2009 O’s Retrospective: Nolan Reimold

In part three of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at rookie outfielder Nolan Reimold… THE FIGHTIN’ SLUGGER!

I’ve been a Nolan Reimold fan for a few years, ever since he displayed power and patience with a .255/.379/.455 line in A-Ball in 2006. I was somewhat concerned that he was languishing in the minors after repeating Double-A in 2008 despite batting .306/.365/.565 at that level the previous year. And then again after the Orioles acquired Felix Pie from the Cubs to be their left-fielder to start 2009. Well 31 games into his time at Triple-A this year, Reimold was batting .394/.485/.743 with 9 home runs – and Pie was struggling in the majors. At that point Andy MacPhail decided to bring the 25 year-old outfielder up, and Nolan hit the ground running (swinging?) and earned himself some Rookie of the Year buzz.
I didn’t do a pre-season projection for Reimold, but if I had it would have been for around a .255/.335/.435 line with -5 < x < +2.5 run defense in left-field. That’s an above replacement level but still below average player. I figured he would strike out more against the tougher competition which would keep his average down, but eventually settle in as a Luke Scott type player.

Reimold beat that batting line handily, hitting .279/.365/.466 with 15 home runs.  Nolan displayed good plate discipline, walking an above average 11.6% of the time and swinging at only 20.5% of pitches out of the strike-zone (compared to a league average of 25.1%, and in the company of Joe Mauer, Lance Berkman, Victor Martinez, and A-Rod). He was able to keep his batting average up by maintaining an almost exactly league average contact rate and striking out only a slightly worse than average 21.5% of the time. Put it all together and you’ve got the team’s best hitter, whose .365 wOBA was tops on the Orioles.

As far as “luck” goes, Reimold’s batting average on balls in play of .320 was probably a bit higher than what one should expect, but not tremendously so.  The Hardball Times’ Predicted OPS line – which uses batted ball info, strike-outs, walks, and home runs – has him at .263/.351/.463. [Luke Scott, by the way, is a career .263/.349/.494 hitter. I’m giving myself a pat on the back for that comp.]

While Reimold showed he could definitely swing the bat, his defense in left-field left a lot to be desired.  His Ultimate Zone Rating from FanGraphs was -9.8 runs relative to average, and a rate of -10.6 runs per 150 games.  While Reimold displayed a good arm, logging 7 assist and coming in at +3.2 runs in that department, he also made 5 errors (-0.3 runs) and showed very poor range (-12.8 runs).  When you play left-field that poorly, it really cuts into your value as a player.

I’d also like to add that Nolan hustles all the time, which has endeared him to fans and commentators alike.  I don’t know how often that really comes into play, but he is 7th in the AL in infield hits with 19 despite not being particularly fleet of feet (though he’s not slow by any means). The 8 for 10 on stolen bases is a nice little bonus as well.

Overall, Reimold was worth 1.0 Wins Above Replacement this year according to FanGraphs, which is $4.7 M in value. His season ended September 15th, when he was placed on the DL with an Achilles injury (which he recently had surgery to fix).  He had been playing with the injury for some time, which was helpful to the team after Adam Jones went down and wasn’t supposed to have exacerbated things.  I asked injury expert and Baseball Prospectus writer Will Carroll about it via Twitter, and he said “Surgery has a great recovery rate, getting back to level in 3-4 mo.”, and that it’s possible that his range in the outfield was negatively effected.  If that’s the case, and Nolan can come back healthy next year and be around a +0 fielder, then the O’s have a league average (+2-2.5 WAR, $9-11 M) player on their hands locked up on the cheap for his prime years.

Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0.