Will the Orioles be left with Kim as the everyday left fielder?

Under the heading of “obvious needs” for the Orioles, you’re going to find references to the hole in right field and at designated hitter. You’re going to hear about a veteran catcher, though standing pat isn’t the worst idea, according to some folks in the industry. Same with the bullpen.

The one that is less obvious involves left field and the possibility of a right-handed hitter to platoon with Hyun Soo Kim.

Is it necessary?

The question is aimed in two directions. Kim may have earned the chance to be a full-time player. Joey Rickard, no longer bogged down by his Rule 5 status, is a right-handed hitter who’s expected to be fully recovered from the torn ligament in his right thumb that ended his season after July 20.

Rickard is better with the glove than Kim and the Orioles want to improve their outfield defense. He also would be a candidate to bat leadoff.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed last week that the club is considering a right-handed hitter to pair with Kim.

The Orioles created a small sample size of Kim’s work against southpaws by giving him only 22 plate appearances. They clearly moved past the nickname “Iron Man.”

Kim-HR-Swing-White-Sidebar.jpgKim was 0-for-17 if you believe baseball-reference.com and 0-for-18 if you check orioles.com, with four walks, four strikeouts and two runs scored in 15 games. Nolan Reimold pinch-hit for him with Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano on the mound in the 11th inning of the wild card game. Reimold struck out and Twitter almost imploded.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter has referenced the inconsistencies in Kim’s production versus lefties in the Korean Baseball Organization. Finding the stats is a bit of a project and there are discrepancies, but KBO updated its site.

Kim batted .220 (42-for-191) against left-handers in 2010 and .249 (44-for-177) in 2011. However, he batted .310 (45-for-145) in 2012, .304 (52-for-171) in 2013, .374 (58-for-155) in 2014 and .333 (54-for-162) in 2015.

The usual disclaimer applies regarding the quality of pitching in the KBO compared to the majors. Kim was a power threat before signing his two-year deal with the Orioles, smacking 28 home runs in 2015, but he hit only six home runs in 305 at-bats this year.

The Orioles could decide to give Kim more at-bats against lefties, but they’d need a right-handed hitter waiting in the wings in case they weren’t satisfied with the results. How else would this work?

Rickard would be an easy in-house solution, but the Orioles seem inclined to search outside the organization, as well. It just doesn’t need to be a top priority when compared to what’s happening in right field and at designated hitter.

The Orioles batted .234 against left-handers this season, the lowest in the American League and ahead of only the Dodgers (.214). Maybe it’s not that important, given how the Dodgers won the National League West and advanced to the Championship Series.

Caleb Joseph was 3-for-36 (.083) against left-handers, Mark Trumbo was 27-for-156 (.173), Steve Pearce was 5-for-28 (.179), Reimold was 19-for-104 (.183), Chris Davis was 38-for-176 (.216), Adam Jones was 32-for-147 (.218), Matt Wieters was 24-for-105 (.229) and Pedro Alvarez was 9-for-38 (.237).

Manny Machado was the best among the regulars, going 50-for-152 for a .329 average. Rickard was 26-for-83 (.313) and Ryan Flaherty was 6-for-20 (.300).

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