2011 Baltimore Orioles Preview: SS and 3B

Combining the left side of the infield in one entry tonight.  Offensively, shortstop has been a liability for a few seasons now – Cesar Izturis is still with the club, but he’s a defensive shortstop.  In other words, what he has in defense, his lack of a bat negatively makes up for it.  He’ll be a serviceable utility infielder for the O’s in 2011.  Meanwhile, his replacement comes from the Minnesota Twins as the central figure in one of two trades to start the offseason.

J.J. Hardy hit .263 in 2010 with 38 RBI and 134 triples (6 homers).  Doesn’t sound like gaudy numbers, but it’s a definite upgrade from Izturis (.230, 1 HR in 2010).  That alone should be sufficient in telling you this is an upgraded position.  The other piece is that Cesar is supposedly this great defensive shortstop, but compared to Hardy, they are about the same.  Izturis has a career .980 fielding percentage while Hardy has a career percentage of .978.

It’s not a lot of pop from a position that once featured Miguel Tejada and Cal Ripken, but it’s a nice upgrade.

Grade: C+

Rounding out the infield in 2011 will be Mark Reynolds, slugger and strikeout king formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  2009 was his best season, when he slugged 44 home runs and hit .260.  Last season was not nearly as successful, but he did swat 32 homers.  However, he hit for just a .198 average.  The well-documented downside of Reynolds is the strikeouts.  He is, literally, strikeout king – 211, 223 and 204 the last three seasons.  If he hits 30 or more home runs and the rest of the offense comes through, I think the Orioles would be happy to swallow the K’s here.

Not a bad pickup for the O’s at 3B.  Last season they had Miguel Tejada, a natural shortstop, and Jay Bell (who is not quite ready for MLB action).  This is a slight upgrade, and if Reynolds limits the strikeouts it could be a diamond(back) in the rough situation.

Grade: C-

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