Baltimore Orioles: Is Colby Rasmus an Outfield Answer?


Aug 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Colby Rasmus (28) gets an hit during the third inning in a game against New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

With the Winter Meetings in the rearview mirror and a shrinking number of possibilities to address the corner outfield positions for the Baltimore Orioles, the name of Colby Rasmus has increasingly been put forward.

Could Rasmus be an answer to replace some of the lost production that has departed Baltimore with the exit of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis?

Rather than save the answer for the bottom of the page, let me state it here at the beginning: I certainly hope not.

Actually, I have been very impressed with Rasmus in the times I have seen him play against the Orioles. I must have been watching only when he was at his very best, as his career numbers against the O’s have a batting average of only .230 in 50 games. But then again, his career average is only .246.

However, Rasmus has hit more home runs against the Orioles than any other team, totaling 12. Again, I must have seen them all.

Rasmus was a first-round selection of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2005 – the 28th overall pick that year. He has played three seasons for the Cards (.259) and four with the Blue Jays (.234).

As a fielder, Rasmus has played 98% of his innings in center field, playing only 15 games in right field or left field. He would certainly be capable, however, of making that transition should the Orioles secure him.

Rasmus bats and throws left-handed. His splits against left-handed pitching are not very good – batting only .213, versus .257 against right-handers. If the Orioles are to retain lefties Alejandro De Aza and David Lough, it begs the question as to why they would want to also add Rasmus.

A big part of the answer to that would be that he hits home runs, whereas those players will not do the same at any similar rate. However, they are not as likely to strike out quite so often. Rasmus struck out in 33% of his plate appearances in 2014, the same percentage as Chris Davis. By comparison to other Orioles: Delmon Young – 20%, Jonathan Schoop – 25%, Adam Jones – 20%, Ryan Flaherty – 24%, J.J. Hardy – 18%, Manny Machado – 20%, Steve Pearce – 20%.  I think the Orioles have the strike out category well taken care of (they ranked 5th in the AL)!

As well, in his three years in the American League East, against the three opponents of New York, Boston, and Tampa Bay, Rasmus has a combined batting average of .204.

Put all of this together, I just do not see how the home runs (probably in the range of 20-25) would be worth the price.

To present one comparison, it would be so much better for the Baltimore Orioles to pay to bring back Delmon Young. Yes, Young would hit fewer home runs (once every 40 at-bats versus once every 26 at-bats). And his defense would not compare at all to Rasmus. But Young could be an effective DH, while De Aza and Lough (or some other rising player like Dariel Alvarez) could handle the corner outfield positions.

Young hit for an average of .302 in 2014, compared to .225 for Rasmus. And his career average is higher – .283 vs .246.

As mentioned above, the Orioles have a greater need for a right-handed OF/DH bat.  Young has a career batting average against lefties of .302 vs the .213 of Rasmus. And he is still better against right-handed pitching as well, .276 vs .257.

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Young has more experience and better numbers against the AL East, batting .288 against the Orioles’ divisional opponents as compared to the .204 of Rasmus. To add a perspective to this: Delmon Young could go hitless in his next 300 plate appearances against the AL East and still have a better batting average against these opponents than does Colby Rasmus.

This is simply not a good move for the Baltimore Orioles to make, unless Rasmus became another “change of scenery” guy with a quantum leap in performance. But I wouldn’t bet millions of precious free agent dollars on that happening.

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