Baltimore Orioles

Schmuck: Orioles need to decide how to use Jimmy Paredes if he remains an offensive force

Maybe — just maybe — designated hitter Jimmy Paredes is not going to be a career .340 hitter, but the Orioles are in no position to discount that possibility after the way he came off the disabled list and climbed to the top of the American League batting rankings.

OK, so he was only the qualified AL leader for a few hours last weekend, but you get the idea. The guy came out of nowhere to become a major force in the Orioles lineup and fill some of the void left by the departure of his mentor, Nelson Cruz.


Whether his ability to hit and get on base with the top stars in the game is real or a small-sample illusion remains to be established. But the Orioles have to assume that he will continue to be a high-quality hitter until proven otherwise, and that means they need to find a place in the field where they feel comfortable playing him.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter acknowledges this, though with a caveat.


"There are worse things than having a switch-hitting DH who can do what he's been doing," Showalter said Monday.

That's true, of course, and Paredes has filled that role for much of the early season with terrific results. He didn't qualify for the major league rankings until Friday because of time he missed on the DL, but arrived in them ranked second in the AL in batting average and third in the majors. He moved ahead of former O's teammate Cruz for a while Saturday, but has slipped a few slots since then.

The fact that he can swing the bat is not a surprise to Showalter and the Orioles. They knew he had some talent when they bought his contract from the Kansas City Royals last July, and he certainly didn't disappoint when he was called up in late August. He batted .302 in 18 games down the stretch.

Still, to keep all this in proper perspective, Paredes batted .335 in his first 50 games as an Oriole, which is very good but not exactly a real track record. He's a highly aggressive hitter who makes a ton of contact, so he's going to get his hits. But the Orioles eventually are going to need him to be more than a full-time DH to be the best possible fit on a Buck Showalter team.

The knock on him has always been that there is no place to hide his glove. The Houston Astros brought him to the major leagues and tried him at second base, third base and both corner-outfield positions. The Orioles gave him 13 games at third base with Manny Machado sidelined last year and obviously were not impressed.

Necessity has forced Showalter to use Paredes at second for a handful of games this season and he has performed respectably — but not comfortably — at that position, but that obviously is not where his future lies.

Showalter doesn't like uncertainty anywhere in his view from the dugout, so he'll need more proof that Paredes is for real at the plate, and then he's planning to send Paredes back to school to become a proficient corner outfielder. He said this week that Paredes likely will be sent to instructional league after this season and placed with a winter league team that is willing to play him full-time in right or left field.

Paredes is on board, though he told The Sun recently that will happily fill the DH role for as long as the Orioles need him there.


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"All we are looking for is to play at this level," Paredes said. "You want to be in the lineup and get the chance to take advantage of [the opportunity]. You want to do a good job and help the team. I feel great with that."

Showalter said there's a good chance Paredes will come back next spring as a candidate to play regularly in right field because "he's willing to do whatever it takes."

Maybe that's a stretch, but the strategy makes perfect sense for a team that is facing big free-agent losses next winter. The club probably will use Steve Pearce at first base in the likely event that Chris Davis moves on and the rest of the infield appears set. So the choice for Paredes is to make himself a decent outfielder or relegate himself to being a part-time player or a very young DH.

For the moment, however, Job One is to keep carving up AL pitching and force the issue.


Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at