The Orioles are languishing through a 13-19 season and sitting in last place in the AL East, a place I think they will park themselves for the remainder of the season. It hasn’t been pretty to say the least but most Orioles fans know there is help in the minor leagues; I just don’t want to damage the future for the sake of attempting to save today.
With the injury to Luke Scott and a potential roster spot opening up if he has to go on the DL, many fans are calling for the promotion of Nolan Reimold from Triple-A Norfolk. I agree that Reimold is deserving of a shot in the major leagues this season, I just want to be sure he is playing everyday when he is brought up.
Felix Pie is not my favorite player in the world but he did have a nice game going 2-3 with a rare walk during the Orioles loss to the Yankees on Mother’s Day. Pie is still only hitting .183 with two extra base hits this season and has more strikeouts (17) then total bases (15) but he has shown some improvement. Pie’s defense has slowly improved in left field as he gains more experience; the catch he made to end the opening game of the Tampa Bay series last week was a great, athletic play. He has the ability to make plays in left that neither Reimold, Scott, nor Montanez have the athleticism to make; and his recognition of the ball off the bat has improved leaps and bound over the first month of 2009. I do not think Pie will turn into the five tool stud they were hoping for when they got him from the Cubs but just sixty at bats into 2009 they seem to have given up on him.
I don’t have an issue with giving up on Pie after 60 at bats only because left field is one position where the Orioles have great depth in their system. Lou Montanez deserves a proper shot at playing everyday; in just 33 at bats this season he is hitting .212 with a home run, three doubles, and five runs driven in. Montanez’ playing time took a hit after he injured his thumb making a diving catch in Toronto but he seems to have recovered from that injury and is ready to roll. Montanez showed some of his great potential at the plate Saturday against the Yankees going 2-3 with a homer, two RBI’s, and two runs scored in the Orioles 12-5 blowout win.
I think if the Pie experiment is indeed over then the Orioles should give Montanez a real shot at playing everyday. Trembley should write Montanez’ name on his lineup card everyday until the All Star break and see where we stand. If Montanez has entrenched himself in the Orioles lineup then we can begin to look at other options with Reimold, if he hasn’t then we can bring up Reimold to take over for the remainder of 2009. At 25 it may not be out of the realm of possibility to trade Reimold in a package for more young pitching, a third base or shortstop prospect. There is also the possibility of moving Reimold to first base if teams show an interest in trading for Aubrey Huff at some point the season. I have full faith in Reimold to become a future power hitter at the major league level and believe he could also be a very serviceable designated hitter; as a player who has a history of injuries perhaps this could maintain his health for the long haul.
While there is a huge question as to who will be the Orioles future left fielder there is no question who will be the Orioles catcher. Matt Wieters is a once in a lifetime talent that will be an All Star within his second full year in the big leagues.
When will Wieters be called up has been a bigger mystery than anything M. Night Shyamalan has ever come up with. The date of Wieters major league debut has been moved more times then the island on Lost. I don’t really have a problem with him being called up at anytime this season, because I think Wieters natural talent will allow him to succeed at a rapid rate in the big leagues.
Wieters has been hot lately in Norfolk, hitting .313 with five doubles, and seven RBI’s in his last ten games. The power numbers haven’t been quite where you would like to see them with only one big fly in 86 at bats but I have no doubt his power will come as the weather warms up.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Wieters staying on the farm until the All Star break; he still needs to develop in areas other than at the plate. Wieters needs to continue learning how to call a game behind the plate. The most underrated part of a catcher’s game by most fans is his ability to call a game and maintain the confidence of his pitchers in his pitch selection. In 1971 Elrod only hit .250 with nine homers but he lead his pitching staff and caught four twenty game winners, showing offense is only part of the big picture of being a successful catcher.
It will be good for Wieters to stay at Norfolk and continue to catch and develop a working relationship with Chris Tillman, David Hernandez, and Rich Hill; all of whom he may be catching for years to come in Baltimore.
I would also be nice for Wieters who turns 23 on May 21st to really gain some success in the minors before coming to the big leagues where he will be viewed as the “savior of Baltimore baseball”.
Something else I think that would be a huge help to Wieters development would be placing him in the six or seven hole when he is called up. I hope that Trembley doesn’t become wrapped up in the hype and throw a 23 year old rookie in the clean up spot in his major league debut. I think hitting Wieters a little lower in the lineup will take some of the enormous pressure off of his shoulders and add some much needed pop in the bottom of the lineup.
Reimold and Wieters are exciting young prospects who could help make the Orioles lineup one of the best in baseball from top to bottom. I am an impatient man but I think I can wait until July to see what they have to offer the big league club.