BALTIMORE—Joey Rickard has been perhaps the most overlooked Oriole this season. It was just over two years ago that a promising rookie season ended at Yankee Stadium when Rickard injured his right thumb trying to catch a ball against the right-field wall.
Rickard, who was a Rule 5 draft choice, hit .268 in 2016, with five home runs and 19 RBIs.
Last season was a troubling one for Rickard. No longer did he have Rule 5 protection, and the Orioles sent him to Triple-A Norfolk in August to make room for another Rule 5 pick, Anthony Santander.
Even though his stay in the minor leagues was barely over two weeks, it was sobering, and Rickard limped to a .241 average.
With Craig Gentry on hand, Rickard was no longer the only outfielder who could play all three outfield positions, be used as a defensive replacement and pinch-run.
Gentry was back this year, and Rickard began the season in the minors after a horrible offensive spring training.
In 2018, he’s had time in both Norfolk and Baltimore, and after his second five-RBI game of the season in an 11-2 Orioles win over Tampa Bay on Saturday, Rickard is hitting .214 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 43 games. He also hit a three-run double in Friday’s 15-5 victory.
Rickard returned to the Orioles July 4, a day after Colby Rasmus unexpectedly left the team. Gentry has been on the disabled list since late last month with a broken rib.
Gentry is nearing his return. He’ll begin a rehab assignment Monday night at Low-A Delmarva, and Rickard may have to go back to the Tides one more time.
When Rickard was drafted in December 2015 from the Rays’ organization, the Orioles trumpeted his on-base numbers. That season, in three minor league levels, Rickard had a .427 OBP.
Although Rickard did have a .319 OBP in 2016, last year was a struggle. He struck out seven times as often as he walked (63 strikeouts to nine walks), and his on-base percentage was just .276.
This year, the strikeout-to-walk ratio is better, but not great. Rickard has struck just under three times as often as he’s walked (29 strikeouts, 10 walks.)
The Orioles’ system seems packed with outfielders. Besides Santander who’s at Double-A Bowie but now on the minor league disabled list because of cellulitis, there’s Cedric Mullins, nearing a promotion to the Orioles, DJ Stewart, the No. 1 pick in 2015, and Ryan McKenna. Mullins and Stewart are at Norfolk. McKenna is at Bowie.
Austin Hays, who had a breakout year in 2017, has been injured most of the season, and is at Short-Season Aberdeen, making sure his ankle gets stronger. Hays spent the final month of 2017 with the Orioles, but the team decided he needed remedial work, and he was sent to Bowie to start 2018. He’s expected to rejoin the Baysox shortly.
Add 21-year-old Cuban Yusniel Diaz, who’s also with the Baysox, and the 27-year-old Rickard’s chances of remaining with the Orioles beyond this season look less than promising.