It may only be June 7, but former Oriole Nick Markakis is having an incredible year so far with the Atlanta Braves. Through 62 games, he is hitting .328/.392/.498 with 8 home runs, 42 RBI, 18 doubles and a 28:27 BB/SO ratio. He ranks fourth in the National League in batting average, second in doubles, fifth in RBI, sixth in OBP, ninth in OPS (.890) and seventh in WAR (2.2).
From 2006-2014, Markakis averaged a .290/.358/.435 batting line for the Orioles. He’s been gone from Baltimore for more than three years now, and the O’s still haven’t been able to fill his place. It’s been a revolving door of players in right field, with no one person in particular able to stick.
In the past few years, the one with the best batting numbers and with considerable playing time at that position is Mark Trumbo. But his glove work leaves something to be desired, and he is not currently the every day right fielder. His days in that role with the Orioles seem to be gone.
So now let’s take a look at what the last three plus years in right field have looked like, including who has filled in next to Adam Jones in the outfield and what they’ve done.
The first year without Markakis started with Travis Snider in his old position and it was not pretty. I will spare you the numbers. The Snider experiment lasted about 20 some odd games until he was jettisoned and the Orioles looked elsewhere.
Delmon Young played 39 games in right, where he batted .270/.278/.338. His average was not too bad but he couldn’t buy a walk and he wasn’t getting extra base hits, a preferred trait for a corner outfielder and one that Young had shown in the past.
Gerardo Parra, a midseason trade acquisition from the Milwaukee Brewers, saw time in 47 games in right field for the Orioles. But he was not the answer either (he also made seven appearances in left and 10 in center). In his half season with the O’s, he only managed to hit .237/.268/.357 overall.
Chris Davis played 30 games in right field, with most of them coming in July. He mustered a .252/.311/.532 batting line while playing that position. Who wouldn’t take those numbers from him now, by the way.
In addition to the aforementioned players, Alejandro De Aza, Nolan Reimold and Dariel Alvarez each saw a bit of time in right field. But none of them appeared in more than 12 games there.
Collectively in 2015, Orioles right fielders hit .275/.318/.449.
Mark Trumbo got the majority of starts in right this particular year, which also happened to be his career year at the plate. When playing right field (95 games), Mark Trumbo hit .267/.332/.556 with 29 home runs and 67 RBI.
Overall, Orioles right fielders hit .266/.339/.502.
Joey Rickard appeared in 32 games at the position during his rookie season, after being selected from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Rule 5 draft. In right field, he had a solid .281/.359/.404 triple slash line at the plate. Personally, I would take those first two numbers any day of the week, even if the slugging percentage leaves something to be desired.
Nolan Reimold, in his last season in the big leagues, played 18 games in right field and put up a .261/.333/.500 batting line. Also, Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs only appeared in a handful of games at the position (13 each).
Preceding the 2017 season, the Orioles acquired Seth Smith to play the outfield primarily against right-handed pitchers. He hit .271/.348/.469 in 74 games as the right fielder. Those numbers are solid all the way around, but his defense, not so much.
Joey Rickard, unable to replicate his rookie year success, played 42 games in right last year. He hit an uninspiring .231/.262/.316 while playing there.
Mark Trumbo saw action in 31 games in right, batting an impressive .331/.368/.508. There is something about Trumbo’s batting numbers when he is playing the outfield corner. Maybe there is a connection or maybe it’s just a coincidence, but he always seems to hit well while stationed there.
Craig Gentry played 19 games in right field, and he is different because he brings a rare speed element to the table. It’s something the Orioles sorely lack to this day, on an almost nightly basis in their lineup. But he is best served as an occasional fill-in, not as an every day player.
Overall, Orioles right fielders managed a .274/.326/.433 batting line in 2017.
Which brings us to the current year. We are about a third of the way into the season now and the Orioles right fielders, as a group, are hitting .217/.270/.343.
A total of six different players have tallied at-bats in right, with the majority of plate appearances coming from Anthony Santander, who currently resides with the Double-A Bowie Baysox. He hit .198 with a .547 OPS in the majors this year, while accounting for 29 games in right.
Mark Trumbo missed some time at the start of the season, but he is still getting a few starts here and there in the outfield. On the season, he has 29 plate appearances in right, where he’s hitting .379/.419/.517. In total, he’s hitting .284/.318/.412.
Other players to appear at the position this season include Joey Rickard (45 ABs, .222/.255/.444), Craig Gentry (30 ABs, .167/.265/.233), Colby Rasmus (9 ABs, .111/.200/.222) and Jace Peterson (5 ABs, .200/.333/.400).
Right field may not be the only spot where the Orioles are hurting at the moment, but it is remarkable how no one player has been able to hold down the position since Nick Markakis left. Over the course of his career, Markakis has been a very underrated player. He may not be flashy, but he is efficient. If the Orioles want to sustain any kind of long-term success, they will need to find better ways to replace star players like him when they leave.