“Delmon Young is an accomplished major league hitter who had a nice year with a lot of clutch hits in part-time duty in 2014.” Duquette wrote. “We look forward to his return and contribution on our 2015 team. Depending on how the team is structured, he could have a more vital role this season.”
Young was one of the final players to make the Orioles’ Opening Day roster after signing a minor league deal with the club last January. He hit .302/.337/.442 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 83 games in 2014 and was a valuable asset off the bench, where he was 10-for-20 as a pinch hitter.
When Young signed with the Orioles last year, he wanted to show that he was finally healthy after microfracture surgery on his ankle slowed him during the previous two years. The former No. 1 overall draft pick and top prospect in the game definitely showed that, even if it was only in part-time duty.
Young is a career .302/.338/.467 hitter against left-handed pitching, but it’s a myth that he was merely a matchup platoon hitter last season with the Orioles.
In 2014, Young actually had 78 more at-bats against right-handed pitching than left-handers. And he hit .312/.357/.452 against right-handers, considerably higher than his .276/.308/.407 career splits against them.
The Orioles need to replace the everyday at-bats that Nelson Cruz took up in the designated hitter and left field spots. So could Young play more regularly?
Duquette is still searching for a left-handed outfielder, and free-agent Colby Rasmus still is the Orioles’ primary target for that role.
The Orioles hope to sign Rasmus to a one-year deal, but nothing appears imminent. A club source told me that it’s “50-50” that the Orioles sign Rasmus at this point. Right now, the Orioles see Rasmus as the best fit in a depleted outfield free-agent market.
** In order to make room for Young on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated catcher Ryan Lavarnway for assignment.
The Orioles have long been interested in Lavarnway, who was a top catching prospect in the Boston Red Sox system but struggled to make good on his promise in parts of four major league seasons. The Orioles placed a waiver claim on Lavarnway three times in December and were finally able to acquire him the third time.
When the Orioles added Lavarnway, it gave them five catchers on the 40-man roster. That’s a lot.
And once the team signed veteran catcher J.P. Arencibia to a minor league deal this week, Lavarnway quickly became expendable. Arencibia gave the Orioles a more experienced catching option who can also play first base -- like Lavarnway -- and doesn’t come with the commitment of a roster spot.
Arencibia will be in major league spring training and has a legitimate shot to compete for a roster spot. He’s only a career .207 hitter in the major leagues but has shown power. Last season with the Texas Rangers, he hit 10 homers in 203 at-bats but batted just .177/.239/.369.
Arencibia fared better at Triple-A Round Rock, where new Orioles hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh was his hitting coach. He batted .279/.320/.542 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs in 190 at-bats. In Triple-A, he split time in the field between catcher (23 games) and first base (20).
Still, it’s defense that earns roster spots at catcher under manager Buck Showalter.
Arencibia has thrown out 26 percent of base runners in the major leagues, which is right around the league average. But the way he calls a game and handles the pitching staff will determine whether he has a legitimate shot of making the team.