Simply uttering Mark Reynolds’ name garners the strongest reactions from even the most casual fans.
After trimming down in the offseason and spending countless hours with new third base coach DeMarlo Hale to improve his footwork and mental approach at third base, Reynolds has already committed two errors and had difficulty on several other plays in the season’s first week. The showing has reminded many of his 2011 season in which he made 26 errors in 114 games at third before being switched to first base later in the season, where he made five errors in 44 games.
Showalter continues to express faith in the improvement Reynolds showed during spring training, and it would be premature to bail on him at third base after having made the commitment to put him there this season. However, the Orioles manager has to be thinking how much longer he can stick with the 28-year-old at the hot corner and whether his struggles could impact his ability to produce at the dish.
Making $7.5 million this season and scheduled to become a free agent if the Orioles don’t trigger an $11 million club option for 2013, Reynolds has already been the subject of trade rumors and will likely be shopped heavily before the trade deadline in July. The Orioles will need to take a long look at how to maximize Reynolds’ trade value between now and then.
For what it’s worth, Reynolds posted a .911 OPS in 43 games at first base and only a .766 mark in 113 contests at third last year. Any American League team looking to add his power bat will likely view Reynolds primarily as a designated hitter, so his defense wouldn’t be as much of a factor for those clubs. However, Reynold’s offense is a better value at the third base position, where run production is at a premium unlike first base and designated hitter.
Ultimately, the biggest factor in deciding what to do with Reynolds could be first baseman Chris Davis, who the Orioles are trying to evaluate over an extended stretch this season. Acquired in the Koji Uehara trade last July, Davis has done little since his promising rookie season with the Rangers in 2008 to warrant a starting job, but it’s tough to overlook his raw power.
If Davis is unable to produce with any level of competency, it would pave the way for Reynolds to return to first base.
And for those asking why Davis isn’t playing third base, he’s committed 13 errors in 70 career games at the hot corner, which isn’t exactly an indication he can be any better than Reynolds at the position.
Bundy brilliant early
The excitement over 2011 first-round pick Dylan Bundy has only grown after the 19-year-old’s first two professional outings with Single-A Delmarva.
Bundy has struck out 12 in six perfect innings over his two starts, prompting many to speculate when — not if — the phenom will be moved to high Single-A Frederick. Against Kannapolis on Wednesday, Bundy struck out six, including the final five batters he faced and five of the six went down swinging.
He throws four pitches, highlighted by a mid-90s fastball that can reportedly top out at 99 miles per hour, and is easily viewed as the pitcher with the highest ceiling in the entire organization. However, it’s important to remember he’s made just two professional starts and is still adjusting to life after high school and away from his native Oklahoma.
For those wondering why Bundy has only pitched three innings in each of his two starts, the Orioles are looking to limit his innings to between 120 and 130 in 2012 but would like to do it without having to shut him down prior to the end of the season.
It’s easy to understand the temptation of promoting him quickly — especially when a Hall of Fame pitcher like Jim Palmer compares him to a young Nolan Ryan — but the Orioles are far better served in taking their time and making sure the right-hander remains healthy so he can reach his full potential. He’s just too important to the future of the organization to take any unnecessary risks.