• May

    Is McLouth underappreciated?

    Sometimes a player is just under appreciated for various reasons. Maybe it’s because they are late bloomers or stumbled at some point in their career. Or maybe it’s just because they are overshadowed by bigger name players on their own teams.

    The one thing that’s for sure is that Nate McLouth is that guy on the Orioles. After Dan Duquette signed him off the scrapheap after he was released by Pittsburgh last May, McLouth has been totally reborn with the Orioles.

    It wasn’t immediate though, as McLouth was sent to Norfolk where he started off slow, looking a lot like a guy who might be done. But then, McLouth started to hit and with a need in left field once Endy Chavez went down with an injury, he was brought up on August 4th to start against Tampa.

    With a second chance, McLouth went 2-for-4 with a double in his Orioles debut and has not looked back.

    McLouth was given the opportunity to basically play every day and he responded, even becoming the leadoff the hitter the Orioles needed once Nick Markakis went down last September. McLouth put up a .263/.342/.455/.797 from the leadoff spot last year while stealing six bases in six tries.

    Despite his success over the last two months of the season, there was not a ton of interest for him once free agency started and the Orioles quickly signed him to a one-year $2 million contract for 2013.

    In spring training it looked like the Orioles were going to give Nolan Remiold every opportunity to win the everyday left fielder’s job with Wilson Betemit DHing against right-handers. McLouth looked destined to be the fourth outfielder, but once Betemit went down with a knee injury, every day at bats against right-handed pitching were available again and McLouth was there once again to step in.

    Amongst all the hoopla over Chris Davis and Adam Jones’ hot starts, McLouth has gone about being the Orioles most consistent hitter this season. Collecting hits in 19 of the 24 games he has started including eight multi-hit games, McLouth has put up a .313/.414/.485/.899 line so far through the first month of the season. He’s ten for ten in stolen base attempts and is easily the best defensive left fielder on the team.

    He’s even been on a bit of a tear over the last two weeks or so putting up a .370/.460/.611/1.071 with nine walks and five strikeouts over his last 14 games covering 63 PAs.

    McLouth’s career reviving year so far as come with Buck using him almost exclusively as a platoon player. The left-handed hitting McLouth has seen just one start against lefties. Steve Pearce has been his platoon partner in left field receiving nine starts against left-handed pitching, putting up a .185/.313/.333/.646 mark against the southpaws so far. That doesn’t sound good, but McLouth’s career slash line of .222/.302/.347/.649 including a .197/.293/.288/.581 mark last year against lefties show that platooning him may be to his and the team’s advantage.

    Either way, McLouth has quietly under the radar been a huge part of the Orioles 20-13 start this season. With McLouth eligible for free agency once again this off season, and with no outfield prospects knocking on the door looking for regular playing time, the Orioles may have to consider an extension.

    Perhaps a Nate McLouth/LJ Hoes left field platoon next year could pay dividends? Regardless, if McLouth keeps hitting the way he has this season, he won’t be overlooked again this off season.

    Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board

Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.