First baseman Christian Walker was never expected to make the Opening Day Roster, but a productive spring and a position change may have put him in better position to help the Orioles in 2016.
On Saturday, Walker was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk where he will play left field every day for the Tides. The 2014 Orioles minor league player of the year turns 25 on Monday and will be playing the outfield for the first time in his minor-league career after seeing some time there in the Grapefruit League.
The position change figures to be Walker’s best chance to stick in the majors with Baltimore since Chris Davis is now under contract through the 2022 season and Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez are also options at first base for the 2016 season. Left field remains an uncertainty for the Orioles with Korean newcomer Hyun Soo Kim and Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard battling for playing time to begin the season, but Walker could make himself an attractive option if he can hold up at his new defensive spot.
In 44 spring at bats, Walker hit .227 with four home runs, 14 RBIs, four doubles, a triple, two walks, and an .881 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has just 31 plate appearances in the major leagues over the last two seasons, but he hit .257 with 18 homers, 74 RBIs, and a .748 OPS at Norfolk in 2015.
With Walker being cut from the spring training roster, the Orioles now have 43 players remaining in major league camp, which includes eight non-roster invitees.