The Baltimore Orioles’ 2012 campaign will be one that is described with one word: potential.
With the offseason acquisitions of Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Matt Antonelli, Taylor Teagarden, Matt Lindstrom and Jai Miller among others, the Orioles and GM Dan Duquette have seemingly gone with the “moneyball” approach in an attempt to bring a winning season back to “Charm City.” The front office chose not to chase after the top names in this past offseason’s free agent class, and they decided to sign a plethora of young talent with the hope that they would finally sprout into the studs that they were intended to become.
One of these players is Ryan Flaherty.
Why are we spotlighting Flaherty? Simple. It looks as though he may be this year’s version of Robert Andino.
You know Andino, right? He’s the young shortstop who was acquired from the Marlins for Hayden Penn a few years ago. He’s the kid who was essentially transformed from a super-utility man to a starting second baseman over the course of a few months following Brian Roberts’ concussion issues. Oh, and he’s that guy who put the final dagger into Boston’s 2011 playoff hopes when he roped a game-winning single into left field.
Early in the 2011 season, manager Buck Showalter seemed confident in Andino’s ability to be a quality player for the Birds. He stuck with the young middle infielder, and it eventually paid off in a big way.
This spring, it looks like Flaherty is getting the same treatment.
So who is Ryan Flaherty?
Flaherty is a 25-year old INF/OF who was selected in the Rule 5 draft in the offseason. He is a former first-round pick of the Chicago Cubs (41st overall) in 2008. In 2011, he batted for a .280 average with 19 HRs, 88 RBIs and five SBs while at Triple-A Iowa. He also had a .347 OBP and a .478 slugging percentage in 475 at-bats.
The reasoning behind grabbing Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft is fairly simple; he’s still young enough to be considered a prospect (although he’s now on the boundary line) and he has enough potential to become a decent factor for the big league club during the summer. Also, with Roberts still suffering from concussion-related issues, the Orioles are always looking for a solid middle infielder to have on the bench (assuming that Andino is the starting second baseman on Opening Day 2012).
“Ryan is a high draft pick from an excellent college program, and we really like his bat,"Duquette told the Baltimore Sun. "He has a reasonable chance to contribute at the major league level this season.”
So far in Spring Training, Flaherty is hitting for a .267 average in 15 at-bats with a triple, two RBI and a SB. In Sunday’s unofficial contest (the B Game), he hit a two-run, opposite field HR. He has seen time at SS and 3B, something that increases his chances of making the big league squad.
Showalter has had some encouraging things to say about the young infielder this spring in the Baltimore Sun.
"Flaherty is what a Rule 5 draft pick is supposed to be," Showalter said. "I've had some Rule 5 guys who after three or four days, I know there's no chance you can carry him. You got a chance to carry this young man."
If I had to guess, I’d say that Flaherty has a solid chance of performing with the O’s this summer. Granted, he won’t get the same opportunity that Andino did; however, having a stud utility player is never a bad thing. For Flaherty’s sake, he needs to continue to have a solid spring at the plate.
If he does, then the Black and Orange will have one less bench spot to worry about as the regular season approaches.
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