Baltimore Orioles: Steve Pearce’s role in 2015
By Jacob Adams
Oct 3, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (2), first baseman Steve Pearce (28), and designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) celebrates after scoring on a three RBI double by pinch hitter Delmon Young (not pictured) during the eighth inning of game two of the 2014 ALDS playoff baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
There are a lot of questions this offseason for the Orioles, and as we’ve seen in recent years the off season can be full of surprises. It’s almost impossible to predict next year’s opening day starting lineup with any certainty this early in the offseason, and in fact the roster will probably be changing right up until opening day. However, if the Orioles can resign everyone, and if everyone is healthy, the Orioles will have an interesting logjam in certain positions.
To say Steve Pearce had a breakout year would be an understatement. The one time journeyman not only showed he could be an everyday player at this level, at some points this season he carried an Orioles’ offense that was missing several key pieces. However, with Chris Davis back from suspension and healthy, where exactly Pearce fits is complicated.
Chris Davis struggled mightily in 2014 to say the least. His batting average and strikeouts were horrendous, and at times his at-bats were just hard to watch. However, he has hit 112 homeruns in his last three seasons, and has turned himself into a Gold Glove caliber first-baseman. If he’s healthy he’s going to get a chance to play every day, he’s just too talented not to, and if it’s not with the Orioles it’ll be with somebody else. The Orioles are not going to be willing to part with that much talent so soon.
In August the Orioles acquired left-fielder Alejandro De Aza from the Chicago White Sox, and he immediately impressed. Steve Pearce could see some playing time in left. However, along with great outfield play, De Aza brought speed to a lineup that had been lacking in that department for most of the season. Signed through next season, he looks to be getting the majority of time as the everyday left-fielder.
If the Orioles resign Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, and if Manny Machado comes back next season healthy, Steve Pearce looks like he’ll get the majority of his playing time at first or left-field. However, it will be hard to justify using a guy who hit .292 and 21 homeruns once or twice a week against lefties or as a pinch-hitter.
It’s ironic that in April of last season the Orioles had the same problem finding Steve Pearce at-bats that they may face next season. However, after the season he had in 2014 finding him at-bats becomes much more urgent. These problems tend to work themselves out with either poor performance or injury. Quality depth is always a good problem to have. Buck is always creative with the lineup, and it’ll be interesting to see how he juggles everybody next season.