has added some weight this offseason and the fact that he was finally able to have a comfortable winter this offseason after defecting from Cuba last year, that should also bode well for him.
There are several other guys in the mix in the outfield, including the leading candidate to be the team's right handed DH in Delmon Young, but some say he should not even bring his glove to Sarasota as his only way to make the team will be showing he can still hit left handers extremely well. Xavier Paul will also be in camp, although he is not considered to be a real threat to earn a spot on the 25-man roster, as well as Julio Borbon who was a Minor League depth acquisition, who the Orioles hope can realize his potential.
One of Adam Jones good friends Quintin Berry will also be in camp, and although he would bring some stolen base ability to the roster, which the Birds lack, he is very unlikely to break camp with the big league club. Steve Pearce will also see some time in the outfield and is the forgotten man in all of this. Pearce will be looking to become the first back-to-back Jake Fox Spring Training Award winner, and it seems pretty likely that Pearce will have to put together a Spring like he did last year to make the team.
The outfield should be fun to watch unfold this Spring and the biggest question with be how Manager Buck Showalter will find the at bats and innings to get a good enough look at the 11 outfielders in camp.
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- Orioles101′s Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Preview Part Five: Catchers
- Orioles101′s Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Preview Part Seven: Corner Infielders
- Orioles101′s Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Preview Part Six: Middle Infielders
- Orioles101′s Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Preview Part Two: Bullpen Newcomers
- Orioles101′s Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Preview Part Four: Battle for Fifth Spot
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