The Baltimore Orioles have a challenge of knowing what to do with first baseman Christian Walker, who has been leading the team offensively in spring training.
Anyone could forgive Walker for feeling like he has suffered a bit of bad luck. Here he is in the upper level of a franchise that just signed the American League leader in home runs to a long-term contract, while also adding power hitting first basemen in Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez.
So how do you get recognized in a situation like that? You just outhit them all! On a day when Alvarez struck out four consecutive times, Walker on Thursday hit a three-run homer for the third consecutive day. Davis is batting .111 and Alvarez .118, while Trumbo is better at .273.
For the spring, Walker is now hitting .290 on 9-for-31 with 14 RBIs, along with four homers, three doubles and a triple. Is that good?
Walker has come into camp this year in what he has termed as the best condition of his life, having hit the weights hard over the winter along with a disciplined diet.
The 2015 season was a bit less than what Walker hoped for, especially after being the O’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2014. At Triple-A Norfolk last year, Walker hit .257 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs. But in the second half of the season, he picked up his power production numbers, while also hitting left-handed pitching at a .306 average with an OPS of .921.
Walker certainly looks ready to for the big leagues, but what are the Orioles to do with him? Every path looks blocked for a long time, while last year’s Minor League Player of the Year Trey Mancini — another first baseman — is in the pipeline right behind him.
The logical question is to ask if he can play another position of greater need for the Orioles. Oh, what could that be? Say … left field? Unless the Orioles are going to trade Walker away, this would appear to be an idea whose time has come.
Even so, this creates other complications. He is certainly not going to be doing this in Baltimore in April. The best guess is that he is sent to AAA to work on left field defense, presuming the O’s keep Trumbo, Jones, Kim, Reimold and Rickard as the five outfielders. But Walker runs into another jam in Norfolk. Where are the Orioles going to find places for Dariel Alvarez, Henry Urrutia, L.J. Hoes, and Xavier Avery among others?
But it certainly sounds like the plan is to get him used to playing left field. Dan Duquette as much as said this is going to be happening…
“He probably has to learn a new job to be the starting left fielder in Baltimore unless we had a bunch of injuries … In fairness to him, if he’s going to be the left fielder, he’ll probably have to be the left fielder in Triple-A. But he’s shown good athletic ability … made a couple of adjustments in his swing that are evident in his approach this year and it’s going to allow him to be a more consistent hitter.”
Sounds like a good plan. Hopefully he’s a fast learner.
In case you missed it today, Quincy Latimore hit a late home run for the Orioles in their 9-5 loss to the Red Sox. What? Who? Quincy who? He was signed by the Orioles as a minor league free agent after the 2014 season. Last year at AA Bowie he hit 20 home runs with a .274 average. He is now age 27 and was a former fourth round pick of the Pirates out of a North Carolina high school in 2007.
So where does Latimore play in the field? You guessed it — left field.