Who’s on first for the Baltimore Orioles?
For starters, anyday I’m able to reference the greatest slapstick comdey routine of all time I always get a chuckle. For the record I’ll throw in a fun fact for you; the Who’s on First routine was included in the movie Abbot and Costello in the Naughty Nineties. In the scenario as it’s played out in the movie, Abbot’s character is the manager of the fictional St. Louis Wolves. St Louis of course had two big league teams at the time; the Cardinals (which still exist) and the Browns. The Browns of course moved following the 1953 season and in 1954 resumed play as the Baltimore Orioles!
Yesterday I mentioned a trade possibility with Chris Davis to Miami. The player for whom the Orioles appear to be asking in return is pitcher Andrew Heaney. As I said yesterday, he’s a young pitcher and while still very raw seems to have a tremendous upside. But if that trade (or one like it) were to occur, the question of who’s on first would certainly have to be asked of the Orioles.
As of right now, the answer would have to be Christian Walker. And for the record, it shouldn’t be lost on Orioles fans that Walker has very quietly remained on the 25-man roster since the season ended. While only hitting .167 in the big leagues (in a very limited role after being called up on September 17th) he did hit .292 in the minors.
My personal opinion after seeing Walker (again in a limited role) was that he still needed some seasoning. However every move or non-move that a team makes is a calculated risk. I do believe that Walker will one day be a power-hitting first baseman. If you would have asked me in September I would have suggested that 2016 might have been the time (of course if they couldn’t keep Davis). But I’m not a coach, and it’s very possible that they see something I don’t – in fact, that’s very probable.
Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Also keep in mind that the Orioles of late have established a tradition of sorts in terms of giving younger and potentially not-so-seasoned players a shot in the big leagues. Obviously they had no choice with Ryan Flaherty and TJ McFarland since they were rule 5 draftees. However last year they certainly raised my eyebrow a bit when they went with rookie Jonathan Schoop as their starting second baseman out of spring training. For sure Schoop had some rocky moments over the course of the season, but that ended up being a stroke of genius in a way.
So with that said, would it really be that unforeseen to have someone as inexperienced (at this level, that is) as Walker starting at first base for the Orioles? Furthermore, Walker and Schoop of course have experience together in the minors, so having someone he knows playing to his right would be beneficial to a young player. Combine that with J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado guarding the left side of the infield, and things still look fairly formidable.
One last thing regarding Walker; one candidate that the Orioles have interviewed for the hitting coach position is Jeff Manto. A former Oriole in his own right, Manto is the team’s minor league hitting coordinator. He also worked very closely with Walker so as to help him hit for more power during the 2014 season. And it worked; Walker was promoted from double-A to triple-A in July, and of course to the bigs in September.
The two things might be and probably are totally unrelated. The Orioles are going to hire the best person for the job when it comes to hitting coach. However if Walker is given the first baseman’s job, he’ll probably be a “project” all season long – much like Schoop was in 2014. Given that Manto and Walker already have good rapport together…just a very interesting side note I suppose.