Orioles rookie outfielder L.J. Hoes earned a taste of the big leagues this past season, but the organization’s minor league player of the year faces a tough fight this spring to make the 25-man roster out of camp.
The Mitchellville native was a late-inning sub in two late-September games last season – he had just one at-bat, an eighth-inning ground out to short in the Sept. 26 game against Toronto – but he was able to experience the Orioles' push to the postseason firsthand.
“It was tremendous,” Hoes told reporters Tuesday during the Orioles’ annual holiday party. “Just being from the area, seeing what the Orioles have come from and how good they used to be. I’ve seen their struggles, and getting back [this year] to what they used to be, getting back to a great team and being able to have the opportunity to join them in September and being there for the playoff push, being around that atmosphere, it was definitely a good thing.”
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The Orioles’ outfield situation seemed fixed – with Nick Markakis in right, Adam Jones in center and Nate McLouth and Nolan Reimold splitting time in left. The team also acquired 25-year-old outfielder Trayvon Robinson from Seattle in a trade that sent Robert Andino to the Mariners. Xavier Avery is also on the team's 40-man roster.
Hoes, who turns 23 in March, knows he faces an uphill climb to make the 25-man roster out of spring training, but he plans on making the most of the opportunity.
“Just go out there and just try to make myself better,” Hoes said. “I’m going to be around Adam Jones and [Nick] Markakis and Nate’s back and Lew [Ford’s] back. Those are guys I played with during the season. So, just go out there and pick their brain, hopefully I can learn some things that can help me out whether I’m competing for a job or I’m trying to get better for the spring or any time when they might need me.”
Hoes began last season in Double-A and finished it in the majors. He hit .287/.372/.388 with five homers, 54 RBIs and 20 stolen bases between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. Hoes also hit .259 in 19 games in the Arizona Fall League after the season.
Hoes spent his first three minor league seasons primarily playing second base, but made the transition to the outfield in 2011. He played most of his games in left last season, but saw time in all three outfield positions. That flexibility will make him attractive over the course of the season.
“I’m just going to go out there and play, wherever they tell me to play,” Hoes said. “I’m just going to go out there and try to do my best, whether it be left, center, right, second base, just try to go out there and compete and help the team win wherever I’m at.”