Mark Trumbo is set to return on Tuesday — here’s what to expect from the Orioles’ slugging DH
Mark Trumbo is a fan favorite on Eutaw Street, but don’t expect him to solve the Orioles’ hitting woes by himself.
After missing the first few weeks of the season with a quadriceps strain, Mark Trumbo is set to be activated from the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday. Frustrated Orioles fans have been looking forward to his return all April long, but be warned: the Birds’ struggles are too severe for a one-dimensional player to fix on his own.
Through 33 games, the Orioles rank 12th in the AL in adjusted OPS, ahead of only the Royals, Rangers and Indians. Manny Machado has been typically outstanding, but other key pieces like Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop and Tim Beckham have been injured, unproductive or both. The lack of production led to a 7-19 April, a sobering wake-up call for an organization that has been highly successful in the last half-decade.
Trumbo may well inject some life into the Orioles lineup — he has 201 home runs and a .461 slugging percentage for his career, after all. He put his prodigious power on full display in 2016, clubbing a league-leading 47 home runs and earning Silver Slugger honors as the AL’s top designated hitter.
There’s just one problem: Trumbo took a huge step backward last year. In a season that saw more home runs leave the ballpark than ever before, the California native launched just 23 round-trippers — close to average. Throw in his poor eye and nonexistent defense, and you get a player who was worth -0.5 WAR in 2017.
What’s more, he was having a rough spring training before getting injured. The small sample size caveat applies, but regardless of how much you’re willing to read into March baseball, his .130/.200/.130 slash line wasn’t a good look.
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There’s yet another reason to be low on Trumbo: his age. Baseball has become a young man’s game; across the league, teams are paying veteran free agents less and relying on their green players more. It has become very difficult for an older player to stave off age-related decline. At 32, Trumbo will have to buck the trend.
Beyond that, there’s the small issue of Pedro Alvarez, who has been killing it in the DH role — his OPS+ of 154 ranks second on the team. Buck Showalter doesn’t want him facing any lefties, of course, but it makes you wonder just how much of an upgrade Trumbo will end up being.
If he rakes, then this post will be for naught. But for the sake of objectivity, we need to look at the hitter Trumbo is now, not the hitter he was two years ago.
Don’t get me wrong — Trumbo is a likable player who has power and name recognition. He’ll put butts in the seats at Camden Yards. Whether or not he’s an impact player is another issue entirely.
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