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Which outfielder in Spring Training with the O's could fill Nolan's shoes?
Here are some facts. There is precious little actual stuff to write about during Spring Training. The team's W-L record and player stats mean little to nothing, everyone is in great shape and injuries are downplayed. There are a few positional battles, sure, but we have little to no information to go on. Another fact is that I love Nolan Reimold more than I probably should as someone who tries very hard to write objectively about the Baltimore Orioles. The idea of him being injured is quite upsetting, and while no one is saying anything too negative about his sore shoulder, being that it's Nolan Reimold, I think we're all thinking the worst.
So, if Nolan does have to start the season on the disabled list, who would take his place on the roster? Obviously that would make Nate McLouth the starting left fielder, so the spot would be someone playing the role of fourth outfielder.
The only other outfielders on the 40-man roster are Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes. Avery saw some time with the team last year, playing in 32 games with little success. Strictly has a defensive replacement Avery isn't bad, but at the plate he has yet to prove that he's capable. Hoes has put up marginally better numbers at the plate but defensively isn't as attractive an option. Hoes also has the benefit of being a right-handed hitter that would compliment the lefty McLouth while Avery is a lefty.
If Reimold's injury keeps him from starting the season but the team is reasonably sure that he'll be gone for just a few weeks, either Avery or Hoes could fill in. I'd be satisfied with either of them for a short time, and it avoids having to take someone off of the 40-man roster if the Orioles decided on one of the non-roster invitees.
If Reimold's injury is going to keep him out for longer than a few weeks, then I think the team needs to look at removing someone from the 40-man, someone like Yamaico Navarro or Russ Canzler (if neither make the team out of Spring Training, which I don't think they will) to make room for an outfielder that can provide a little more value in the short term than Avery or Hoes, both of which I think need more time in the minors before they're ready to be big leaguers (if they are ever ready).
The NRI outfielders in camp for the Orioles are Conor Jackson, Lew Ford, Jason Pridie, Trayvon Robinson, and Chris Dickerson. I'm sorry, Lew lovers, but I'm counting him out immediately. The same goes for Jason Pridie, who just doesn't have the numbers in the minors or the majors. That leaves Jackson, Robinson, and Dickerson.
Dickerson is also a lefty, and between McLouth and Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit, what the Orioles don't need is another guy who can't hit lefties. In his 599 ML plate appearances, Dickerson has hit .253/.344/.316 against lefties. So he can't hit for power against them, but he can still get on base (OBP being one of Dickerson's perks overall).
Trayvon Robinson was on the 40-man roster as recently as a few weeks ago, but the truth is that he can't really hit. Like, at all. He has pretty good OBP in the minors, but he spent the last two seasons in the Pacific Coast League, which is a hitter's paradise. When the Orioles traded Robert Andino for Robinson, Jeff Sullivan said of Robinson, "Some guys get profiled as fourth or fifth outfielders. Right now, Robinson is probably more of a sixth or seventh outfielder.
Finally, that brings us to Conor Jackson. Jackson has had his troubles over the last few seasons with injury and with the whole not panning out as the star people thought he'd be thing. He's also more of a first baseman than an outfielder, but he can play both. I won't insult you with Jackson's ST numbers so far (even though they are sick), but I will show you this: .283/.381/.436. That is Jackson's career line against lefties,and with McLouth as a primary outfielder who can only get on base against lefties about 30% of the time, Jackson's bat is a great complement to McLouth's (as is Reimold's, of course). Jackson also gives another option at first base if the Orioles want to give Chris Davis a day at designated hitter or if they want to sit him instead of McLouth against a tough lefty.
Of course, all that being said, my fingers are tightly crossed that Reimold's sore shoulder will only slow him down for a few more days in Spring Training and then he'll be ready for Opening Day with time to spare. But if there is one thing we've learned about Reimold it's that we can't count on him to be ready. If he's not, I'll be sad, but Jackson would be the obvious choice to replace him on the roster.