Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Orioles boast impressive outfield

At 36-47 (and 3-7 in their last 10 games), the Orioles haven't been playing very good baseball lately. That certainly includes games away from Camden Yards this season: the O's are 12-27 on the road.

Nevertheless, even with the O's in a funk right now, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick focuses on three reasons that O's fans should be thankful: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold (four if you include Luke Scott). Crasnick also mentions Matt Wieters and a trio of young pitchers in the O's farm system, but he's particularly impressed with the talent in the outfield, which he calls "baseball's most dynamic young outfield":

It's enough to make the old-timers in town reflect wistfully on the Frank Robinson-Don Buford-Paul Blair days at Memorial Stadium.

Jones, 23, and Markakis and Nolan Reimold, both 25, give Baltimore a threesome worth envying. They're athletic, affordable and loaded with promise and tools. Factor in the contribution of DH and occasional left fielder Luke Scott, who has 16 homers and a .569 slugging percentage, and no one cares that erstwhile phenom Felix Pie is as big a washout in Baltimore as he was in Chicago.

"We're still under .500, but this is a different scenario than '04, '05 and '06," said hitting coach Terry Crowley. "Now we have legitimate young guys who are going to get better because they can play the game. It might not come to the surface every day because of their youth and inexperience. But when the smoke clears, these guys can play the game."

Regardless of the O's record, that's a pretty nice -- and young -- collection of talent in the outfield. With 83 games in the books, here are the splits for the three:

Nick Markakis: .293/.349/.447, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 29 BB
Adam Jones: .305/.361/.497, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 22 BB
Nolan Reimold: .265/.341/.471, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 18 BB

Markakis's numbers are down a bit right now, possibly because he's not walking as much as last season (99 walks). Then again, he usually heats up in the second half of the season, so his numbers could shoot up if he goes on a tear in the next few weeks. For his career, Markakis has a July OPS of .904 and an August OPS of 1.027.

Jones has been outstanding, which is obviously why he's the O's all-star representative. He's been reaching base more, walking more, and when he hits the ball, it's going farther -- he's already hit three more homers than last year.

And Reimold has been a pleasant surprise; now that he's healthy, the rookie is showing the Orioles exactly what he can contribute. He may not be a .300 hitter, but he has an outstanding eye at the plate and possesses lots of power.

With the success of this trio, Luke Scott (.296/.380/.569, 16 HR, 43 RBI, 28 BB) appears to be expendable if the O's decide to pursue a trade or two. Scott, 31, definitely gives the O's a solid DH and fourth outfielder, but it's not likely that he'll be able to hit this well for a full season. But, hey, if he does, that'll be an excellent season.

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