Rickard Making Case for Roster Spot
More than any other prospect this spring, outfielder Joey Rickard has put forth a compelling case to make the Baltimore Orioles’ Opening Day roster. His performance should put an end to months of speculation about his status with the Orioles.
From the moment he was selected from Tampa Bay in December’s Rule 5 Draft, Rickard was on the fringe of the 25-man roster. It looked as though his chances of coming north with the Orioles were on the downswing after the team signed Pedro Alvarez, but his performance this spring warrants a closer look. Through 53 plate appearances, Rickard has slashed .375/.434/.563 with three stolen bases.
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Before delving into why he will probably make the roster, a few caveats should be noted. Spring training stats have always been regarded as having little predictive value, and Rickard’s numbers are no exception. This especially holds true when considering his 7.6 opponent rating. Via Baseball-Reference, that metric means that Rickard’s competition has largely been against pitchers who spent last season at Double-A or Triple-A.
While that means that the Orioles shouldn’t proceed with the notion that Rickard is a lock for robust triple-slash numbers, he is the best option to address some problems that have arisen this spring. A bench spot is likely open now that Jimmy Paredes, who would’ve served as an extra DH option, faces an uncertain timetable in his return from a sprained wrist. Furthermore, even as he makes steady progress from his dismal start to the spring, Hyun-Soo Kim has not inspired a ton of confidence over the last few weeks.
Rickard might not immediately unseat Kim in left field, but he could help in a few areas. For starters, if the Orioles find early on that the left-handed hitting Kim would be best utilized in a platoon situation, Rickard would be viable right-handed counter. He could also step in as a replacement if Kim’s spring struggles carry over to the regular season, forcing a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk.
Even if Kim does settle in, the Orioles would face another issue with their outfield. Speed and defense will not be a particular strength in outfield, especially with Mark Trumbo in right field. Trumbo’s track record does not elicit much hope that he will provide adequate defense in the outfield, so having Rickard on the bench would give the Orioles a better defender for the late innings.
Furthermore, the club as a whole lacks speed. In the past, this has not been an issue for manager Buck Showalter, as he guided both the 2012 and 2014 squads to the playoffs despite stolen base totals that ranked at the bottom of the American League. However, Showalter has shown a tendency in the past—through reserve options such as David Lough and Alexi Casilla—to use players in pinch-running situations, even if the intent is not to steal a base.
Rickard would be the best internal option to fill a pinch-running role this year. He has stolen 73 bases—including 23 last season—over his 359 games in the minors, showing an element of speed that is otherwise lacking on the Orioles’ bench.
His performance, combined with the aforementioned issues the Orioles face, should allow for Rickard to make the roster. While he probably won’t emerge as a batting title contender, he has shown that he has the skill set to help make the Orioles a more well-rounded team.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues.