Yesterday on Camden Chat, we talked a lot about the "pending-physical" signing of Pedro Alvarez and how it affects the Orioles lineup. Will Chris Davis still be at first base? Who plays right field? It could mean a lot of things. So, I figured I would just keep on talking about it, because why not?
The addition of Alvarez and the continued offensive woes of Hyun Soo Kim (he is now 0-for-21 so far) in Spring Training now have both the corner outfield spots, the designated hitter spot AND first base all in question. CC's Mark Brown mentioned that it sounds like Davis will still be the first baseman and Mark Trumbo will get the bulk of his time in right field. But if you really think about it, does that make the most sense?
What fielders will there be to pick from?
Let's agree that manager Buck Showalter will go with 13 fielders out of Spring Training. Maybe he goes with more or less, but we will say 13 for now. The hitters who appear to be locks for the team would be Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Davis, Matt Wieters, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, Caleb Joseph, Ryan Flaherty, Trumbo, Kim and Alvarez. That's 11 right there and I'm going to go ahead and give the final two spots to Joey Rickard and Nolan Reimold.
The corner outfielders
In right field, the conversation has become Trumbo v. Davis. Both are big power guys with the kinds of home runs you expect from a right fielder. You are likely familar with their offensive expectations at this point. Both will play in most of the team's games, but when it comes to defense, Crush rises above the Trumbinator (I'm trying it out).
Over 253.1 innings in right field last summer, Davis accumulated a UZR/150 of 20.4. Meanwhile, Trumbo managed a UZR/150 of -6.6 over 578.2 innings. That's pretty awful and, while the outfield is tiny at Camden Yards, the scoreboard and odd corner in right could cause him some grief. The trends for those two pretty much carry throughout their careers. Davis is the better option here on a daily basis.
Granted Davis has spent much more time at first, where his career slash line is .248/.328/505, but he doesn't really give up any offense when moved to right field, slashing .251/.308/.535.
In left field it is more of a battle in playing styles. Kim v. Reimold v. Rickard. Kim is the offense-first option. Reimold is the jack of all trades, master of none. And Rickard is the defense-first option, who is also good against southpaws.
Kim's problem is that if he doesn't hit there is no reason to play him. According to scouting reports, his defense is just average. But even if he does hit, Reimold and Rickard are better in the field and it may push Kim into the DH discussion some nights. For now, let's stick with Kim as the everyday option, but it could easily be three different guys playing on three consecutive days.
At first base...
Although the new signing Alvarez is a first baseman, he needs to stay far, far away from the field. With him over there, Machado and Hardy would see themselves on highlight reels a lot less often because Alvarez is not the guy that is going to save your wayward throws. Just no. Stick to DHing.
Davis is the guy who signed the mega-deal to stay as the everyday first baseman, so maybe the O's should just let him do it. In fact, he is even great with the glove there. A few years back he was nominated for a Gold Glove award and last year he put together a UZR/150 of 5.7 over 947 innings and now has two consecutive seasons of positive Zone Ratings after struggling in 2013
But Trumbo is no slouch with a first baseman's mitt in his hand. In 2015 he had a UZR/150 of 8.9 at the position, but just 152 innings played there. He was less effective at first in 2014, but in 2013 he saw 1030.2 innings of action and had a UZR/150 of 10.5. He may be more comfortable there than in the outfield. And since Davis fits better in the outfield why not go with Trumbo everyday at first?
If we go back to comparing offensive production at a given position, Trumbo does actually see a drop in output when he gets time at first base rather than right field. In right he has a career slash line of .275/.332/.497 over 138 games, whereas at first base it is down to .249/.295/.466 over 355 games. His career numbers, .250/.300/.458, reflect the production at first base and are pretty close to what he does when DHing, .243/.309/.426. But if the position switch enables him to be a positive influence on defense rather than a drag, it may be worth any slight dip in form at the plate.
Showalter is going to do what he does. The lineups are unlikely to be the same day in and day out. He is going to go with the hot hand some days and other days go with what the numbers tell him from years of these guys being professional baseball players. What's sure is that a roster spot will not go unused
-Davis will play just about every day no matter who the pitcher is, whether he is in right field, at first or DHing.
-Trumbo will also likely get a ton of game time and is familiar with both corner outfield spots as well as first base.
-Alvarez should only DH and only hit against right-handers. It is a pretty specific spot to have on a roster, but the guy hits home runs.
-Reimold will see some time at the top of the order, especially against lefties. And, depending on the lineup, could serve as a late-inning defensive upgrade in left field.
-Kim is still the most likely everyday left fielder, but he's got to get it together this spring. His on base ability has to be there.
-Rickard could be the surprise of the season, nothing spectacular but could serve as a useful late-inning defender as well as a spot starter against lefties and provide speed on the bases.
While there is no clear answer here, it does appear that the Orioles have plenty of options, albeit not perfect. There is enough present for Showalter to cobble together a competitive lineup everyday.
Thanks for reading!! Remember you can follow the blog on Twitter and "Like" us on Facebook. Down in the comments, leave your solution for the problem the O's face with left field, right field, first base and DH. Who would you start against left-handers? How about right-handers?