Career Crossroads: Nick Markakis

June 01, 2012 | Joe Giglio

While his 2012 walk and home run rates are at their highest point since that ’08 season, it’s fair to wonder if that — not the three down years in between — was the mirage when it comes to evaluating Markakis. At one point, it was fair to project continued improvement. A corner outfielder with Gold Glove ability and the potential for a .300/.400/.500 slash line is rare. Baltimore paid Markakis $66.1 million to be that.

Now he’s on the shelf for what could be a month or more. Forget the counting stats living up to big expectations — taking away time will hurt the overall numbers. For a player that made his mark with a strong batting eye, it’s the lack of patience at the plate that feels most alarming to his future. Markakis walked 99 times in ’08, 56 times in ’09, 73 in ’10, and 62 last year. If he’s not going develop into a 30 homer threat, isn’t walking at a high rate, and doesn’t steal bases, what exactly does Markakis do well offensively?

It’s very possible that he was about to breakout before hurting his hand sliding last week. Maybe the power/eye combo was about to emerge in June.

But maybe we’ve seen the best of Markakis. At $11 million per season, Baltimore isn’t overpaying a solid-to-good player, but they certainly aren’t getting exactly what they paid for. While much of the attention on the Orioles will be focused on Adam Jones’ contract, Dan Duquette’s mid-season moves, and the state of the AL East race, keep an eye on Markakis when he returns.

There would be no bigger boost for Baltimore in the second half than a return to ’08 form by the player they once identified as a future star.

Does he have it in him?

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