Revisiting the designated hitter role for the Baltimore Orioles
By Mike Franz
Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
In 2014, Nelson Cruz was arguably the best designated hitter the Baltimore Orioles had in many a year. Batting .271/.333/.525 with a league-leading 40 home runs, Cruz turned into the most crucial piece to the Orioles’ success this past season.
Unfortunately because baseball is still a business, Cruz will be looking this off-season to sign with a team who offers him a four-to-five year deal. The Baltimore Orioles are not willing to pay him the money that comes with that sort of deal so unless Cruz chooses to take a pay cut and rejoin the Orioles in 2015, his time in Baltimore is over and done with.
With that in mind, the Orioles need to figure out who will be their designated hitter next season. A couple of weeks ago I brought up the idea that the Orioles could resign Delmon Young and make him their designated hitter in 2015. At first I just said it to “stir the pot.” However, as you pondered it further, the more I thought it could actually work.
In 2014, Orioles fans saw Young sparingly throughout the season as he only played in 83 games with just 242 at-bats compared to Cruz’s 613 at-bats. However, when Young was up to bat, he usually came through with a hit.
Young batted .302/.337/.442 with seven home runs and 30 RBI in the regular season. Appearing mainly as a pinch hitter throughout the season, he was always clutch when the Orioles needed a hit to drive in a run or two.
When the Postseason began, Young cemented his name in Orioles’ lore for years to come. In Game 2 of the ALDS, the Baltimore Orioles trailed 6-4 in the eighth inning to Tigers with one out and the bases loaded. Naturally Buck Showalter pinch hit Young for third baseman Ryan Flaherty.
Young wasted no time and jumped on the first pitch he saw. Young connected on a hanging slider and drove it all the way to the left field wall. Young cleared the bases with his double to give the Orioles the 7-6 lead which would ultimately be the final score of the game.
Young came through in the clutch for Baltimore last season. Could he do it again this year?
The answer to that question relies heavily on if you think he can maintain those numbers when he gets 600+ at-bats. Young is a free agent at the moment and, if resigned by the Orioles, will ask for more than a 1 year/ $1 million contract. He may be worth the consideration. Baltimore could try to sign him to a two-to-three year deal.
With him coming through when the Orioles needed him most in the 2014 Postseason, he deserves a chance to be the Orioles’ 2015 designated hitter.