Nolan Reimold broke on the scene in 2009 with a very nice partial rookie season, hitting .279/.365/.466 despite suffering from an Achilles injury. Personal issues, among other struggles, made 2010 a year to forget though, as his line fell to .207/.282/.328 and he spent most of the season in the minors. That’s where he started 2011, but Luke Scott’s injury opened up a spot in left-field.
Three home runs in his first four games in Baltimore made a nice impression, though his playing time thereafter was still somewhat sporadic. I had projected Reimold to hit .242/.318/.392 after his call-up, but the early home run barrage helped him beat that handily (mostly in the SLG department). His .247/.328/.453 line made him a solidly above average hitter (though it was just .234/.317/.410 after those first games).
Reimold showed his usual plate discipline, not chasing pitching out of the strike-zone and walking at a good clip (9.2%). He even cut down on the strike-outs (a league average-ish 18.7% K rate), after whiffing quite a bit in Triple-A. The reason for the lower batting average is Reimold’s .264 BABIP. Given that he doesn’t hit a ton of line-drives but does pop the ball up often enough, that might not be completely fluky (though his career BABIP is now .284). And some of that is cushioned by Reimold’s propensity to get infield hits – his rate of infield hits per groundball this year was the second highest in the majors (min. 300 PA). Luckily Reimold was able to put the ball over the fence; his 14.8% home run per flyball rate was similar to the one he had in 2009, after the drop last year.
Defensively, Reimold’s numbers come in a touch above average (+2 UZR, +1 DRS, +2 TZ). Perhaps his poor showing in 2009 was indeed related to the injury (though these aren’t tremendously large sample sizes). That, combined with his bat, made Reimold an above average caliber player (1.5 fWAR in only 305 PA).
Assuming the Orioles don’t make an unexpected outfield addition this off-season, Nolan should come into 2012 as the team’s main starter in left. Given that he’s about to turn 28 years old, there may not be a lot of prime seasons left for him, and I’d hope the O’s don’t waste them. Reimold could certainly do a decent Luke Scott impression going forward. And boy am I glad the team didn’t end up trading* him for Jason Bartlett** before the season; Reimold - 1.5 fWAR, Bartlett – 1.8 fWAR (in twice as many plate appearance).
* Not to mention that JJ Hardy > Bartlett.
** Plus, the Rays wanted Alferdo Simon (1.1 fWAR in maybe half a season).