Baltimore Orioles 2013 in review: Nolan Reimold

Patrick Smith

Once a vaunted prospect, Reimold once again struggled with his health and productivity in 2013, putting his Orioles future in jeopardy.

Of all the silly things I believed this offseason, two of them strike me as insanely foolish now: The prediction that the Red Sox would have a .500ish season, and the prediction that Nolan Reimold would finally, finally have that big season that Orioles fans had always seen in him. Baseball defies predictions, and Nolan Reimold may never have that big season as an Oriole now.

Coming back from 2012 spinal fusion surgery, the spring training beat on Reimold was that he felt 100% for the first time in years, was in the "best shape of his life," blah blah blah. What actually happened is that Reimold struggled out of the gate for the Orioles and never really put anything together, finishing at a putrid .195/.250/.336 in just 40 games before revealing that the vertebrae in his back hadn't fused properly and he'd require a second surgery. Now, Reimold is going to be 30 years old, coming up on his second year of arbitration, and he hasn't played as many as 90 games since his rookie campaign in 2009.

Reimold's struggles were a major contributor to the team's overall futility at DH to start the year. He struck out 41 times and walked only 10. He hit just five home runs and OPSed a miserable .586. There was no hidden upside to his offensive numbers, and it was clear from watching his plate appearances that he never got comfortable at the dish.

In May, Reimold went to the DL for what was billed as a hamstring problem, but he came back in July for only eight games before he and the team admitted to the ongoing back issues, which were likely the cause of Reimold's hitting struggles all along.

Reimold has now crossed the plane into a "what could've been" kind of player. He clearly had the talent to stick in the majors (look at that nice career .327 OBP, even factoring in the down years), but his body just wasn't built to keep him in the game. And now, at age 30, he's at or near the end of what should've been his prime, and he's accrued enough service time to start getting expensive.

It's hard to see Reimold factoring into the Orioles' 2014 plans. The payroll is already going to have to support a lot of arbitration pay raises for players who, unlike Reimold, have been producing every day. Even though the team's left field situation will be unsettled in the offseason (Nate McLouth might be a pricey re-signing, and Henry Urrutia and Steve Pearce are far from clear solutions), I have a hard time imagining Dan Duquette bringing Reimold back. If I'm right and he doesn't, his Orioles legacy will be little beyond a promising rookie campaign and a trail of unfulfilled expectations, which is really too bad, but I guess that's baseball for you.

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