As the winter draws to an end and we get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, the Baltimore Orioles have yet to fill the role of their designated hitter, a spot left vacant when the club opted not to offer Vladimir Guerrero arbitration.
Obviously there’s still the ability to sign a DH-type player such as Hideki Matsui, Carlos Pena or Johnny Damon, but according to Buster Olney and MLB Trade Rumors, they don’t seem too high on the idea. If that’s really the case and the Orioles fill the job in-house by using the DH-by-committee approach, then that fact coupled with the recent Nick Markakis abdominal surgery opens the door for a very interesting late round sleeper pick — Matt Angle.
The 26-year-old Angle has a prime opportunity in front of him to make an immediate impact with both the Orioles and your fantasy team this season. With Markakis’ Opening Day status now in doubt, the O’s will use the collective group of Angle, Endy Chavez, Jai Miller, and Nolan Reimold to fill in the blanks of left and right field and the DH slot. The O’s like Reimold and he should be given one of those spots fairly regularly so long as he doesn’t totally bomb coming out of the gate. But that still leaves two possible openings.
Miller will warrant consideration, but the 27-year-old who was just DFA’d by the hapless A’s (and then flipped to Baltimore for cash considerations) has a long way to go. Sure, he’s got strong power potential — he hit 32 HR last year in Triple-A — but he also whiffed 37.7% of the time. In fact, his K% hasn’t been under 30% since 2009. He’s shown he can draw a walk some of the time, but don’t the O’s have enough of that big power/big whiffs capability in Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis?
Then there’s good ol’ Chavez — he’ll be 34 years old come February, is a good defensive outfielder, but is light on both power and speed. Maybe at one point he was a solid option for a good stretch of time, but with a career .313 OBP and very little to contribute offensively, he’s not the type of guy Buck Showalter wants in the lineup every day. He’s not the type of guy anyone wants in the lineup everyday.
Angle, who in addition to playing the outfield also spent this winter learning second base at the O’s instructional camp, presents the best possibility amongst the remaining three to stick around long term. He’s just entering his prime right now, has posted solid OBP totals throughout his time in the minors, and shows exceptional speed and sensibility on the bases (82.9 SB% which includes a 10-for-11 in his short stint in the majors last year). His speed helps his range in the outfield and he has a fairly decent arm. And given the injuries that have hit Brian Roberts in the past, Angle’s new-found ability to play second gives him that super-utility quality that managers love.
The speed also works to Angle’s advantage given the current make-up of the Orioles’ lineup. Adam Jones may have 20 SB potential if he can just lick the injury bug that always seems to bite him throughout the year, but outside of that and a declining Roberts, the O’s don’t have much in the way of speed. Angle could easily fill that void.
Keep an eye on the Oriole’s camp this spring as this situation probably won’t be fully resolved until closer to the start of the season. Watch how Showalter mixes around his lineups and split squads. With potential multi-positional eligibility and good speed, Angle just might be a great late round steal this season.
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