Nolan Reimold began the 2012 season as the Orioles' left fielder and had a big month of April. Nate McLouth ended the 2012 season as the Orioles' left fielder and had a big month of September - and then went 7-for-22 in the American League Division Series. He had five RBIs in six postseason games.
Reimold seemed to carry the Orioles at times early in the season. He played in just 16 games batting .313 with five homers, 10 RBIs and with an OPS of .960. It looked like he might be on his way to the 30-homer season that some have predicted for him.
Then an injury struck again and neck spasms led to epidural injections, which led to surgery, which led to more questions about whether Reimold can stay healthy for a full season. He seems set to make a full recovery and be ready to go next spring but that is not guaranteed.
McLouth went from a player hitting .140 who was released by Pittsburgh to one who started for the Orioles and was even batting third for a time. In 55 games with the Birds, he batted .268 with seven homers, 35 runs, 12 steals, 18 RBIs and a .777 OPS.
He can now be a free agent and it would seem that he's a player the club will look to resign. This MLBTradeRumors.com look at McLouth's contract status predicts that despite his strong finish to the year that he will not likely get more than a one-year, $3 million deal for 2013.
So if both are on the roster next year and Reimold is healthy, who plays left field? Could the two platoon? Does Reimold become the DH, and if he does, where does that leave Chris Davis?
In a best-case scenario for the Orioles, all three players are healthy and playing well and having a problem getting good players at-bats is one the team would find a way to deal with.
McLouth's career numbers against left-handed pitching (.223 average, .649 OPS) may lend itself to a platoon situation even though Reimold's career numbers are actually better versus right-handed pitching and Reimold's career numbers against right-handers are a touch better than McLouth's.
Is McLouth the incumbent, who would have to be beaten out for the job in the spring? Was Nolan there first if you go back to April and is the job his if healthy?
Also, what happens with Reimold and McLouth could impact younger outfield prospects like Xavier Avery and LJ Hoes, who both made it to the O's roster this year but who both also probably still need more minor league time.
I've always thought if given 500 at-bats, Reimold would put up numbers like Chris Davis did this year and that the awesome raw power from Davis that we saw from the left side we could see from Reimold from the right side.
Reimold turned 29 on Friday. McLouth will turn 31 on Oct. 28. Both are in their prime years and both seem fully capable of being the O's left fielder next year, Reimold if healthy and McLouth if re-signed.
There is no question that having both healthy and playing well on the same roster makes the Orioles a better team. But who plays left and who could be left out?