|Photo: Keith Allison|
None of the above players should really be relied upon to consistently hit major league pitching, but then again you could say the same thing about Danny Valencia, who currently has a batting line of .317/.344/.618 in 128 plate appearances. Valencia, who started the year at Norfolk and has been shipped between Triple-A and the majors a couple times this season, now seems to be locked in as the team's primary DH -- and for good reason. He's been on fire since August, collecting 25 hits (and a walk) in 54 plate appearances. He has absolutely destroyed left-handed pitching this year, hitting a ridiculous .378/.400/.683 in 85 plate appearances. Even Chris Davis has to respect those numbers. In about half as many trips to the plate against righties, Valencia hasn't been efficient at reaching base (.233 OBP), but he has hit for power (.488 SLG). Without Betemit's injury and subsequent ineffectiveness, the two likely would have formed a decent right/lefty DH combination.
Mostly thanks to Valencia's tear, O's DHs are hitting a slightly less embarrassing .230/.287/.413. The on-base percentage is still too low, but the power is there. Maybe the O's can rectify that issue next season.
It probably goes without saying, though, but Valencia is not this good. His .348 BABIP is 53 points above his major league average of .295, and his HR/FB rate is nearly 20% (career rate around 9%). So he's due for some regression, certainly, but there's no reason why he can't continue to hit at an absurd level for just 13 more games, which is what the Orioles really need right now considering they are just two games back in the Wild Card race.
But beyond this season, Valencia still has some value as a lefty masher. And if he continues to not chase pitches out of the zone, which he's currently doing and is more in line with his impressive rookie campaign, he could at least be a competent DH/bench bat.
(Quick tangent: The Orioles are going to have some offseason lineup issues to address. Manny Machado certainly has plenty of upside, but you can't really say that about many other O's hitters. Davis is having an amazing season, but there's no guarantee he posts similar numbers going forward. Adam Jones is steady, and J.J. Hardy is having a nice rebound season. But Nate McLouth is a free agent after this season and likely will not be able to be retained for the previous low price of $2 million. Brian Roberts's deal finally comes off the books, but is Jonathan Schoop ready? And what about the offensive struggles of Matt Wieters and especially Nick Markakis? With those main parts, the O's still have the makings of a decent lineup, but relying on Davis, Machado, and Jones to do most of the heavy lifting may not be wise. Duquette and Buck Showalter may need to consider bringing in a new corner outfielder, second baseman, or another DH option -- or maybe all three.)