BY: BMOREcenter (@BMOREcenter)
I get it, there are a million variables that go into constructing a lineup. Some guys are better against lefties, some are better against righties. Everyone needs to play otherwise they are wasted space on a roster. Everyone, except for Hyun Soo Kim that is.
Kim’s story is well documented, from signing a multi-year deal to rejecting a demotion to Norfolk, and he quickly put the doubt behind him. Kim batted slashed .302/.382/.420 with 6 homers and 22 RBIs in 95 games after struggling to find playing time early, a situation rearing its ugly head yet again in the 2017 season. Kim led the Orioles in batting average and on-base percentage last season, and yet he found little playing time over guys like Trey Mancini? No offense to Mancini, but he hasn’t done anything to prove he can be an everyday player, let alone an outfielder, sliding one of the teams best hitters, based on wRC+, to the bench.
You would think that a guy who gets on base almost 40-percent of the time could find a way to start consistently on a team who was 21st in team OBP in 2016 and 29th to start off 2017, but that just makes too much sense to be Orioles baseball. No outfielder that the Orioles have rolled out has even come close to the marks Kim puts up on the offensive side, and no option is good defensively, especially considering Craig Gentry is serving as Seth Smith's platoon partner and Joey Rickard is on the disabled list. It’s incredible how the Orioles gifted themselves with a valuable weapon at the plate for a steal of a price and still can’t figure out how to use him properly.
When Kim does gets into the lineup, he should be a table setter for the big boys like Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo, and Chris Davis. But he's not. Instead, he's batting seventh, using his above average on-base skills in the hope that the struggling bats of Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy can drive him in. If the Orioles view him as a platoon bat and only useful against right-handed pitching, then fine, but he better be playing against every right hander they face. I’m very confident that Kim would be able to get on base against lefties, but that seems to be an experiment the O’s aren’t willing to try.
Showalter hinted that some Orioles may be battling the flu, but he won't say who. Not saying I hope Kim has the flu, but I'm hoping this is the reason why he hasn't seen the field since last Saturday, when he drove in the winning run against the Yankees. But I have reason to believe that it may not be the reason, after seeing Kim's usage by Showalter last season.
The consistent misuse of Kim raises some doubt about his presence in the organization. Does Buck like Kim? Does the front office like him? If they don’t, then why aren’t they showcasing him for a trade for something, literally anyone that might actually get some use? It's not like Kim's strengths are similar to Gentry's and Rickard's. He's not fast, and he doesn't play great defense in the outfield. Therefore, the only way he has a positive impact on the team is in the starting lineup, not on the bench.
The Orioles’ misuse of Kim is puzzling, and he doesn’t deserve it. He is arguably the best on-base hitter on the team, which is a department that the Orioles offense struggles in. Sometimes Showalter likes to get guys playing time to keep them fresh, like he did last Sunday with Caleb Joseph and Craig Gentry. That's fine, but why don't you use the same method for the player who should be your starting left fielder? The opportunities are there, but for some reason, a reason I just can’t get a grasp on, the organization is reluctant to take advantage.
*Raises glass* Here's to hoping Showalter puts Kim in the lineup tonight against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez.