Nolan Reimold arrived in Baltimore in May of 2009 after blistering through the Orioles minor league system. For the next four months, he established himself as a solid - if unspectacular - fantasy contributor, hitting .279 with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in roughly 400 plate appearances. He played most of that season with an Achilles injury, and finally shut down and had surgery in late September, cutting his season short by a couple of weeks.
The recovery time of the type of surgery Reimold underwent was thought to be three to four months, leaving him little time to prepare for the 2010 campaign. And it showed. Shuttling between left field and designated hitter to reduce the stress on his surgically repaired ankle, Reimold struggled from the opening gun. By May 11, he was hitting just .205/.302/.337 with two home runs and 10 RBI before the Orioles had seen enough and exiled him back to Triple-A.
With a supposed logjam in the Baltimore outfield to open the 2011 season, Reimold returned to Norfolk in the International League. A Luke Scott injury opened a door thought to be sealed permanently shut, and he responded by posting a line of .247/.328/.453 with 13 home runs and 45 RBI in just over 300 plate appearances.
As 2012 approached, there wasn’t a guarantee he would have a starting spot in the Oriole lineup. Of course, there was the issue that his time in the majors (around a year and a half cumulative) was less than inspiring. That meant Reimold was undrafted in many fantasy leagues and opened the season on waivers.
After his April, it’s not likely he’s still on waivers. Now the question is: Can he sustain his hot start?
Through the season’s first month, Reimold is hitting .313/.333/.627 with five home runs and 10 RBI in 69 plate appearances. Add six doubles and he’s crushing an extra base hit in 16 percent of his at bats.
Reimold is some kind of locked in at the plate. He’s always going to strikeout at a rate slightly above average - this season he’s at 20 percent - which is fine. He usually makes up for the whiffs with a walk rate in the neighborhood of 10 percent. It can be a nice balance. Except this season, he’s accepted just two free passes in 69 plate appearances. That’s a walk rate of 2.9 percent. The fun part about this stat is Reimold isn’t really expanding his strike zone. He’s offering at about 25 percent of pitches outside the zone, slightly more than his 22 percent career rate and still below the major league average of 29 percent. And he’s not really swinging at many more strikes, either. Yes, his swing rates are up, but the real news is what Reimold is doing with his contact rate. From Fangraphs, here are his contact rates for pitches swung at inside the strike zone since his debut season:
2009 - 56.4%
2010 - 55.6%
2011 - 59.3%
2012 - 72.0 %
The above percentage may explain his current .333 batting average on balls in play. He’s seeing just 3.45 pitches per plate appearance, so he’s attacking early in the count, getting his pitch and finding success. He’s crushing fastballs right now and pulling everything… I don’t understand why opposing pitchers aren’t starting him with off speed pitches to get him off balance and then work him with fastballs away.
Texas Leaguers help us get the complete picture of exactly how disciplined and productive Reimold has been at the plate this season. The following chart is amazing...
That's just breathtaking in it's discipline.
With what would be an outlier in walk rate and swing percentage at strikes, it feels like a correction is coming, but until pitchers adjust, Reimold will keep raking. The good news is, even if he tapers off in the BABIP department, we would expect his walk rate to climb. That would offset some of the loss in on base percentage, so his run and stolen base totals shouldn’t suffer a steep drop.
Speaking of steals, prior to the ankle surgery, Reimold possessed slightly above average speed. In his rookie season, he ran about seven percent of the time he had a stolen base opportunity. (Baseball Reference defines a stolen base opportunity - or SBO - as any time a runner is on first or second with the next base open. The top guys are around 30 percent.) He didn’t attempt a single steal in 2010 while he was less than a year removed from surgery, but ran nine percent of the time last year. He’s not a burner, but Reimold could certainly reach double digits in the speed category, possibly cracking the 20-20 club if everything fell into place. However, this season in 25 SBO’s, he’s run only once.
Reimold won’t hit above .300 for the season. But he will collect around 20-25 home runs with decent run and RBI totals. He has an outside shot at being a 20-20 outfielder, but he’ll have to pick up the stolen base pace. If you can weather the batting average drop that lurks just around the corner, Reimold will be a nifty piece to your fantasy puzzle for the remainder of the year. However, he will endure a correction that will see his average tumble. If you’re in the market for a bump in batting average, now would be a good time to flip Reimold for someone who’s about to take flight. May I suggest Ike Davis?