The Orioles could certainly get a lift this year with better production out of the designated hitter spot. Last season, O’s designated hitters batted .234 with 21 homers, 69 RBIs, a .415 slugging percentage and .704 OPS.
The O’s ranked ninth in the American League in batting average from the DH spot, 13th in OBP, fifth in slugging, fourth in homers and eighth in OPS, a little under the league average of .725.
No less than 16 players got at-bats at the DH spot in 2013. That will always be a spot where plenty of players get at-bats, because you also count the games where players like Chris Davis or Matt Wieters get a half-day off by serving as the DH. Danny Valencia led all O’s players with 37 DH starts and Nolan Reimold ranked second with 27.
No doubt the club would love to see less of a revolving door there and more production.
So who will get the DH at-bats in 2014? Will one player man the role for most of the season, or will the O’s use a platoon there?
Some candidates to get DH at-bats this season include Delmon Young, Nolan Reimold, Steve Pearce and Henry Urrutia. Possibly Jemile Weeks could as well if he makes the team and is not starting somewhere else, like second base.
Of that group, Young has the best numbers against left-handed pitching in his career. Here are the slash lines of the players against lefties:
.266/.351/.455 - Pearce
.252/.323/.426 - Reimold
.303/.341/.471 - Young
Reimold actually has a higher career OPS (.775 to .749) against right-handed pitchers. Weeks, a switch hitter, has similar splits against left and right-handers. His career slash line is .259/.321/.672 against right-handed pitching.
Could Urrutia be the lefty hitter as part of a platoon? His numbers last year against right-handed pitchers were strong. Here are his splits against right-handers for four teams in 2013:
.374/.446/.585 at Double-A Bowie
.333/.368/.494 at Triple-A Norfolk
.373/.418/.549 in the Arizona Fall League
.294/.294/.333 with the Orioles
Urrutia, who did not draw a walk or hit a homer in 58 at-bats last season with the Orioles, had just 51 at-bats against right-handers both in Baltimore and in the AFL.
The Orioles, of course, could give up a draft pick and sign Kendrys Morales and he could be the DH every game. Morales hit .277 with 23 homers and 80 RBIs for Seattle last year. Morales is a career .280 hitter with an OPS of .813 and those numbers far exceed the .234/.704 produced by O’s designated hitters in 2013.
Certainly, you have to weigh the cost of getting Morales and losing a pick against what, say a Young-Urrutia platoon or some other combination could produce.
So what is the best move here for the Orioles, a platoon, or hand the job to one player? Who do you feel will get a lot of DH at-bats in 2014?