With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.
INF Ryan Flaherty
Opening Day age: 30
Contract status: Under club control through the 2017 season
2016 stats: .217/.291/.318, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 16 R, 2 SB, 176 PA
Why to be impressed: Always known for his ability to play multiple positions at a solid level, Flaherty was particularly impressive at third base with six defensive runs saved as Manny Machado filled in for the injured J.J. Hardy quite a bit at shortstop. The light-hitting utility man also posted a career-high walk rate of 9.7 percent, which helps offset some of his limitations at the plate.
Why to be concerned: It’s no secret that Flaherty’s offense has always lagged behind his defense, but the modest power he once showed all but evaporated in 2016 with career lows in home runs and slugging percentage. He also received a cortisone injection for a sore right shoulder this spring, which isn’t exactly encouraging news for a player whose already-limited value comes from his defense.
2017 outlook: Flaherty’s contact rate hasn’t declined, but his increasing strikeout rate and declining power aren’t encouraging signs for a player scheduled to become a free agent next offseason. However, his above-average defense at third base gives Buck Showalter more confidence to move Machado to shortstop when Hardy either needs rest or misses time because of physical concerns.
Not-so-scientific projections for 2017: .221/.288/.334, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 18 R, 1 SB, 186 PA