After showing small stretches of success early on, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. needs to finish 2019 strong.
Currently on the Injured List with a strained calf muscle, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. is expected to begin a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides in the coming days, returning to Baltimore before the end of August. When he does return to the lineup, Smith is going to need a strong finish to the season to show he belongs on the roster in 2020.
Since making his Baltimore Orioles debut on Opening Day against the New York Yankees as the starting left fielder, Smith has shown stretches of successful and intriguing play, but has also found himself in deep funks with a mix of head-shaking defensive performances sprinkled in. Is there room on the 2020 roster for Dwight Smith Jr? Possibly, but it’s going to be a battle.
Before his IL stint, Smith was hitting .238 with a .298 on-base percentage, 15 doubles, 12 home runs, 48 runs driven in, and a .708 OPS. There’s no denying the former first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays was exciting to watch during his hot stretches of play, especially early on in the season.
Through the first week of May, he was hitting .295 and reaching base in more than 34% of his at-bats. He was also tied with Trey Mancini and Renato Nunez for the team lead in home runs with six and was second on the team in wRC+ at 120 (Mancini led the way at 142).
Since then, Dwight Smith Jr.ranks last among all Orioles hitters (minimum 100 plate appearances) in fWAR (-1.1) and has posted a wRC+ of 57. Only Chris Davis (50) and Richie Martin (44) have been worse. His slash line across 59 games played since the first week of May is a pedestrian .198/.259/.352.
When Smith went on the injured list, Brandon Hyde mentioned that it wasn’t just a calf injury that was limiting his outfielder and it sounded as if Smith just needed some time off anyway, even if he didn’t suffer the calf injury. If he wants to show the organization he deserves a look in 2020, he’s going to have to produce over the final few weeks of the regular season.
The Orioles may not have a bounty of high-quality outfielders to choose from, but there are more and more names coming up to choose from. Anthony Santander has continued to prove the doubters wrong, made thousands of fans from the United Kingdom, and while he may not be an everyday major league outfielder, he could secure a spot on this team moving forward as a fourth-outfielder/part-time DH. His ability to play center helps.
More from Birds Watcher
- Baltimore Orioles Sign RP Mychal Givens
- Gunnar Henderson: Destroyer of Four-Seam Fastballs
- Which Current Baltimore Orioles Pitchers Have the Best Curveballs?
- Orioles News: Should the O’s Pursue Eovaldi? + More MLB News
- Should the Baltimore Orioles Consider Signing Nathan Eovaldi?
I already know your opinion of Chris Davis, we get it, but for now, I’m operating under the assumption that he will be at first base next season. That means another year of Trey Mancini in right field.
DJ Stewart has proven all he can in the minor leagues but has been as unlucky as they come in the big leagues this season. Miscommunication or lack of communication between two teammates unfamiliar with each other led to Stewart’s collision with Hanser Alberto and an ankle injury, followed by his concussion after being hit in the head with a flyball after losing his footing. Stewart has proven he deserves regular playing time to show whether or not he can stick.
It’s also becoming more and more likely that Ryan Mountcastle sees time in the outfield. He’s been playing more left field with Triple-A Norfolk as their season comes to a close and is forcing the hand of Orioles leadership to call him up. We also can’t forget about Austin Hays. His numbers in Norfolk aren’t sexy at the moment, but it’s been another year of injury after injury. Hays is still an attractive prospect with a valuable skill set.
Want more names? Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna are close to earning a shot, but injuries to Diaz which have limited his playing time and a long, slow start for McKenna mean plenty of regular playing time in Triple-A is on the horizon for 2020. Diaz is very close, however, to reaching the majors and his strong arm in right field would be a welcomed addition. We also can’t forget about Cedric Mullins. His 2019 season has been a wash, but right when I’m ready to write him off, he puts together a few games of impressive play and he keeps me tuned in to the grainy Bowie broadcast.
In the middle of that competition will be Dwight Smith Jr. He does have options remaining, so 2020 is likely to be a lot like 2019 with a revolving door of outfielders. So, will Smith earn a spot on the active roster or is he destined for a Joey Rickard type role in 2020? A solid end to 2019 may be necessary to keep his name in the conversation.
Follow us on Twitter @BirdsWatcherFS and join in on the conversation!