Entering the 2016 season, Nolan Reimold was a bit of an afterthought for the Baltimore Orioles. Hyun Soo Kim was signed under the assumption that the Korean import would man left field. The front office tried their damnedest to land Dexter Fowler. When Fowler elected to return to the Chicago Cubs, Pedro Alvarez was brought in, pushing Mark Trumbo to right field. To top it all off, Joey Rickard emerged as the top story of Spring Training for the Orioles. With a crowded outfield and the limited defensive usefulness of Alvarez, where Reimold’s at-bats would come from was anyone’s guess.
Two weeks into the season, Reimold is proving difficult to ignore. The 32-year-old outfielder has now played in six of the team’s 10 games, homering twice while also recording three doubles. Reimold knocked the go-ahead homer in Friday night’s come-from-behind win over the Texas Rangers. Dating back to last September, when he finally began seeing consistent at-bats, Reimold is batting .296 with six home runs and 14 RBIs. To top it off, the outfielder also has a .390 OBP.
The type of player Reimold has been over his past 28 games of Major League Baseball is the exact type of player the Orioles thought he would be dating back to 2009 when the former top prospect slashed .279/.365/.466 in his rookie season, hitting 15 home runs in 104 games. Injuries over the past six seasons have dulled the luster on the former second round pick. As he struggled to stay on the field, there were always flashes of potential for Reimold. He hit five home runs in the first 16 games of 2012 before injuries terminated what appeared to be a breakout season. From there, it was a long road back to the big leagues.
The Orioles have a very crowded outfield situation, not helped at all by Kim’s refusal to go to the minor leagues. So long as the Orioles wait on Pedro Alvarez to wake up from his early season slumber, Reimold will be a role player. His at-bats will come when Mark Trumbo slides to DH against left-handed pitching. Joey Rickard is currently the flavor of the month in Baltimore, but his limited power should begin to tamp down his offensive output. One of Rickard’s greatest assets, his ability as a base stealer, goes largely wasted on a team like the Orioles.
Nolan Reimold is a former prospect left over from another regime in Baltimore. His injuries have certainly kept his career from reaching its maximum potential, but even at the age of 32, he remains a prospect in some ways. Reimold has not played a full season in the big leagues, but he has always teased the Orioles and their fans with flashes of potential. He has been fully healthy for almost two full years now, and the injury concerns may be mercifully in the rearview mirror at this point. Reimold remains a professional, patient hitter with good power. He was easy to ignore last year as new additions Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider were given every chance to fail. It will be much more difficult to ignore him this season.
The Orioles still need to find out what they can squeeze out of Pedro Alvarez, and it is far from time to panic as the DH gets off to a slow start after a lengthy free-agent process. If Alvarez cannot provide much more than a .230 average with limited on-base ability, it may prove wise for the Orioles to give more of his at-bats to Reimold. There will be a small sacrifice in power, but Reimold will more than make up for it in defensive value (for all his offensive value so far this year, Trumbo’s defense in right field has been quite an adventure) and consistency. The Orioles have an embarrassment of riches on offense, and Nolan Reimold can be one more gold ducat in a treasure chest that appears to be overflowing.