In the last couple days, the Orioles have signed not one, but two former top prospects. On Tuesday they announced the signing of outfielder Delmon Young, former top prospect of the Rays, to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation. On Wednesday, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported that the Orioles had signed former Cubs top prospect outfielder Tyler Colvin. In what began as promising careers for these two now journeymen, both have ended up not so productive. Delmon Young has bounced around from team to team, not to mention his at best questionable character. Tyler Colvin has done much the same bouncing between AAA and the majors, only ever having fleeting moments of success. However, these two transients can potentially bring more to the table than only their flaws.
A well-run modern baseball organization understands the power of manipulating players to their strengths. In many instances, these strengths can be utilized to transform an otherwise defective player into a useful player. One of the more obvious ways to do this is to take advantage of players who hit righties or lefties particularly well. This platooning of players allows for a team squeeze the most production they can out of two defective players. Another way is taking advantages of players that can play multiple positions competently. These are cheap and effective ways of maximizing production, something the Orioles should be doing a lot of.
Delmon Young cannot play defense, he does not walk very much, his speed is no better than a saunter, not to mention his previously stated character flaws. However, what Delmon Young can do is hit lefties. In his career, Delmon Young has a .812 OPS, 115 wRC+, and a .348 wOBA versus left handed pitchers. He even walks more and strikes out less against lefties. He struggled a little bit in 2013 against lefties, but over the much larger sample size of his career he has fared very well. On the current Orioles roster, Delmon Young would potentially make for a solid right-handed half of a DH platoon.
Tyler Colvin is a little more interesting. He can play a little defense and at multiple positions—albeit not very well at some. He to does not walk much, although he has had a varying walk rate over the seasons. He has hit righties significantly better in his career, although not extremely well. Colvin has hit a .781 OPS, 99 wRC+, and a .333 wOBA against right handers in his career. Also, he has shown moderate power against righties posting a .480 SLG and .230 ISO. Good, but not great. Colvin had a career year in 2012, but much of that success came in the hitter friendly confines of Coors Field. In 2013, attempting to build on this career year, he faltered not making the roster out of spring training and dealing with a back injury for much of the season. Colvin hits righties well and can play multiple outfield positions. He would make a decent Left-Handed bench bat and a 4th outfielder. Also, with one option remaining, seeing if he can return to form in the minors is worth a shot, trying to shine that nickel one more time. Of course, it is important to remember he was given a major league deal.
The Orioles now have twelve outfielders in spring training. With the plethora of outfielders and only four or maybe five spots, many of these players will be cut or sent to the minors. Taking a shot on players like Young and Colvin makes sense for the Orioles. Of the two, Young has the best shot to make the team. He hits lefties very well, but someone like Steve Pearce threatens Young’s chances of claiming a 25 man roster spot. Pearce can actually play defense, and while he hits lefties a little worse than Young, he has much more flexibility. Colvin is a longer shot. He hits righties well, but not well enough. He plays decent defense, but not well enough to make up for his bat. Colvin in AAA, seeing if he can return to form, makes more sense than giving him an outright 25 man roster spot. Spring training can—and most likely will—reveal more about both players. Moves like these make sense for the Orioles to try to gain in the short term for cheap rather than losing a draft pick to sign a flawed, expensive free agent. However, only time will tell if these moves pay off in terms of production.