Orioles manager Buck Showalter has issued warnings in the past about never overlooking an orchid while searching for a rose. It’s one of his favorite phrases.
During the Q&A forum at FanFest last weekend, Showalter was asked which orchids were being overlooked on the current roster. He immediately brought up second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
“If you look back through the normal progression of young players, the thing that allowed us to stick with Jonathan Schoop last year when he was hitting .210, .220 was his ability to impact the game defensively,” Showalter said. “Nobody turns a double play better than Jon in the American League. And when you’ve got a closer who sinks the ball like Zach (Britton) does, and Darren (O’Day), you’ve got to be able to get two outs with one ball.
“Jon basically was a college junior, senior last year. Let’s keep that in mind. I think he’s got a lot of want-to. I saw him last night. He’s trimmed down to 225. That’s a big human being, strong. Jon’s got a chance to go to another level. He does.”
Showalter also said “the sky’s the limit” with third baseman Manny Machado.
“I think there’s a lot of guys that are really primed,” he added. “I think Steve Pearce does too many things well and has too good of work habits. ... I don’t think Steve is going to regress.
“Last year was the first year Steve stayed healthy. A lot had to do with overwork to be prepared for an opportunity. It’s one of the conversations I had with him last year. I said, ‘Stevie, more is not better. You’re playing every day now. You can’t spend an hour and a half in the cage.’ “
Pearce’s most surprising contribution may have come on the field. He proved to be a better defender than advertised, no matter where he played, which takes us back to what Showalter said earlier about Schoop.
You better field your position if you want to stay in the lineup and in the majors.
The Orioles expect Travis Snider to make a smooth transition to right field at Camden Yards, as first base coach Wayne Kirby told me at FanFest. He’ll lose innings out there if it doesn’t happen.
The infield is in good hands, for sure, with Machado, Schoop, shortstop J.J. Hardy and first baseman Chris Davis. A healthy Matt Wieters, a two-time Gold Glove winner, gives the Orioles a weapon behind the plate. Center field Adam Jones has won four Gold Gloves in the last six seasons, including three in a row. The Orioles traded for Alejandro De Aza on Aug. 30 to improve their defense in left field, and they kept David Lough because of his glove.
Delmon Young is more comfortable in right field, but it probably won’t matter. He’s on the roster because of his bat. He’s an exception to Showalter’s rule.
Checking the 40-man roster, two players who need to change Showalter’s opinion of their defense, and therefore improve their chances of making the club, are infielder Jimmy Paredes and catcher Steve Clevenger.
Paredes went 16-for-53 (.302) with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs in 18 games after the Orioles purchased his contract from the Royals on July 24 and recalled him from Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 28. He hit .234/.274/.311 in parts of three seasons with the Astros and went 2-for-10 with Kansas City, so his output with the Orioles couldn’t have been forecast without a crystal ball.
In the end, it wasn’t enough to keep Paredes in the lineup. He committed three errors in 13 games at third base and looked shaky while making other plays. He couldn’t be trusted.
Being a switch-hitter would seemingly give Paredes an edge in camp competition, but he’s not going to beat out Ryan Flaherty for a utility role if he’s below average with the glove.
Clevenger broke camp as Wieters’ backup last spring and went 5-for-20 with three doubles, a triple, four RBIs, three walks and three runs scored in eight games in April. It was nice to see a backup who actually could make contact. But the Orioles, concerned that Clevenger was focusing too much on his offense in Wieters’ absence, optioned him on May 27 after Davis came off the paternity list.
Showalter was more comfortable using Caleb Joseph, who threw out 40 percent of runners attempting to steal, and Nick Hundley, acquired from the Padres on May 24 for left-hander Troy Patton.
Joseph batted .207/.264/.354 in 81 games, but Showalter loved his work behind the plate. Meanwhile, Clevenger appeared in two games in July and one in August, and he received only 12 at-bats in September.
Clevenger held onto his spot on the 40-man roster while the Orioles removed Ryan Lavarnway and Michael Ohlman. He knows what needs to be done to get back onto the 25-man roster on opening day.
Shameless plug alert: The “Hot Stove Show” airs again tonight on 105.7 The Fan. Davis and Joseph are two of the confirmed guests.