Is It Time To Cut Ties With Nolan Reimold?

Posted Friday May 17, 2013 at 9:15:37 pm in Real Sports

It may seem like heresy, but when your main job is DH (see: designated hitter) your job is to hit. And as a 29 year old without options that is currently batting 188, Nolan is quickly running out of time.

I still remember his rookie year. And one proud moment, in fact. I was at the gym listening to the game with my Zune. It was another lackluster game against the Yankees. The Orioles were down by quite a large margin against the Yankees. Rivera was put in for the last out of the 8th inning since it was at the time a close game (New York leading 5-3). By the time Nolan came up in the 9th to face Mariano the game ballooned out of control. It was an 11-3 game. But there he was: a promising young (25 at the time) rookie known for his patience and power. And what did he do? Hit his first major league homer off of a living legend: Mariano Rivera.

His rookie campaign was promising. In 411 plate appearances he batted 279. His 365 OBP was perhaps his best asset to a club known for having little patience. He ended up with an 831 OPS as a rookie. And on paper, this is impressive.

But what it doesn't show, despite Nolan starting in May, was that Nolan was shut down in mid September due to fraying in his Achilles tendon. He'd have surgery to repair it. Nolan's 2010 was a disaster. He started the season batting a mere 205. He would be sent down in the middle of May.

He ended up coming back up in September and finished the season nearly the same as when he left it in May: with a 207 average and a 610 OPS. A very disappointing follow up season to a promising rookie year. A lot of people contend that he never fully rehabbed from his Achilles injury. And that was most likely the case for a player that prides himself in hustle.

Just as a side note; I bring up hustle because Nolan is one of those rare power hitters who are actually rather quick. In 2009 he had 19 infield hits out of his 411 plate appearances. For comparison's sakes, Brett Gardner had 26 in 477 in his 2010 season. That's pretty solid company to be in, especially since Gardner is primarily known for his speed.

But back to Nolan. His age 27 season in 2011 was another promising one. And it was one where he'd play through to the end. He was called up on May 20th and ended the season with a 247/328/453 slash line. Good for a 781 OPS. It looked like the old Nolan Reimold was back.

In 2012 Nolan Reimold started off the season on a torrid pace. In 69 plate appearances to start the Orioles' magical 2012 campaign he was arguably their best hitter. His slash line? 313/333/627. A 960 OPS. In 16 games he had 5 home runs and 10 RBI. But it was short lived. The newest ailment was a herniated disk in his neck. On June 22nd the team announced that Reimold would have surgery. This is the same procedure that Peyton Manning had, one that would have the herniated disk removed and his two vertebrae woould be fused together. It ended his season.

2013 seemed like the various injuries would be in the past for Nolan. But on March 1st (spring training), Nolan would have yet another ailment. This one related to his throwing shoulder. Instead of playing LF, he'd DH at times in spring training while his shoulder was rested.

Flash forward to today and Nolan would spend the majority time as the Orioles' starting designated hitter with 79 plate appearances (33 as a left fielder). His results have been woeful, very much reminiscent of his disappointing 2010 season.

2010:

  • 207/282/328 - 610 OPS in 131 plate appearances for the Orioles
  • 249/364/374 - 738 OPS in 401 plate appearances for the Norfolk Tides (AAA)

2013:

  • 188/257/327 - 583 OPS in 113 plate appearances for the Orioles.

In 2013 he's already struck out 30 times in only 113 plate appearances. Assuming 600 plate appearances, that is 160 strike outs. In his rebound 2011 season he only struck out 57 times in 305 plate appearances. That's 112 times over the course of 600 plate appearances.

For comparison's sakes, in 620 plate appearances Mark Reynolds struck out 196 times in 2011 for the Baltimore Orioles. Food for thought.

So here we are with a 29 year old, oft injured designated hitter masquerading at times as a left fielder. He is out of options. What are we to do?

I'd hate to be the Orioles' in this position. Nolan is clogging up a roster spot in much the same way Ryan Flaherty is. But the key here is that Ryan Flaherty has options and can be sent to the minors whenever the Orioles would like. Oh, and Ryan Flaherty plays a mean second base. We can't say the same defensively for Nolan Reimold (errr at LF, not 2B).

If I could pique your interest for just a moment. In the minors we have quite a few DH options:

  • Danny Valencia: 313/350/592 - 942 OPS with 9 home runs and 31 RBI in 157 plate appearances. Valencia is known for his ability to hit left handers.
  • Russ Canzler: 283/405/500 - 905 OPS with 7 home runs and 26 RBI in 168 plate appearances.
  • Jason Pridie: 325/362/609 - 971 OPS with 8 home runs and 27 RBI in 164 plate appearances.

Valencia and Canzler are RH hitters and Pridie is a LH hitter. Valencia's primary position is 3B, while Pridie and Canzler are primarily outfielders, although Canzler can play 1B.

With the Orioles bench currently consistenting of Chris Dickerson (OF, PR, PH), Steve Pearce (OF, PH, DH, 1B), Alexi Casilla (IF, PR), Chris Snyder (C, PH), there is little room for guys like Valencia, Canzler, or Pridie.

My take on the entire scenario is that the Orioles are going to go the conservative route with Nolan Reimold. They'll put him in a secondary role. Even now he hasn't played in 3 consecutive games. Those DH and OF spots being split between McLouth, Pearce, Dickerson, and Markakis. 

It may very well be a situation where the Orioles are just going to hide Nolan on the roster since he's out of options. If he gets DFA'ed, you can be sure that a team like the Astros would claim him in a heartbeat. But there is one weapon that might get Nolan off the Orioles roster without losing him to another team.

The DL.

Yes, the DL. And the good ole "mystery injury". Now, in this situation, Nolan might actually still be reeling from his herniated disk surgery as well as his shoulder. In the best interest of the club, it might be best for the Orioles to put him on the DL. But they'd need a reason.

To recap, there are 4 paths the Orioles could go down:

  1. Put Nolan on the DL (need a reason, maybe a "mystery" reason)
  2. DFA Nolan (he will be claimed)
  3. Lose roster flexibility by benching Nolan and playing him *very sparingly*
  4. Play Nolan in hopes that he'll turn it around

With the DH spot finally starting to produce with Nolan relegated to the bench, #3 seems like the most obvious choice. But don't be surprised if #1 happens at some point.

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view