So if you go to Orioles.com, select ‘Roster’, and then choose ‘Depth Chart’, you’ll notice a slight problem. Steve Pearce is projected to start both at designated hitter and also at first base. Now Steve Pearce was great last year and I wouldn’t put it past him to be really effective starting at both of these positions, but rules would not allow for it. Moreover, to complicate things further, Buck Showalter said during the Winter Meetings that Steve Pearce would be the starting right fielder if the season started today. So which is it, 1B, DH, or RF? Again, I don’t doubt that in any given game he could successfully start at all three of positions, but again, it’s against the rules. Now of course, this is silly and the depth chart projections mean very little, but I think it does say something about our team.
In the same interview where Buck Showalter mentioned Pearce could start in right field he also said, “Really the only thing we don't have even though we've made three subtractions is who's going to DH? Other than that, I could tell you what we'd break camp with right now as starters." And this is the problem with the Orioles offense right now. They lack one hitter. Whether that hitter is a corner outfielder fielder (and Pearce moves to DH) or that hitter is a first baseman (and Chris Davis could share time at first and DH), or if that hitter is just a straight DH, it really doesn’t matter. The point is the Orioles just need another hitter. If the season started today and Pearce (like Buck said) plays right and Chris Davis plays first (though technically, I understand he will miss the first game of the season due to his suspension), then who will DH for the Orioles?
If you answered Christian Walker, then you are wrong. Or at least I very much hope you’re wrong. Christian Walker might turn into a good major league baseball player, but right now it doesn’t look like he’s ready. He’s only played 44 games in AAA, and in those 44 games, he batted .249 and struck out 49 times. My math isn’t great but I’m pretty sure that’s more than a strikeout per game, and that’s against AAA pitching. Again, Walker is a good player, but should start at Norfolk and the Orioles should wait and see how he progresses.
If you answered Delmon Young, then you are wrong. Or at least I very much hope you’re wrong. Delmon Young is not an everyday player. His .302 batting average and his .337 on base percentage last year were both the career highs. He has no speed, hits for average power, and is a complete liability in the field. Young’s 0.9 WAR last year was the first time he has had a positive WAR since 2011. Oh, and he’s also currently not an Oriole; so there’s that.
If you answered Ryan Flaherty or David Lough, then you have a good sense of humor. Of course there’s a possibility that a combination of Lough and De Aza in the outfield would free up Pearce to be the DH. And that’s okay, if you are okay with your corner outfielders combing for a total of 12 homeruns like they did last year. Not ideal.
Orange Kool-Aid drinkers who think the Orioles lineup is okay as is are depending on a first baseman who hit .196, to have a bounce back year, a third baseman who’s coming off his second knee surgery, to remain healthy and perform like he did prior to his two knee surgeries, a 31 year old right fielder/DH/first baseman who before last year had maxed out at four homeruns, to hit +20 homeruns again, a second baseman who batted .209, struck out 25% of the time while walking under 3% of the time, to progress to being a .250 20+ homerun player… Need I go on?
This team currently contains too many questions and involves way too many conditional statements. And yes, if everything goes right, the Orioles will be back in the playoffs. But when was the last time there was a baseball season where everything went right? Okay, the answer is 2012. But the Orioles need to get past this point of needing everything to go right to make the playoffs. Last year, most things went wrong and the Orioles still won the AL East. This year, if even one or two things go wrong, I cringe to think where the Orioles will finish the East. However, the Orioles acquiring one more consistent and significant major league bat will take away some of the conditional statements and many of the questions.